DEAR ABBY: I have been in an on-again/off-again relationship with a man for 16 years -- more on than off. We have two boys together. He recently moved back in, and things are going well.
We're in our 30s, and I'm ready to be more than girlfriend and boyfriend. I'd like to ask this special man in my life to marry me, but I'm not sure if a woman should ever propose marriage to a man. Should I go ahead and do it, or just be patient and hope that one day he will ask me to take the next big step? -- LONGING FOR MORE IN TEXAS
DEAR LONGING FOR MORE: By all means, ask him to formalize your relationship. After 16 years and two children, you deserve to know where the relationship is going. And when you do, mention that you'd like him to go to the altar willingly -- before the boys are big enough to hog-tie and drag him there to make an "honest woman" of their mother.
DEAR ABBY: I have been a vegetarian and anti-fur advocate for many years, and most of my friends and family know it. I feel strongly that wearing fur and leather is cruel and unnecessary, but I don't lecture anyone who doesn't ask my opinion.
What would be the proper response when someone gives me an item with real animal fur or genuine leather? It has happened before, and while I appreciate that someone has bought me a gift, I'm horrified and heartbroken seeing what's inside the box when I open it, and disappointed knowing that the person has contributed to the unkind and atrocious fur industry. I find it difficult to bring myself to say "thank you" for something I find so morally abhorrent.
What is the appropriate response in this situation? Is it acceptable for me to use this as an opportunity to educate the person on the horrors of fur fashions? -- VEGGIE IN NEW YORK
DEAR VEGGIE: No, it isn't. Good manners dictate that you graciously thank the giver and then, if you wish, give the gift a respectful, private burial or regift it to a carnivore.
DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband is remarrying. We have always tried to be civil toward each other because of our daughter, who is 16. I try to be the bigger person in dealing with him in order to set a good example for her.
He called her last night after not having called her in several weeks and told her that if she wants to be in his wedding, I (meaning me) should purchase her dress. I thought it was inappropriate for him not only to tell her that, but also to expect me to pay for it.
When I remarried years ago, I never would have dreamed of asking him for money for her attire. My daughter even thinks this is unrealistic.
I usually try to keep things positive when it comes to situations with him, but I don't think I'm giving in on this one. Do you agree? -- EX IN ILLINOIS
DEAR EX: You said you try to keep things positive to set a good example for your daughter. While I agree your ex's demand that you pay for the dress is petty (and cheap), be the bigger person one more time and buy it for her if she wishes to participate rather than argue about it. Then cross your fingers and hope it's his last wedding.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)