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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been informed that a family headstone has been purchased, and our share is $2,000 -- each. This was never discussed among the family members. The cemetery is located out of state. My husband is in the military, and we had planned to use the military cemetery where we live for a small fee. We think the family was rude and presumptuous planning for our deaths.

Because we declined, the family no longer speaks to us, which breaks our hearts. I am sure it is a tactic to wear us down.

We have received an e-mail telling us we are no longer welcome to attend the family reunion this summer unless we fork over the $4,000 and agree to have our names placed on the headstone. Your opinion, please, and any advice would be greatly appreciated. -- NOT DEAD AND BURIED YET

DEAR NOT D AND B: If you were truly considered "part of the family," you would have been part of the discussion and planning for that headstone. The silent treatment your family is giving you is emotional blackmail. Do not give in. Sad as it may be, recognize that you were already "excommunicated" when you were excluded from the planning and the purchase of the plot, not because you refused their demand.

DEAR ABBY: I have started dating a man, "Karl," who is wonderful. We have similar values and enjoy doing the same things. After talking over lunches and dinners, I decided to do some Internet digging, and have learned that Karl is nine years younger than I am.

My friend and I are both in our 60s -- Karl is at the beginning, I'm at the end. I dwell on the age difference all the time and have started refusing his dinner invitations. Am I making too much out of this? Or should I go with the flow and see what happens?

My mom always told me she liked the saying, "I would rather be an old man's sweetheart than a young man's old lady." I have always agreed with her. -- YOUNG AT HEART

DEAR YOUNG AT HEART: For heaven's sake, go with the flow. As my mother used to say, "The most important ingredient in a lasting marriage is a husband who lasts." Demographically, men die younger than women do. You and Karl are, to put it mildly, well into adulthood. You share similar values and common interests. To reject him because he is nine years younger is crazy. Discuss it with him. You might be pleased to learn that he would enjoy being your "boy-toy."

DEAR ABBY: I'm a college senior (female) who spends a lot of time with my professors. This includes extracurricular functions and receptions.

I have always addressed them as "professor." But lately, they have been signing e-mails (personal ones) with their first names. Does this mean they want me to call them by their first names? Or should I just continue addressing them as "professor"? -- COLLEGE SENIOR IN N.C.

DEAR COLLEGE SENIOR: Until you graduate, continue to address them using their titles. After that, ask them what they would like you to call them. But for now, using the titles they have earned shows respect.

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 $12 (U.S. funds)

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