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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My 14-year-old son, "Bradley," was conceived by artificial insemination using an anonymous donor. His father and I divorced when our child was very young, and Brad has never been told the truth about his conception. However, a handful of people on both sides of the family DO know. Over the years, Brad's father has provided minimal financial and emotional support for our son. (My ex has remarried; I have not.)

I have been advised by my minister to tell Bradley the truth now. However, I am being told by my mother that Brad should never be told, and we should just hope that no one spills the beans.

Have you any thoughts on a situation such as this? -- WORRIED MOM IN CHICAGO

DEAR WORRIED MOM: Your mother is well-meaning, but your minister is right. Your son should be told the truth. There is no shame in it, and because other family members already know, the boy needs to hear it from you before he hears it from someone else. Better now than later.

DEAR ABBY: For the past year, I've had an exclusive relationship with "Bernie." We're both in our mid-20s and live in the same neighborhood. A month ago, Bernie broke up with me. He said he hadn't gotten over the pain of a previous relationship and wasn't ready to get serious. He said he wanted to remain "friends," but every so often he'd do something that made me feel like I still meant something to him.

One night last week we went to a movie, grabbed a bite to eat and ended up at his place. Bernie sweetly asked me to stay the night and I was overjoyed. The next morning he said it had been a mistake -– his feelings for me had not changed.

We haven't talked since then, and I feel hurt and devalued. Am I overreacting? -- CONFUSED IN BROOKLYN

DEAR CONFUSED: I don't think so. Bernie knew he had a sitting duck and his behavior wasn't sportsmanlike. Accept the fact that you and he have different goals and move on. Once you have started dating someone else, you can revisit the issue of a friendship with Bernie. (I'll bet you decide against it.)

DEAR ABBY: My fiance, "Todd," presented me with a ring made of cheap, colored stones that cost him three days' pay. Nobody treats me like I'm engaged because my ring doesn't look like an engagement ring. Meanwhile, I am surrounded by women at work who have beautiful solitaire engagement rings.

Todd never makes any effort in bed. He takes his pleasure and gives me none. He keeps a photo scrapbook of his former girlfriends and continues to take them out to dinner during the week. If I object, he says they're just "gal pals," and I'm being unreasonable.

On weekends -– which is the only time I see him -– Todd says he's "too tired" or "too broke" to take me to dinner and a movie. Am I right to feel cheated? -- MAD AND SAD IN MISSOURI

DEAR MAD AND SAD: From what you have written, Todd is meeting none of your needs –- materially, physically or emotionally. If you continue this relationship, you are only cheating yourself.

A word to the wise: Ask yourself why you are with him. Only you can answer that.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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