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TRAUMA IN TEEN'S PAST IS A SECRET SHE SHOULD KEEP

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old girl, just starting to dip my toes into the dating scene. It's not that I haven't wanted a boyfriend in the past, but I live in a rural area where options are few.

I am becoming close with a guy who lives near me, and I care a lot about him. Therein lies the problem. We're getting to the point where we are finding out everything about each other. I love learning things about him, and I want to share myself entirely with him.

Lately we have been talking about the past. To make a long story short, my childhood was traumatic. From the age of 6 until age 11, I was molested by a family member. Although I am a virgin, when I'm with my friend, it's obvious that I have done certain things before.

I don't want to "unload my baggage" too early and scare him away, but if we are going to commit to each other, I feel it's important for him to know. When is a good point in the relationship to tell him, or in future relationships as well? Any advice you could give would help a lot! -- DIPPING MY TOES IN THE DATING SCENE

DEAR DIPPING: The answer depends upon how mature this young man is, because the information you're considering imparting to him is sensitive. How would you feel if this first relationship ended badly and he broadcast your history to the entire community? This has been known to happen -- as we all know -- with intimate photos.

Personally, I think it will be a while -- a few years -- before you will be ready for a truly committed relationship. I'm not saying you shouldn't have fun and romance in your life, but until you are absolutely sure that you are in a committed relationship, my advice is not to confide this.

If you haven't already received counseling for the trauma you experienced as a child, please consider it. Licensed counselors are ethically bound not to reveal what is discussed during sessions.


DEAR ABBY: I am in my mid-20s and have a close relationship with my mother. She always struggled to make ends meet, but has recently come into greater financial security.

For some time I have been embarrassed about her stingy habits when it comes to splitting the check in group situations. She'll often divide costs unfairly and rely on the generosity of her fellow diners to cover her share. I don't want to embarrass her at the table, but I'm uncomfortable apologizing for her after the fact.

Now that I'm older, I feel responsible in these situations, but I know money is a sensitive topic for her. I don't want to be critical or make her self-conscious. How can I talk Mom into correcting her behavior so we can salvage relationships that are important to both of us? -- KELLY IN NEW YORK

DEAR KELLY: You shouldn't embarrass your mother in front of others. But you should have a private talk with her and express your feelings.

The frugal habits of a lifetime can be hard to break, even if there is a windfall later in life. But if you feel relationships are being destroyed because of what she is doing, then you should tell her and give her some examples. That's the only hope you have of convincing her to change.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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.)

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