DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from a mother whose daughter was a "plain Jane," constantly overlooked by boys who preferred her beautiful friend. That letter has stayed with me because I was a plain Jane compared to my best friend in high school. I'll call her Lisa. Lisa had more boys lined up than you can count. Every boy wanted to date her.
Luckily for me, my self-esteem has never been dependent upon my looks. As a result, my life has been 100 percent easier than my beautiful friend's has been. I have always thought of myself as funny and smart. Therefore, I WAS funny and smart around boys.
Lisa has struggled with anorexia since puberty. She has had a string of scummy boyfriends who treated her horribly. I have enjoyed honest, relaxed, fun-filled relationships with boys from high school through the present. I am now 22.
I implore the parents of girls to make sure their daughters feel valued for their intelligence and talent. Girls need to know it's OK to exploit their strengths. Parents can do that by making sure that their daughters know that being smart, athletic and funny are wonderful traits.
There is no reason why a mother should worry that her daughter is a plain Jane. It doesn't help matters to reinforce the idea that looks are everything. It's far more important to help a girl become a strong, confident person. The boys will discover her soon enough. -- FABULOUS JANE, FAIRFAX, VA.
DEAR FABULOUS JANE: You and I were blessed with mothers who taught us early and often to value ourselves for the strengths and resources every girl has. However, many girls do not know how to appreciate and use their gifts and talents in pursuit of their goals.
The fact is, each one of us has qualities and abilities unique and genuinely beautiful, and far more important than makeup and clothing.
Last spring, I hosted a live Internet chat for the government's Girl Power! campaign at www.girlpower.gov. Girl Power! was created to help girls make it from childhood to adolescence without turning to unhealthy eating habits, drugs, depression or obsessions with unrealistic images of how they should look and act. It features Bodywise pages to help girls make the most of their physical and intellectual abilities, and feel good about who and what they are. Feeling good about oneself is a key ingredient for beauty.
There was once a neglected and unwanted little girl who often worried that she was a "plain Jane" or worse, but she made the most of what she had. Later on, she said this: "No one ever told me I was pretty when I was a child. All little girls should be told they're pretty, even if they aren't." We remember her as Marilyn Monroe, as pretty as any girl ever was.
So, a thought for the day: If you're an adult, make sure every girl you care about knows that she's smart and pretty and valued, and tell her why you think so. The secret to being beautiful is feeling beautiful; the secret to being successful is knowing that success is within your reach.
DEAR ABBY: I had to respond to the letter about runaways and the comment, "... and Johnny isn't going to stop acting out no matter how much everyone wishes differently."
Johnny knows only what he has learned at home. He is repeating his parents' example. Kids don't run away from love. They run from hell.
Abby, I was a four-time runaway. The fourth time, at age 12, was the charm. I never went back to hell again, which is what my home life was. Fortune smiled on me - I landed in a beautiful home for years. I graduated from high school and college with both B.A. and M.A. degrees.
Along the way, I went to California State Mental Hygiene Clinic for five years at $2 a session. What a bargain that was; the results made me the man I became. How sad we no longer have those clinics. Instead we have crime and prisons.
I raised my own family without corporal punishment or abuse. My four adult children grew up with an arm around their shoulders and hugs and reminders every day that they were dearly loved. It's gratifying to see them repeating that behavior in raising their own six children - my precious grandchildren. - "OLD RUNAWAY"
DEAR ABBY: I have been taking college classes on and off for 15 years and will finally graduate in May. I will be the first college graduate in my family. I love my husband, but he has not been supportive of my goals. He's said many times that he is not interested in what goes on in my college classes.
My problem is, I need to choose an escort to walk with me during commencement. Even though my husband is the logical choice, I feel he doesn't care.
A true source of encouragement and support has been my father-in-law, "Max." Not only has Max paid for my college, he asks about it regularly and is very proud of my high grade-point average.
Abby, this may seem like an easy question for you, but I want to do the right thing. Who would you choose? - COLLEGE GRAD IN THE GARDEN STATE
DEAR COLLEGE GRAD: Ask Max. He's given you maximum support - emotionally as well as financially. I am sure he will be thrilled to escort you, and it's a thoughtful way for you to acknowledge all he has done for you.
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