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by Abigail Van Buren

Romance Is Cooled by Torch Woman Carries for 'Friend'

DEAR ABBY: I am 80, and "Doreen" is 72. When we started dating seven years ago, I "simply wanted to be her friend." Now the tables have turned, and she just wants to be MY friend.

Doreen has a male friend in Florida with whom she communicates through letters and phone calls. Although she tells me she loves me, she also says that if this "friend" comes back and asks her out, she wants to be free to date him.

I told her that most 72-year-olds would be happy to have one man to date, but if she plans on dating someone else, I should be free to do the same. Her last remark was for me to "be gentle with her." We are affectionate, loving friends, and I care about her a great deal.

Your observations, please. -- EDDIE IN MAINE

DEAR EDDIE: Your statement that if Doreen plans to date someone else, you should be free to do the same seems logical to me. Continue to have an affectionate, loving friendship with her -- and by all means "be gentle" -- but keep your options open and date others in the knowledge that if her snowbird flies home, she'll be billing and cooing with him, and you'll be flying solo.