DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old girl and my parents won't let me date. I believe I am mature for my age and won't do anything foolish. I don't know why my parents are being like this. Please give me some advice on how to persuade them. -- REALLY READY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
DEAR REALLY READY: Although you think you are ready to start dating, your parents will have to make the ultimate decision on when you enter the "dating game." Their decision will most likely be based on whether you have demonstrated the beginnings of emotional maturity.
Here's how: You need to have proven to them you can handle responsibility, carry out school assignments and chores, be honest with them and keep your word. It will also depend upon whether they know the boy in question, and whether he is responsible enough to be trusted with their most precious possession, which is you.
DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 27 years to a man who is a church pastor. We have had to move every six to eight years, partly because he was repeatedly unfaithful. We have gone through his alcoholism, gambling and womanizing, and my two suicide attempts. We have been trying to work things out, but I suspect that he's back to his old ways.
I work part-time, but haven't been able to find a full-time job after our most recent move, so I am financially dependent on him. I have two adult children who don't live near me. Most of the people I know are through the church, and they are all great supporters of my husband.
I feel trapped, and I don't know how to fix my life at this point. Have you any suggestions? -- TRAPPED ON THE EAST COAST
DEAR TRAPPED: You will have to do it in stages. The first should be to talk with a licensed therapist who is not associated with the church. It will help you to clarify your thinking and become more emotionally stabilized.
Next, continue looking for full-time employment. If necessary, start by volunteering. It will help to widen your circle of acquaintances and perhaps lead to a job.
Then, once you are feeling better about yourself, you will be better able to decide what to do about your unhappy marriage.
DEAR ABBY: After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, I moved 900 miles from home. Shortly after the move, my dog had to be put to sleep. Because of all the stress, my M.S. flared up and I was admitted to the hospital.
After my third day there I was lonely, so I went to the gift shop (the Pink Smock) and bought myself some pretty flowers and knick-knacks as a pick-me-up. While I was paying for them, the ladies behind the counter asked me if I needed a card for the flowers. I explained I was buying them for myself because I was alone.
After I returned to my room, about an hour later more flowers arrived. I thought my mom had sent them to me from afar. The card read: "Feel Better Soon! From the Ladies at the Pink Smock."
Abby, that has to be the most thoughtful thing a stranger has ever done for me, and I wanted to share it. I am so touched! -- RACHEL IN SANFORD, N.C.
DEAR RACHEL: Your letter is an example of what strong medicine an act of kindness can be. I don't know which hospital the Pink Smock is in, but whoever runs it should know what an asset those caring women in the gift shop are. Kudos to them, and I hope you are doing much better now.
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.)