Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

Both of her parents are really protective, and she is not sure how to break it to them. She knows they have the right to know, and I want to tell them –- but how? -- AT A LOSS FOR WORDS, IN LAFAYETTE, LA.

DEAR AT A LOSS: "She" should ask her mother to make an appointment for her with a gynecologist because she needs to be put on birth control and also to learn what she needs to know about sexually transmitted diseases. It will be a shocker, but it is also the truth. If you are mature enough to be having sex, you must be mature enough to handle the consequences.

Anyone who is sexually active must have regular gynecological and/or urological examinations to ensure that she (or he) hasn't unknowingly picked up an STD. (To ignore an STD is to risk becoming sterile, and can be fatal.) Please don't put this off.

DEAR ABBY: Before he met me, my husband, "Stan," was involved with a crazy, alcoholic, self-centered woman. "Evelyn" has never been married, but she acts like she is Stan's ex-wife. She has never accepted the fact that he married me and not her.

She began making frequent crank calls to me at work shortly after the wedding. She follows me when I am alone. She has told everyone that Stan is impotent and has slandered my children. She even stole our family portrait from a studio that displayed it.

How can I get this crazy woman to leave me alone? I need help. -- STALKED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR STALKED: You have my sympathy. She appears to be unbalanced. Notify the police that you are being stalked and obtain a restraining order. Then notify the phone company about the unwanted calls. If they can be traced to her, it is further proof of her harassment -– and there is a way to block them.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating "Dale" for nearly two years. I am 32, he is 29, and he is everything my husband wasn't. Dale is wonderful to me and even more so to my two young daughters. He comforts us when we're sad. He takes care of us when we're sick. He even handles our finances and is always there for me regardless of the situation. He is a very romantic person who always makes me feel special.

My problem? He cannot carry on an intellectual conversation. He also lacks some language skills and doesn't always make "adult" decisions. In other words, although he's perfect in every other way, he lacks the mentality of a man his age.

Should I let him go? Sometimes I feel he may not be the one for me because he's not as smart as I think he should be. -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN TEXAS

DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: Ideally, when people "couple up" they do it with individuals whose strengths compensate for their weaknesses. For many women, Dale's positive qualities would be enough, and he would be considered a prize. However, because intellectual accomplishment ranks high on your list of priorities, by all means let Dale go so he can find a woman who will love him for who he is, and you can find a partner who is more intellectually stimulating. You do not appear to be in love with him.

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.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby