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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Last night, after we had been engaged for three months, my fiance, "Blake," informed me that he owes $25,000 to creditors. He said part of that debt is because he bought and sold a condo (at a loss) six years ago -- and he felt he needed a nicer car after we met. What concerns me, in addition to his huge debt, is that he gave me an $8,000 engagement ring.

Blake is pressuring me to get married, but I am having second thoughts. Will I be responsible for his debts if we are married? Should I marry him, or should I wait until he pays off his creditors? -- FEELING INSECURE IN TORONTO

DEAR FEELING INSECURE: Your concerns are valid. Your fiance appears to be romantic, but not very practical when it comes to financial matters. Before the engagement goes any further, I urge you to consult an attorney who can explain any possible obligations you will -- or will not -- assume by marrying him. Please don't wait. It will be money wisely spent.

DEAR ABBY: I am 80 years old and all alone. Cancer took my wife 11 years ago. I am still healthy and in control of my affairs. I have been trying to carry on without my wife, but there isn't much to live for. I just returned from putting my truck in the garage, and I hated coming back into my empty house.

I wish that every human being in the world could be as lonesome as I am tonight. If this were true, there would never be another war, or killing, or robbery, or any form of deceit. I feel certain that everyone would say, "I am satisfied with what I have, because I never want to be as sad or as lonesome as that old man." -- LONESOME IN TEXAS

DEAR LONESOME: I'm glad you wrote to me because 11 years is too long to be alone and grieving. Since you are of sound mind and body, it's time to re-enter society -- and by that I mean put yourself in situations where you can help your fellow man, meet new people and have some fun.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to start. Call your local hospital, library, museum or senior center, and see what openings are available. It will be a way to do something worthwhile for your community and the beginning of a new life for you. Trust me.

DEAR ABBY: I recently met "Shelly," the girl of my dreams. She is everything I ever wanted in a girlfriend and more. This is the greatest relationship I have ever had in my life -- and she feels the same.

Shelly is leaving for college in September and I still have one more year of high school. I know in my heart it will never work with me here and Shelly there -- but I am not ready to lose the love of my life.

Abby, please give me some advice. I know my heart is going to break when Shelly leaves. -- LOVESTRUCK IN ST. LOUIS

DEAR LOVESTRUCK: I hope Shelly has a wonderful freshman year in college -- and that you have an exciting senior year in high school. Over the years I have heard from many teens in your situation. They have maintained their friendships by staying in contact through phone calls, writing letters and e-mails. What they haven't done is demand an exclusive relationship.

Now is the time for both of you to develop new friendships with people of both genders. Exclusivity ties you down and is not fair to either of you. When you develop new interests, you will have that much more to share when you do get together.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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