Dear Abby:

My situation is a mess right now. I am not a virgin. I lost it to "Chuck," a guy I really love. One of my friends is very religious, and she always brags about being a virgin and puts me down.

Now I hear that Chuck has been sleeping with other girls. I was raised to believe that whomever you lose your virginity to, you stay with. I am embarrassed now, but I'm too insecure to leave him. I'm confused because Chuck says the girls are lying.

Also, I may be pregnant. What should I do?

Made a Mistake in Chicago

Having sex carries with it certain responsibilities, and one of them is knowing how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or an unwanted pregnancy. You haven't said how old you are, but whatever your age, it's clear you have gotten in over your head.

Ideally, you should tell your mother what you have told me. If you don't feel close enough to her to do that, then confide in another trusted relative, or adult family friend or teacher. Do not put it off. You should be seen by a doctor to ascertain if you are, indeed, pregnant. If you are, you have some important decisions to make. If you aren't, you need to decide how you're going to prevent pregnancy in the future. In your case, I strongly advise abstinence.

True friends do not put each other down. They build each other up and support one another in time of need. This does not appear to be a description of your religious "friend." I wonder how she found out that you were no longer a virgin. Did you confide in her? Or did Chuck broadcast the news?

And while I'm on the subject of Chuck: Feeling embarrassed about losing your virginity is a poor reason to stay with him. Ask yourself: Is he good to you? Is he honest with you? Is he responsible? Do you have common interests? Does he want an exclusive relationship? It is important to be able to trust the person you're with, and if more than one girl claims to be involved with him, you should investigate further and be prepared to move on if he hasn't been truthful.

Dear Abby:

I'm a middle-aged woman who is finishing college. I have never had much of a personal life because my mother embarrasses me in front of the gentlemen I date.

I now have the opportunity to move to another town where my mentally challenged son is in a group home. For the first time in our lives we can be together as our own little family unit.

Mother is now talking about moving herself and my sister to the same town. I don't have a life because of her, and now I never will. What should I do?

Smothered in Illinois

You're an adult. It's time to "un-mother" yourself. Make the move, form your family unit, make friends and a life of your own. If your mother is determined to make the move, you can't prevent it. But no law says you have to introduce her to the men you date or include her in your social life if she embarrasses you in front of others. That's her attempt to control you -- and you can remedy that by "flying the coop," emotionally as well as physically. If you feel unable to loosen the family tie, then I recommend counseling.

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, Calif. 90069.

(c) 2004, Universal Press Syndicate