DEAR ABBY: I'm 12 and weigh 204 pounds. I feel really fat and I want to go on a diet, but my mom won't let me. I'm getting bad grades in gym class and need your help. -- SAD GIRL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR SAD GIRL: By recognizing that you have a problem that you can't deal with on your own, you have already taken an important first step in resolving it. The next is to talk to your gym teacher about this and enlist her aid in convincing your mother to give you the help you need.
Childhood obesity is rampant in this country, and all those extra pounds could negatively affect your health -- not only now, but in the future. If you have a pediatrician, the doctor may be able to discuss the importance of a healthy diet and exercise program for you with your mom. You will need the help of other adults to make her understand if she can't see that you need help now.
DEAR ABBY: I am 18 and dating someone of a different race. We have been together for more than a year. The problem is my father is very racist. Every time I sneak out to go see my boyfriend, my father wants to know who I am with. I tell him it's "my friends," but he knows I'm lying.
I want to tell him who I'm dating, but I know he's going to be judgmental and rude if I introduce him to my boyfriend. Any advice on what to do? -- NERVOUS IN THE NORTHEAST
DEAR NERVOUS: At 18 you are too old to be sneaking around. Your father knows something is up, and he probably suspects the reason you're not being truthful or open, so stop lying. If he wants to know why you haven't brought the young man around, tell him it's because you know how he would react. And if you decide to make introductions, be sure your boyfriend knows in advance what the reaction will probably be -- if he agrees to meet your dad, that is. But I wouldn't blame him if he didn't.
DEAR ABBY: I ran into an old high school friend a while ago. "Jan" and I are both single moms. We want what's best for our kids. She has no family living here, and she doesn't have many friends. Jan has low self-esteem, high anxiety and, I believe, she mismanages her finances. Her house is extremely unkempt.
She calls me in tears often, asking for advice and help. I have tried to help her, but it is becoming overwhelming.
I asked my boss for two days off over the holidays. Jan called me shortly after and asked me if I can take care of her son on any days I have off over the holidays so he won't have to go to his day care facility. I feel bad and want to help, but I took the time off to spend much-needed time with my family. I don't want to have to bring her son to my family festivities. Is this wrong of me?
Needless to say, this relationship has added a lot of stress to my life. I tried breaking off the relationship over the summer, and I'm not even sure why it still continues. I feel mean and rude, but I don't want to be -- and can't be -- this girl's only means of support. -- TRAPPED IN BUFFALO
DEAR TRAPPED: It is neither mean nor rude to draw the line when someone's neediness is more than you can cope with. It is OK to say no, and you needn't feel guilty about it. It is also OK to advise someone that low-cost counseling is available in most communities if the person appears unstable or unable to cope with life. When you do, tell her that her needs are more than you are able to handle. If you do, you may not need to end the friendship -- she may do it for you, but you'll be doing her a favor.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write 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.)