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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Suspects the Worst of Plain Jane's Young Prince

DEAR ABBY: I am a woman in my early 30s who is a well-paid professional. I like to think I have a good head on my shoulders and a pleasant personality. A year ago, I met a wonderful man, "Adam." He is younger than I am, but we are compatible and our relationship has deepened. I recently asked him to live with me and offered financial assistance so he could pursue his medical education full-time.

My family is in an uproar! They already disapproved of the fact that Adam is younger than I am. Now they are barely civil to him. He has stopped attending family functions with me. Even when he's not around, they badger me to realize that he's "using me."

I finally confronted my sister and insisted she tell me why the family thinks there is no chance that this man loves me. After some hesitation, the truth came out: They think he's too good-looking for a "plain girl" like me.

I was devastated. I have always known that I'm no beauty, but I was convinced Adam saw beyond that and appreciated my other qualities. I WAS convinced, that is -- until now. Abby, what's your take on this? -- HURT AND CONFUSED IN THE LONE STAR STATE

DEAR HURT AND CONFUSED: Please do not allow your overprotective family to devastate your self-esteem. If Adam has given you no reason to doubt him, only time will tell what the future holds for the two of you. You deserve to be happy and to be respected. Allow no one to destroy that.

DEAR ABBY: I am the father of a 7-year-old son, "Taylor." His mother, "Gwen," and I had a long-term relationship, but when she became pregnant, neither of us wanted to marry. In our hearts we knew it wouldn't work and we didn't want to subject our son to a broken marriage.

Both Gwen and I have taken our roles as parents seriously. Since his birth, I have supported Taylor financially. Taylor has spent nearly every weekend at my home or my parents' since he was 3. I also spend time with my son during the week -- going to the park, to the movies, etc.

I recently became engaged to a woman I'll call Stacey. We want to be married next year and are planning a large wedding. I had hoped to have Taylor serve as our ring bearer. Stacey's niece will be our flower girl.

At first, my son's mother was agreeable to the idea, but now she's against it. Gwen refuses to give me a concrete reason, other than she "doesn't think it's a good idea." She said our son can attend the wedding accompanied by his baby sitter but cannot be a member of the wedding party.

I am angry about this. Stacey says I should calm down and accept the situation. I'm looking to you, Abby. What do you think? -- TAYLOR'S FATHER IN NEW YORK

DEAR TAYLOR'S FATHER: Listen to your fiancee. She's a wise woman. There is nothing to be gained by starting World War III. It appears that your son's mother resents the fact you are committing your life to another woman. Refusing to allow your young son to be in the wedding is her only way of asserting some control in a situation she cannnot otherwise control.

Although Taylor cannot be your ring bearer, make sure he wears a boutonniere and is present in some of the wedding pictures. It will make him feel a part of the celebration -- and that's what's important.

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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