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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 24 and have been in many bad relationships. Every guy I have dated has been an addict, and some of them have been in jail. All of them were abusive.

Finally, I have met a decent man and I care for him a lot. The problem? I have a criminal record and haven't told him because I didn't want to scare him off.

If I tell him now, he will know I lied, and he has made it clear that he hates liars. So far, I have been able to avoid telling him about my past, but I won't be able to much longer, and I'll have to fill in the blanks.

What am I going to do? Should I tell the truth and face the consequences, which will probably mean losing him, or continue skirting the issue with lies? -- TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES IN TEXAS

DEAR TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES: Honesty is the best policy. Tell him now. The longer you wait, the more deceived he will feel. Explain that you kept silent because you were afraid you would lose him. It's the truth. He may not be thrilled with the news, but he will have to give you marks for wanting to set the record straight. I wish you luck.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is a self-employed contractor. We recently had to convert our home office into a bedroom for my son, so our "office" is now in our bedroom until we can add on to the house. My husband has a new client who thinks nothing of calling at 10 p.m. or later, and last night he sent a fax at 11:45! The ringing woke me and it took two hours to get back to sleep.

I want my husband to ask his clients not to call after 9 p.m. He thinks I'm being unreasonable, and he's embarrassed to admit that our office is in our bedroom. I don't think any explanations are necessary. What do you think? This issue is creating hard feelings. -- SLEEPLESS IN THE MOUNTAINS

DEAR SLEEPLESS: I have another idea. Most phones and faxes have switches that control the ringer volume. Turn them off when you go to bed, and you should be able to slumber like a baby. If yours do not have volume control, consider investing in ones that do.

DEAR ABBY: This letter is for "Invited but Can't Always Go," who is reluctant to allow her daughter to attend all the birthday parties to which she is invited because she can't afford to buy the gifts.

I suggest that the girl create a scrapbook of the event. She can take photos and collect memorabilia such as napkins, ribbons and wrapping paper for the scrapbook. She might use pieces of the wrapping paper as borders or corners for the pages, or "frames" for the photos she'll mount inside. She could also have each guest write a special note or birthday wish for the party child and include them.

In her card to the birthday child, she should include a note that says her gift will arrive in a week or so. I have done this for shower gifts, and they always become treasured keepsakes. -- ON THE CHEAP IN KENTUCKY

DEAR ON THE CHEAP: Treasured? I'm sure they are priceless! Thank you for a terrific idea.

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