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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 38-year-old divorced professional and mother of two. I have been dating "Fred" for seven years.

This year, for the first time, we did not spend our vacation together. As a matter of fact, he didn't even bother to call and tell me the plans had changed. I was left standing with packed bags and nowhere to go for 12 days of vacation. I don't normally travel by myself, so I was at a loss as to what to do. I was also embarrassed to have been stood up.

I called Fred's home several times and left messages on his answering machine. (We live 500 miles apart, so I couldn't just drop by and see what was up.) Abby, he hasn't returned any of my calls. At this point, I haven't a clue as to whether he's dead or alive.

Fred has never stood me up for a vacation, but he has been a no-show for a couple of dates over the years.

Now I'm trying to pick myself up and go on. I love him no matter what; however, I'm wondering if I have been dumped. Have I? -- BROKENHEARTED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR BROKENHEARTED: It would seem so. Fred appears to be a man of few words, but from where I'm sitting, his actions have told you "So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye" loud and clear.

Consider yourself lucky. Better to know now that he got the seven-year itch than to waste any more time on him or discover it after you were married.

DEAR ABBY: I am worried about my 10-year-old daughter. She seems to have a problem making friends. She's very active in sports and doesn't seem to have a problem getting along with the other kids when she's with them in a group. However, when it comes to a one-on-one friendship -- like someone spending the night or an outing at the movies -- she has a difficult time getting anyone to agree to go. I am worried that she has no real friends. -- WORRIED MOM IN TENNESSEE

DEAR WORRIED MOM: It's time to expand your daughter's horizons. Help her to get involved with other special-interest activities -- dance, skating, scouting, etc. It will give her an opportunity to make friends outside her usual circle. If she still has difficulty making friends, have a talk with her teacher and ask if there is some behavior that's creating a problem. If that doesn't help, some sessions with a child psychologist could shed some light on what's causing the problem.

DEAR ABBY: My parents are retirement age, but still working because they're in debt up to their eyeballs. They had a large family, which took its toll on their finances.

Dad is in his 70s and works two jobs. Mom works on and off at a part-time job. The problem is she loves to shop for herself and others -- buying frivolous things. Mom's holiday shopping gets way out of hand. My siblings and I are worried that if she continues this spending, Dad will never get a day off to maintain his health.

We have thought about pitching in money, but we believe Mom should help to pay their bills. If we bring it up, she keeps reminding us how hard it was being married to an alcoholic and raising six children. (Dad got help for his drinking problem several years ago. This is no time for revenge.)

We love our mother, but we're afraid if she continues her shopping frenzy, there will be no end to it. Abby, we need some straightforward advice. Sign me ... DAUGHTER OF DEBT

DEAR DAUGHTER: It's intervention time. Confiscate Mom's credit cards and get her into Debtors Anonymous. The behavior you have described is a sickness, and she needs help. For information and the location of the nearest meeting, call (781) 453-2743 or visit the Web site: www.debtorsanonymous.org.

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

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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