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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a teenage girl about to start looking for my first job. I have four facial piercings and I feel they may be detrimental to finding one.

I have researched effective ways of hiding my choices in jewelry. My question is, during an interview, is it OK to ask about a company's policy on piercings? My mother thinks I shouldn't, but I feel it might be a good idea to be upfront about the way I like to look.

Taking the piercings out is not an option. I have invested too much time, energy, money and pain. The fact that I can keep my piercings clean and healthy should speak for my level of responsibility. I would love some advice, Abby. -- BEJEWELED IN OTTAWA

DEAR BEJEWELED: Many businesses and companies have strict codes that cover how they want their employees to look while representing them. Regardless of how clean you keep your body jewelry, if you don't fit their "brand" image, you will not qualify.

Because you have too much invested in your piercings to remove them, my advice is to interview with companies that are involved in the arts, fashion, media and Internet technology. They cater to a younger, more liberal demographic, and you will be free to be more yourself than have to project a corporate image.

DEAR ABBY: My question has to do with gift giving and receiving. My mother-in-law has a standard reaction after she is given a gift. She scrunches up her face and starts yelling, "I thought I told you no gifties." It's not a polite, "I wish you hadn't spent your money on me." She then proceeds to open the package and starts complaining about the tape, ribbons, etc., her standard comments being, "Do you have any tape left at your house?" or, "I know who wrapped this one!" directed at me. Then she says, "What am I supposed to do with this?" or some other put-down.

I have found myself offering gifts at other times of the year -- something to keep her warm or that she needs -- always unwrapped and casually delivered. My question is, "What's wrong with me?" -- "NO GIFTIES" IN GRAHAM, WASH.

DEAR "NO GIFTIES": What's "wrong" with you is you're a glutton for punishment. This year, take your mother-in-law at her word and "surprise" her by giving her what she has said she wanted all these years: nothing. Then she'll be speechless.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating "Ronald" exclusively for eight months. I invited him to our family Thanksgiving dinner and he accepted, but then he decided to go to his brother's instead. (They invited him two weeks after I had asked him.)

Shouldn't couples be together for the holidays, or am I asking too much? Ronald has met my parents, but I have yet to meet any of his family. Is this a sign that he just doesn't care? -- DISAPPOINTED IN MICHIGAN

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Let me put it this way: It's a sign that Ronald doesn't care as much as you do.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)