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by Abigail Van Buren

Birthday Girl's Party Is Not Happy Occasion for Guest

DEAR ABBY: I am knee-deep in a quandary. I have a 30-something-year-old friend who throws herself a girls-only birthday party every year.

This soiree always takes place at a nice restaurant selected by the hostess, where guests are expected to pay for their own drinks and meals. The cost usually runs from $60 to $80 per person. In addition, each guest is expected to bring the "birthday girl" a gift.

In years past, I have come up with excuses in order to get out of attending. This year I learned through the grapevine that I'm not the only one who is reluctant to go.

With the economy being what it is, I cannot justify the expenditure of attending this party. How would you suggest I go about being removed from the guest list this year (and in the future)? -- COUNT ME OUT IN SAN JOSE

DEAR COUNT ME OUT: Tell the "birthday girl" you have other plans this year. Then talk to the other guests on the list for this annual tribute and suggest that all of you get together mid-year to celebrate your collective birthdays, with the understanding that your treasured friendship should be the only gift allowed.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Lenny," and I met through mutual friends back in 1988 and have been together ever since. We have a good life and two wonderful children.

My problem is that Lenny is a very jealous man. The other night, we were at a hockey game, and one of the guys I work with came over to say hello. I introduced him to Lenny and they shook hands. I could see my husband getting noticeably upset. Now he insists I'm cheating with this co-worker.

Several times within the last year, Lenny has accused me of being unfaithful. What can I do, Abby? I love my husband with all my heart and intend to spend the rest of my life with him. But I'm sick and tired of being wrongly accused when I'm innocent. -- SAD AND MAD, RICHARDSON, TEXAS

DEAR SAD AND MAD: Your husband appears to be deeply insecure with low self-esteem. His accusations are an attempt to control.

Counseling could offer the breakthrough you need, but unless Lenny is willing to admit HE'S the one with the problem, don't count on it.

DEAR ABBY: A 12-year-old boy wrote that he told his cousin he was going to commit suicide. The cousin broke his confidence and told an adult, who acted upon the information. All turned out well for the boy, who later thanked his cousin for saving his life.

As a police officer, I want to remind everyone -- especially kids -- that there are certain situations when you MUST break confidences and tell a friend or relative. Too many times we learn too late that someone knew another person was going to commit suicide or harm another, and the person who knew didn't tell anyone so the tragedy could be prevented. Many times they spend the rest of their lives experiencing unbearable guilt for not telling.

We must ask ourselves: Will someone or something be seriously harmed if I DON'T report this information? Is this a secret I can keep because it will cause no harm to anyone? -- OFFICER JAMES, FOLSOM, CALIF.

DEAR OFFICER JAMES: I agree. It's far more important to make a mature decision and save a life than to keep a dangerous secret.

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

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

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