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by Abigail Van Buren

Dinner Partner's Payment Plan Is Difficult to Swallow

DEAR ABBY: One of the perks of my job is receiving free or discounted meals at local restaurants. Last week I was invited to dine at one of the best restaurants in town. I thought that "Tess," one of my co-workers, might also enjoy it, so I invited her to share the meal with me. I warned her that we would probably be expected to pay for part of the dinner. She said that would be fine.

Halfway through the meal, our server informed us that we would be expected to pay 50 percent of the bill. Tess told me she had forgotten her wallet, and asked if I'd pick up the tab. She promised to pay me back, so I agreed. Then she said she could afford to pay me only $1 from each future paycheck, and asked if it was all right for her to order a $10 dessert as well.

Abby, I was so shocked I could hardly respond. At that rate it will take her a year to pay me back! I understand that people are having a hard time in this economy, but Tess and I are paid the same. I don't exactly have a bundle of money to spare either. How should I handle this? -- FLABBERGASTED IN OREGON

DEAR FLABBERGASTED: Keep meticulous records, put your hand out every payday -- and pray she gets a Christmas bonus.

DEAR ABBY: I want to tell you how my 10-year-old daughter handled a bully. One day after school, she came home and told me about the physical and verbal abuse she was experiencing at the hands of a boy in her class. It was never-ending. I asked if she wanted me to intervene. She said she wanted to handle the situation herself.

I then suggested she keep a diary of all the things this boy said and did to her. I told her to take her diary to the principal when she felt she had enough evidence to support her case. After several weeks, I got a phone call from the principal of her school. She had just seen my daughter and her diary. The boy and his parents were called in immediately. The abuse stopped that day. She never had another problem with him.

Trying to handle the problem herself gave my daughter a sense of power, confidence and control over her own life. Let me add, I was monitoring the situation from a distance. Had my daughter not been taken seriously by the principal, I would have stepped in.

Today my daughter is a senior in high school -- an outgoing, happy, kind, confident young woman. Maybe her story will help someone else caught in this situation. -- HEATHER'S MOM, MESA, ARIZ.

DEAR MOM: Your suggestion is an excellent one. As with any other form of harassment, documenting the incidents and building a body of evidence was vital. I hope other victims of bullying will learn from your letter. You and your daughter handled the situation beautifully.

DEAR ABBY: I have been shopping with my mother to find a dress for her to wear at my wedding next spring. She wants to wear a tuxedo-style jacket with a long, straight skirt and a red or white bustier.

Abby, my mother just doesn't get it. She thinks the Madonna lingerie look is appropriate, and she intends to wear it to my wedding whether I like it or not.

Any thoughts on this? -- EMBARRASSED BRIDE-TO-BE

DEAR BRIDE: Just one: If there's any chance the mother-of-the-bride's outfit will distract attention from the bride, the outfit should be saved for another occasion.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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