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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been working for the same company for more than three years. I have a good relationship with my boss, "Al." However, I think he has fallen in love with me. I don't know how to handle this delicate situation since he is married. Al says he and his wife no longer have anything in common -- including sex.

Al and I are good friends, but he has mentioned several times that he wants to take our relationship "further." He gets moody because my feelings toward him are not the same. I am not physically attracted to Al. I don't like to see him depressed, so I tell him things to make him feel good about himself. The problem is, I'm beginning to think I am leading him on. Al's been there for me through some tough personal times and has helped me financially as well. I feel as though I need to stop letting him do things for me since it makes me feel obligated.

Abby, how can I deal with this without losing Al's friendship? -- JENNIFER IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR JENNIFER: Remain cordial. Start repaying the money Al gave you. That way you will no longer feel obligated. Limit the amount of time you spend alone with him -- his problems are not your problems unless you foolishly choose to make them so. If he keeps pressing you for "more," it could be considered sexual harassment.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend and I are 12 and in the sixth grade. We recently discovered that "Joe," a close friend of ours, has been shoplifting.

This situation has us worried because it might turn into a habit. My friend and I don't want Joe to lose his parents' trust or get into even bigger trouble. We want to tell his parents, but then Joe might get angry at us.

We want Joe to keep being our friend. Abby, please give us some advice. -- WORRIED PRETEENS IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR WORRIED PRETEENS: You are wise to be concerned. Rather than reporting Joe to his parents, a more effective method might be to tell your parents -- and ask them to discuss it with Joe's parents.

If left unchecked, Joe is risking arrest and criminal charges. It's only a matter of time. And in the meantime, in order to avoid being implicated in his shoplifting, do not accompany Joe into any stores.

DEAR ABBY: There is a way that "Bursting With Joy in San Antonio" could include her out-of-town family and friends in her baby shower.

I have no family where I live and knew they would be unable to attend my baby shower, so I made special announcements to out-of-towners indicating we wanted to share our joy with them, but to please not send gifts (which can be expensive to mail).

Instead, my best friend, who was hosting the shower, suggested that they send a card or letter with their best baby tips written on them. This turned out to be a wonderful idea! I received tons of congratulations, along with numerous suggestions that helped me care for my newborn.

My baby is now 15 months old, and I still use many of the tips. Plus, I have a unique keepsake for my daughter, showing how many people loved her before she even arrived. -- BRENDA SPAGNOLA-WILSON, HOUSTON

DEAR BRENDA: What a terrific idea! Thank you for sharing it. Not only would it be helpful to someone planning a shower for an honoree whose friends and family are far away, but also for those who already "have everything."

CONFIDENTIAL TO OUR MILITARY VETERANS: Thank you for your many sacrifices that we may live in freedom. All of us who enjoy freedom salute you.

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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