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by Abigail Van Buren

White Collar Woman Keeps Her Blue Collar Beau Under Wraps

DEAR ABBY: I'm a divorced, middle-aged professional woman with a Ph.D. who has been keeping company with a man my age for seven years. "Burt" treats me well. He takes me out, has helped with some major home renovation projects, sends me flowers and I enjoy his company. I'm perfectly happy in his world, and I like most of his friends.

On the flip side, Burt is overweight, has a drinking problem and never finished college. My problem is, I can't bring myself to introduce him to those in my "professional circle." I'm afraid he will say something boorish, show up drunk or otherwise embarrass me.

Is there something intrinsically wrong with me that I'm ashamed to have the man I love meet people with whom I work and socialize? Is there something wrong with the relationship? -- IT'S COMPLICATED IN WISCONSIN

DEAR IT'S COMPLICATED: There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the relationship. It has worked for seven years. What's "wrong" may be that you're afraid you have "settled" for someone who isn't up to the standards of those in your professional circle. If you are happy, why do you feel you must live up to someone else's standards?

Of course, this doesn't have to be a deal breaker. If you and Burt are a happy couple, keep your personal and professional lives separate. Many couples do.