DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing a woman who is 21 years younger than I am. She says she loves me, but I am hesitant because of our age difference.
We have known each other for years. She had a crush on me when she was 16, but I was married at the time, and she was too young. We made love a couple of times when she was in her 20s because I was divorced and she was single.
Now it's 10 years later. I'm in my late 50s; she's in her 30s. We are both single, and she wants to take care of me for the rest of my life.
She brings me lunch every once in a while, which I am amazed at because it's a long drive from where she lives. I worry about what other people will think, but she doesn't care and says she wants to love me and care for me because she knows what I am about. I grew up with her uncles and aunts and am good friends with them.
She's tired of dating people her age because she says they are immature. She has three kids and has never been married. I love her and want to take care of her, too, for the rest of her life. Should I listen to my heart? -- AGE IS A NUMBER, IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR AGE: You have known this woman for many years. It is not as though she's a stranger with three children who has approached you. Are the fathers of the children contributing to their support? If they are minors, what will be your role in their lives? These are important considerations. But how other people feel about your union should not affect your decision.
DEAR ABBY: I was date raped seven years ago, and the man who assaulted me gave me genital herpes. I'm not someone who has ever slept around. After the rape, I told no one. I didn't go to the police. I didn't go to the doctor to get checked right away because I was scared the doctor would report the rape to the police and my family would find out. I felt ashamed and dirty. Two months later, I finally found the courage to see a doctor. I realized I had genital herpes because I got a sore and went to get tested.
I'm now friends with a guy and feel like every time I meet someone I have to tell him I have herpes because I'm not the kind of person who lies or keeps secrets. My friend seems really interested in me, and I know I need to tell him.
I feel like my life is over, and I'll never be able to have kids or marry because of this disease. It's like the man who raped me has killed my social life and my desire to live. Please help me, Abby. I have no idea what to do. Should I just stay alone or try to get my life back? -- STRESSED AND ANXIOUS IN PUERTO RICO
DEAR STRESSED: For heaven's sake, take your life back! It is far from over. Go online and research the prevalence of STDs among teens and young adults in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The statistics will be an eye-opener for you and may reassure you that you are not alone in having herpes. This information should be shared with your sexual partners before becoming intimate. Medications can lessen the chance of transmission. Your doctor or a clinic worker can advise you.
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