DEAR ABBY: My friend is planning a wedding for next May. Under any other circumstances I would be happy for her, but she isn't engaged and has not yet been proposed to by her boyfriend!
Apparently, she has simply decided that now would be a good time to get married. She has always thought that 26 to 28 is a good age to marry, and she's not considering any other factors. She and her boyfriend are both 26, but he's not at all responsible. He tried college several times without success, then worked for a while to pay off his student loans, and is now enrolled in a technical college. He does not seem mature enough for marriage, and frankly, neither does she.
Abby, I don't know what to do. My friend has gone as far as talking to a priest about the wedding (without her boyfriend present), and is about to put money down on a hall. I feel like I can't just stand back and let all this happen. Should I say something? Please don't use my name. Just sign me ... WORRIED ABOUT THE WEDDING
DEAR WORRIED: Someone must inject a note of reality in this fantasy. Tell your friend that tradition dictates that it is necessary to have a fiance and set the date together before you plan a wedding, and that you don't want her to get hurt and lose deposit money she can't afford.
She may not follow your advice, but at least your conscience will be clear.
DEAR ABBY: I work in a small office, and every two weeks an e-mail is sent to solicit money to buy cards and gifts for fellow employees for birthdays, new babies, funerals, etc.
Recently, we were asked to contribute to a get-well card and gift for an employee who had elective cosmetic surgery.
Abby, is there a limit to what is appropriate to solicit for office contributions? For those of us on a tight budget, it is embarrassing and uncomfortable to be put on the spot this way. How should I handle this? -- PENNY-WISE IN JACKSONVILLE, FLA.
DEAR PENNY-WISE: You should discuss this problem with your supervisor and suggest changing the card and gift policy. This is a delicate situation. The directive should come from management - otherwise, it could create resentment.
P.S. The get-well gift for the employee who had elective cosmetic surgery is truly a ''new wrinkle'' in gift giving!
DEAR ABBY: I have been in a relationship for two years. My boyfriend makes nearly twice my salary, yet I often find that I am paying for myself when we go out. We currently live together, and he pays $720 to my $505.
I have always been accustomed to the man paying for the majority of our times together, and therefore I'm taken aback at being expected to shell out any money. Would you consider me a gold digger, or have times changed that much? -- SECOND THOUGHTS IN VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.
DEAR SECOND THOUGHTS: You are not a gold digger, just a bit behind the times. Times have changed since the days when men paid for everything, and many women today do pay their own way.
Since this has become a problem between you, you are overdue for a serious discussion to clear the air about the division of financial responsibilities. Unless you can come to a comfortable agreement, he is not the man for you.
DEAR ABBY: I'm writing this a few days before I go into surgery for something I never thought was a big deal. Melanoma.
I had a flat ''unthreatening'' mole on my arm -- sort of a large freckle -- that had been there for as long as I could remember. Not too long ago, it started growing quickly enough that I began to notice the difference from one week to another. I didn't worry about it because I have freckles all over. Fortunately, a friend of mine who is a dermatologist said, ''You ought to have that looked at.''
My doctor biopsied the freckle and said he was 90 percent certain it was nothing to worry about. A few days later he called me himself and informed me I would need a complete body exam, my lymph nodes examined, and further surgery to take more skin off that arm.
I quickly learned that unlike less serious skin cancers, melanoma has a very high rate of metastasis. It can quickly spread to the lymph nodes, the eyes, the stomach, even to the brain. It is one of the fastest-growing cancers in the United States as far as numbers of people affected. It can kill you, and once you've had it, you are at risk for the rest of your life. It is so serious that I will have trouble getting life insurance and will no longer be allowed to give blood.
Sun exposure is one of the risk factors for melanoma. I grew up in the sun -- sailing, swimming, on the beach. I've even occasionally used tanning beds. I won't be doing that anymore.
Please, Abby, tell your readers how serious melanoma is. They should watch for any changes in moles and have them checked immediately.
I'm 41, and my doctor tells me he's seen it in people as young as 20. It tends to strike younger people than other cancers do. When I think of the tans I worked so hard to get, and the sunburns I shrugged off and slathered with aloe, I cringe. If I could turn back the clock I would, and stay lily-white. -- LAURA H. MARSHALL, WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.
DEAR LAURA: Thank you for your important warning. Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, regardless of his or her skin color. Summer is just around the corner, and I pray that my sun-worshipping readers will remember a few tips to protect themselves from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
About 80 percent of skin cancers could be prevented by protecting ourselves from the sun's rays. Limit direct sun exposure, especially during midday. Cover up -- wear long sleeves and a hat. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Be sure to wear sunglasses that block UV rays. Avoid sunlamps and tanning booths, and check your skin regularly for any changes in freckles or moles.
Some medications, such as antibiotics, can increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun, so ask your physician or pharmacist about the drugs you are taking and take extra precautions.
And remember: Babies and small children are subject to the same eye and skin problems that adults are when exposed to the sun. So, parents, make sure your youngsters' eyes and skin are protected, too, when you take them for a stroll, out to play or shopping. Their safety depends on you.
Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: ''Abby's Favorite Recipes'' and ''Abby's More Favorite Recipes.'' To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)
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