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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My name is "Lenny" and I live in Florida. About six weeks ago, my girlfriend, "Jill," and I broke up. Jill is 20 and I am 41. She was adopted by her parents as an infant.

Jill's parents saw no problem with the age difference because I had gained their trust during the year before I started seeing her.

Jill and her folks moved to Illinois, but we talk on the phone at least three times a week. I proposed marriage, but Jill said she couldn't make the decision without her father's approval. Her mother was all for it; her father was not.

Jill says that when her parents adopted her, her father put a clause in the contract that he had the right to choose the man she was to marry -- and it was signed by a judge in the state of Illinois. Is this legal? -- FRUSTRATED IN FLORIDA

DEAR FRUSTRATED: No, it's not. Either Jill is lying to you, or someone is lying to her.

DEAR ABBY: I have eight siblings. I am the only one who is still single. My brothers and sisters are upstanding members of their communities, happily married and raising beautiful families.

Until a few years ago, we all got together for the holidays. Now that the children are here -- 20 at last count -- my sibs prefer to spend the holidays in their own homes with their families. We get together a couple of weeks before Christmas to exchange gifts.

I know that each of my brothers and sisters thinks I'm having Christmas dinner with another family member, but in reality I'm not invited anywhere, so I spend the day alone. I'd love to spend the day with family, and I'm hoping they will see this letter and think of me. -- ALL ALONE IN MARYLAND

DEAR ALL ALONE: And what if they happen to be too busy to read the column today? Your siblings aren't mind readers, so tell them what you told me. And if an invitation isn't forthcoming, make plans for the Christmas holiday with close friends or volunteer at a shelter. The greatest joy is in giving to others. You do not have to sit alone.

DEAR ABBY: I'm 11 and in sixth grade. I recently caught a girl in my class copying off my paper. When I asked her not to, she denied doing it. The next day, she started copying down my answers word for word. This time, I asked her if she would like to pair up and work together. She sneered at me and told me to get my "help" from the teacher.

I told the teacher then, and the teacher replied, "She is having trouble with her work and personal problems at home. Just imagine if this math was hard for you."

The girl has ADHD. Should I continue to let this girl copy me? -- STUDENT IN PHOENIX

DEAR STUDENT: No, you should not. Because if you do, a girl who is already having trouble with math will never learn how to solve the problems herself.

P.S. It was nice of you to volunteer to help by pairing up with her. But this girl has bigger problems than you are equipped to cope with.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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