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DEAR ABBY: I was maid of honor in my cousin "Denise's" wedding. As such, I helped her to get a good deal on her photography. My close friend, "Arthur," had just begun shooting professionally, and photographed the wedding for a greatly reduced price.

My problem is that Denise never paid Arthur. It has been several months, and Arthur finally asked me if I would track her down because she has not return his repeated phone calls.

Denise admitted that she spent the money on cosmetic dentistry, but now more time has elapsed, and she still hasn't paid him.

My cousin claims she will pay Arthur "one day," but I am embarrassed and angry. How should I handle this? Denise is not an easy person to confront -- she is easily offended and moody. -- CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE, OAKLAND, CALIF.

DEAR CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: Your cousin Denise is more than easily offended and moody -- she's also a deadbeat. Step back and do not allow yourself to be put in the middle. If the bride signed a contract with the photographer, he may have to take her to small claims court in order to get the money she owes him. It's not a pretty picture, but it's the unfortunate truth.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 53-year-old woman who is 100-plus pounds overweight. Six months ago, I finally made a commitment to lose the excess pounds, and with my doctor's approval, joined a weight reduction program. Slowly but surely, I am succeeding. I intend to stick with it.

The problem is my live-in boyfriend, "Jack." I know he loves me and has my best interests at heart, but he acts like a "food cop." I resent being given the third degree, and being told what and when to eat and drink.

Abby, is there any tactful way to tell Jack to butt out? If he keeps this up, I could fall into some of my old eating habits, and I don't want that to happen. -- BIG GIRL IN DES MOINES

DEAR BIG GIRL: You are starting to make progress, and for that I congratulate you. The next time your boyfriend acts like a "food cop," tell him you know he means well, but this is a project you need to do on your own -- for yourself and by yourself. Explain that when someone looks over your shoulder, it makes you nervous, and when you get nervous you want to overeat. So he should please stop.

DEAR ABBY: "Devoted Daughter in Houston" wrote about her mother having vascular dementia, and how a family member took advantage of her condition and removed a valued possession from her home without permission.

My mother has vascular dementia and we, too, had family members who tried to take advantage of her. I obtained legal documents from our family lawyer and had my mother's doctor declare her incompetent. I then photocopied the forms, along with my durable power of attorney, and mailed them to the guilty parties.

Needless to say, these folks are upset, but they no longer try to get money from my mother. -- FAMILY "BAD GUY" IN NEVADA

DEAR FAMILY "BAD GUY": The lesson is, as hard as it may be to face, that sometimes it's necessary to take legal action to protect a loved one from exploitation and financial disaster. That's what attorneys and elder-laws are for. So please don't let anyone make you feel like a bad guy for acting like a good guy.

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

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