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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 24-year-old male. My younger brother, "Chaz," is 22 and has always been extremely popular with everyone -- parents, grandparents, guys, girls. He is the better-looking, more talented, smooth-talking brother.

Chaz and I have been close growing up, sharing the same hobbies and doing the same things. But ever since I can remember, people have walked past me on their way to flock around him. The only time girls talk to me is when they ask about him. Chaz juggles three gorgeous girlfriends who know about each other but are still crazy about him.

I don't consider myself ugly or awkward. I do OK. I'm thought of as the nicer, warmer one who people can talk to. I'm not bad at what I do, and I do get compliments on my talents, but often it's followed with, "But your brother ... wow!"

I know I shouldn't compare myself to Chaz, but it hasn't been easy living in his shadow and being seen by everyone as "just his brother." It has done a real number on my self-esteem. What can I do to not let this affect me so much? Should I move someplace where nobody knows him? -- CHAZ'S BROTHER

DEAR BROTHER: Let's follow that last sentence to its logical conclusion. You move far away from Chaz -- and then what? Pretend you're an only child? What if he comes to visit? What if you meet someone special and want to introduce her to the family? Only as a last resort should you take such drastic action.

It's time to start working to beef up your sagging self-esteem. One way would be to schedule some sessions with a psychologist who can help you appreciate the traits that distinguish you from your brother. Another important step would be to involve yourself in activities separate and apart from Chaz, which will help you to cultivate an identity of your own.

You are far more than just someone's brother. You are already considered the "nicer, warmer one who people can talk to." Recognize that those are important qualities and something you can build upon.

DEAR ABBY: I am 13 and still haven't had my first kiss. When all my friends are talking about theirs, I just hope they won't ask me about mine. Boys will ask, "Have you had your first kiss?" or, "Who was your first kiss with?" I hate having to say it hasn't happened yet.

Abby, how should I answer these questions -- or should I not answer at all? I don't know what to do. -- ASHAMED IN OPELIKA, ALA.

DEAR ASHAMED: A first kiss should be with someone special because it's an event you will remember for the rest of your life. Not having been kissed (yet) at 13 is nothing to be embarrassed about, so stop worrying.

As to all those "curious" boys who ask about your first kiss, it's time you learned you do not have to answer every question that's asked of you. Just smile and say, "I don't kiss and tell." Then ask them if they've had THEIR first kiss yet, and who it was with. And remember -- a guy who would talk about another girl would talk about you.

DEAR ABBY: Last year I commissioned a friend to make a one-of-a-kind model lighthouse for my brother. When my brother saw it, he thought it was hideous. I suppose I could sell it, but how should I handle the situation when I see my friend again and he asks how my brother liked the lighthouse he made? I don't want to cause hurt feelings, but I'm a terrible liar. Any suggestions? -- PATTY IN PORTLAND

DEAR PATTY: Allow me to offer one. If you are asked about the model, tell your friend that the lighthouse "didn't fit my brother's decor." It's the truth. You don't have to specify that your brother passed judgment on it and found it lacking. Then offer to sell the model back to the artist. If he refuses, feel free to dispose of it as you wish.

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 $6 (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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