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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a divorced man with a live-in girlfriend I'll call Donna. Her two boys also live with us. Donna's older son will graduate from high school this year, and she has planned a party that her mother and other family members will attend from out of state.

My daughter, "Sara," is graduating from the same high school. Sara has shared her concerns with me that Donna's family won't care about celebrating her graduation. I tried to assure her that it's my day to celebrate her accomplishment with her.

I discussed this with Donna and asked if we could recognize Sara at her son's party. Donna refused because my ex is having a party for Sara, and her son would be an invited guest but not the celebrated graduate there.

I say it's a different scenario because I'm Sara's father and if I were remarried, we'd celebrate the step-sibling graduation together. Donna then told me she has some issues with the way Sara behaves at times. I feel this has given me an insight that I don't like. How should I handle this upcoming graduation and other important issues? -- MIXED FEELINGS IN MISSOURI

DEAR MIXED FEELINGS: Handle the graduation and other important issues by keeping them separate. While it would be generous for Sara to be acknowledged at Donna's son's party, it isn't mandatory -- and I'm sure the reverse isn't planned for the party your ex is hosting for Sara.

What the circumstances "would be" if you and Donna were married instead of living together is irrelevant because you are not married and the graduates are not step-siblings. However, this does point up that Donna has not warmed to Sara as much as she might have and you might wish she had. And, because it could be a deal-breaker, this is an issue that should be examined carefully in the very near future.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old girl. I love my mother, but she puts very little effort into how she looks. She has been divorced since I was a baby and hasn't dated much. When it comes to how we dress, we are complete opposites. I like to put on real clothes, even if I'm accompanying my mom to the grocery store. She goes out wearing sweats and no bra.

Sometimes I try to help her by picking out her outfits for the week, but she gets mad when I say anything about her no-bra rule. She says I'm trying to pressure her to be someone she's not. Maybe I am, but I want her to meet people and go on dates. It feels like she has no pride in what she looks like. I care about her, but I can't help but see that she could improve. -- DOTING DAUGHTER IN MARYLAND

DEAR DOTING DAUGHTER: We could all "improve," but if your mother is comfortable with herself as she is, you should try to accept her that way. Many women find bras uncomfortable, and if they don't have to wear them they don't -- especially when wearing loose sweatshirts.

Your mother appears to be happy with her circumstances. When she's ready to try to attract male attention, she will. You are sweet to want to help her, but trying to manipulate her isn't working, so for both your sakes, cut it out.

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