DEAR ABBY: I'm a 14-year-old girl. I don't understand why adults tell me to be an independent thinker, to embrace myself, and then put me down for not conforming. Why is it outrageous to come to your own conclusions, speculate, challenge accepted ideas or find your own faith? It would be easier to quietly nod an empty head and smile to please our parents and the adults who influence kids, so they can enjoy superficial satisfaction for how "well" they have raised us.
Should I deny myself as an individual and be pulled along, or is it better to stay quiet and just be who everyone expects you to be? -- INDEPENDENT THINKER IN FLORIDA
DEAR INDEPENDENT THINKER: Independent thinkers are the people who have contributed the most to society. Our most important scientific discoveries were conceived by individuals who chose not to accept conventional thinking. The same is true for religion -- Jesus was an independent thinker.
I'm not sure what kind of conversation you feel the adults in your life are trying to discourage. But people who are deeply committed to their religious faith can feel offended or threatened if their beliefs are challenged. Even though you are an independent thinker, you should be respectful of the beliefs of others.
DEAR ABBY: Around the time of my sister's wedding, she and her fiance, "Greg," tried to get me and their best man, "Bruce," together. They brought him along when they would visit and encouraged us to date. Not long after the wedding we did start dating.
Bruce is a great guy and I enjoy being with him. My problem is, he's my brother-in-law's nephew even though they are close in age. (Bruce's mom is Greg's half sister.)
Am I dating a family member? Are we committing incest? Should we end this relationship? I don't know what is "right." -- WEIRDED OUT IN WISCONSIN
DEAR WEIRDED OUT: Bruce is not a blood relative; he is related to you by marriage. That is not the same as incest. If you care about each other, the right thing to do is continue the relationship and see where it leads. "Great guys" can make great husbands.
DEAR ABBY: My husband fathered a child in high school that was placed for adoption. His mother has become very close with the adoptive family and visits often. My husband does not. However, my mother-in-law constantly asks him to go on vacation with her to visit the child. I also found out that she sends the child gifts and signs my husband's name on the cards.
Abby, I feel this is hugely disrespectful not only to me, but also to my husband. He has chosen not to get involved with this child because he doesn't think it's fair to the adoptive family. He also doesn't wish to become attached. We have already told her she is overstepping her boundaries, but it continues to happen. What can we do? -- FRUSTRATED IN THE SOUTH
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Your mother-in-law may have the best of intentions, but forging your husband's name is dishonest. Sooner or later the child will find out the truth, and the result may be painful. However, there is nothing you can do to control your husband's mother's behavior, so accept it and don't take it personally.
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.
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