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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 16 years old and have been dating "Nora" for about six months. I love her, but I can't continue dating her because I recently realized I am more attracted to guys. We've been having sex for a little while, and I know Nora will be brokenhearted if I break up with her. But I am living a lie. How do I tell her? -- LIVING A LIE

DEAR LIVING: Before making any announcements, I urge you to think carefully about the implications. If you tell Nora, there is a strong possibility that she will tell others. How do your parents feel about gays? How do your friends at school regard homosexuality?

As much as you may care for Nora, unless you are ready to be completely "out," it might be safer for you to allow the relationship to taper off. If she insists on a reason, tell her you are not ready for a serious commitment. It would be kinder than letting her think she doesn't measure up.

DEAR ABBY: I've done something I'm ashamed of, and I have no way to apologize other than to hope the person I offended may see this.

On Christmas Eve, I was stuck in traffic and a woman with a carload of kids pushed into the intersection so far that I had no choice but to let her pass. She waved and I made a vulgar gesture.

I am over 50, well-educated, have good common sense and should know better. The look of horror and hurt on that woman's face was devastating. My grown daughter was in the car with me! I let her down, and I let myself down.

I apologized to my daughter, but she will never forget that stupid act. I wish there were some way to change what I did. If the woman who was in that car reads this, I hope she knows that I am sorry I ruined her Christmas spirit. It is all I have been able to think about since that night. Please forgive me. -- ASHAMED IN MIDLOTHIAN, VA.

DEAR ASHAMED: I'm printing your letter for all to see. Sad to say, I'm sure many people will think the letter is intended for them.

P.S. Contrition is a first step toward growth. Forgive yourself for your silly burst of temper and promise to behave better in the future.

DEAR ABBY: Last March I had emergency surgery and was in the hospital for almost a month. It took me five months to fully recover. My family was wonderful. They sent gifts, called frequently and visited me. Their support helped to speed my recovery, and I returned to work and school sooner than expected.

The anniversary of my surgery is coming up, and I am planning a celebration to thank everyone for their generosity. I want to make sure no one brings a gift and they know the party is for them. What would be the appropriate wording for the invitation? -- CELEBRATING IN OHIO

DEAR CELEBRATING: When you extend the invitation, make no reference to the fact that it is for anything other than "a dinner party." When your guests have assembled, break out the champagne, make a toast in their honor -- before you all get toasted -- and tell them the party is for them.

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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