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Lonely Teen Must Step Out of Social Shadows

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old girl entering the eighth grade. Even though I have friends, I feel like I am invisible. Many of the people who claim I am their "friend" don't even take the time to call me. I could take the first step and call them, I suppose, but then I always feel like I'm not really their friend.

I have only one girlfriend whom I can call on for advice. Please help me, Abby. I have just spent a long, miserable summer with no one to talk to. I want to change that. When I'm in high school next year, I don't want to just fade into the shadows like in middle school. I could really use some advice. -- ALONE AND SHY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ALONE AND SHY: Here it is. If you spent the entire summer waiting for people to call you, then it's no wonder you spent it alone. I know very few people who sit back, wallowing, as it were, in the adulation of others, while making no effort on their own behalf.

If you want to stand out in high school, you are going to have to become proactive in promoting yourself. An effective way to do that is to join clubs, become active in sports, activity groups, drama and/or student government.

In your signature line you identified yourself as "shy." Did you know that about one-third of the population is afflicted with shyness to some degree? It's true! And do you know why so many people are shy? Because they're afraid of rejection -- and holding back is the only way they think they can protect themselves from being hurt.

In my booklet, "How to Be Popular," I review topics including "The Art of Conversation," "The Friendly Personality," "Grooming," and what makes a clever conversationalist. If these are topics you would like to learn more about, my booklet can be ordered by sending a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Postage is included in the price. (Allow six to eight weeks for delivery.)

DEAR ABBY: I am 22 years old and have been with my boyfriend, "Carl," 3 1/2 years. We have lived together for three of them. Carl is 25, and this is the first, and hopefully, last, serious relationship for both of us. We have bigger issues than the one I present to you now, but this is the only one that has me mystified: Carl never calls me by name!

We both called each other "Baby" and "Sweetie" in the beginning, but as soon as I noticed it, I changed my ways. Carl said he always preferred calling me by my middle name (a family custom), which seemed sweet and was fine by me.

Abby, all that has changed is what Carl calls me when speaking in the third person. Anyone observing our interactions would -- and rightly so -- assume my name is "Babe"! Why is he doing this? What can I do? I'd truly appreciate your help. -- MIFFED IN MIAMI

DEAR MIFFED: Calling you "Babe" may be a lazy speech habit, may be his "special" pet name for you (although I'm not putting money on it), or he may have trouble remembering names -- including yours. Because being called "Babe" upsets you, tell Carl once more that you prefer being addressed by your given name. And if he has another memory lapse after that, "re-train" him by reminding him what you prefer to be called each and every time he slips up.

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