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by Abigail Van Buren

Dating Is Near the Bottom on Girl's List of Priorities

DEAR ABBY: My 16-year-old daughter went through exactly what the 16-year-old girl, "Not Interested in North Carolina," is experiencing.

I encouraged my daughter to make a list of all the things she wanted to accomplish in the future, and tell me if having a boyfriend would help. After she read what she had written, she came to the conclusion that dating was out for now, and she's fine with it. Now, when she feels peer pressure at school, she looks at her list -– which includes being a wonderful daughter, going to the college of her choice and traveling to certain foreign countries.

"Not Interested" should tape a similar list to her mirror or on the back of a door for easy reference. -- ENCOURAGING MOM, MIDLAND, TEXAS

DEAR MOM: After "Not Interested's" letter was printed, I was deluged with letters and e-mail from readers offering support. The number was overwhelming –- too many to count. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I hope that girl doesn't succumb to peer pressure. It's far more important to know who you are than to have a boyfriend. Having healthy relationships should be her focus, not fitting into what "society" tells her to do.

I am now 24 and engaged to be married next summer. By waiting until I was ready, I knew exactly what kind of relationship I wanted and have found a wonderful man who shares my values. -- HAPPY I WAITED IN OHIO

DEAR HAPPY: I agree, it takes courage not to follow the crowd. Not one of those who wrote to support "Not Interested" was sorry to have postponed dating.

DEAR ABBY: I was that girl, a "hard-core tomboy," which by the way, does not necessarily mean you're gay. (There are many very feminine lesbians.) I married at 22 and have been married for 21 years. After I had children, I realized that I am a lesbian -– and I have recently come out to my husband, family and friends.

My advice to "Not Interested" is to take her time dating boys, have fun with her sports, etc., and remember –- it's OK if she IS gay. If she's struggling, she should seek a gay support group for teens. -- LOVING MOM, SPRINGFIELD, MASS.

DEAR LOVING MOM: That's good advice for teens who may need it.

DEAR ABBY: I, too, was a hard-core tomboy. I was never into makeup or jewelry, and my only relationship as a teenager was one rather short-lived stint of "going steady" with a male friend in my freshman year of high school –- more because it seemed "expected" then because of any real attraction.

My family wondered if I was heterosexual. When, in my last year of college, I found the one special man I had been waiting for and announced it to my family, one relative even asked if I was marrying a man!

I'm now happily married to my soul mate, but I still have not settled into a typically feminine role. I am a full-time career firefighter, one of only three in a department of 200 members. I am also a paramedic and a member of the K9 search and rescue community.

That girl should not permit other people to mold her into what they think she ought to be. She sounds like a perfectly healthy, normal young woman to me. There are plenty of people who are just like us. I didn't marry until I was in my mid-20s. All things considered, I turned out pretty well despite "late blooming" –- and so will she. -- FORMER TOMBOY IN ILLINOIS

DEAR FORMER TOMBOY: Not only have you done "pretty well," you're one heck of a role model for the rest of us!

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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