DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I have been dating for a year, and we have a pretty big age difference. She is days away from being 16, and I am 19. Everything is legal -- I've checked -- but I still worry that somehow it is fundamentally wrong for me to be dating her and that it could be a negative thing.
I really care about her, and I am her closest friend at this point. I know I am better for her than some other guy who probably wouldn't try to help her with her problems as much, but I'm still worried that the age difference is too much and that we are in different places in our lives. What can I do? -- Older Guy, Shreveport, La.
DEAR OLDER GUY: Here's where you get to be the adult. Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with two people who are three years apart liking each other. The legal challenge is that until she becomes 17 in your state of Louisiana, you are not legally allowed to engage in sexual activity with her. If you do, it is considered statutory rape and you could go to prison for up to 10 years.
If you are able to wait, you may have no issue. It's smart anyway for you to develop a strong friendship with this young lady. In that way, you will truly learn if you two are compatible.
Anyone else in this situation should know that the legal definitions for statutory rape vary by state. For information on the laws in your state: www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/jud/rpt/2003-r-0376.htm.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I need some help teaching my daughter the value of money. I have a 14-year-old who thinks money grows on trees.
Three weeks ago, my daughter asked me for a pair of jeans that cost over $200. And she had the nerve to ask me for a $180 pair of sneakers. When I told her that I would not be able to buy the high-priced jeans and sneakers that she requested, she became angry at me and stormed off into the living room. I have to be careful with my money because I have two additional children to attend to as well. My daughter does not understand. Please help. -- Budget-Conscious Mom, Chicago
DEAR BUDGET-CONSCIOUS MOM: It's time for your daughter to work. Give her chores at home that are in addition to her normal jobs and pay her to do them, even if you can afford to give her just a nominal amount. Over time, she will learn to value those dollars.
She also may be able to find odd jobs in your neighborhood. If she is responsible enough, she may want to baby-sit.
Help her learn to save some of her money each time she gets paid. Tell her that when she has earned enough money, she can buy either the jeans or sneakers, provided she keeps some money in her savings account. Her eyes will open fast to the value of money when she starts spending her own.
It may be helpful to give your daughter some perspective on how much things cost. If you share with her that the jeans she wants cost as much as, say, a week's rent or gas money for a month, she may rethink her request.