Dear Abby:

I am 24 and have been in many bad relationships. Every guy I have dated has been an addict, and some of them have been in jail. All of them were abusive.

Finally, I have met a decent man and I care for him a lot. The problem? I have a criminal record and haven't told him because I didn't want to scare him off.

If I tell him now, he will know I lied, and he has made it clear that he hates liars. So far, I have been able to avoid telling him about my past, but I won't be able to much longer, and I'll have to fill in the blanks.

What am I going to do? Should I tell the truth and face the consequences, which will probably mean losing him, or continue skirting the issue with lies?

Truth or Consequences in Texas

Honesty is the best policy. Tell him now. The longer you wait, the more deceived he will feel. Explain that you kept silent because you were afraid you would lose him. It's the truth. He may not be thrilled with the news, but he will have to give you marks for wanting to set the record straight. I wish you luck.

Dear Abby:

My sister is in eighth grade. We ride the same bus. She has been coming home very upset because she's getting picked on while on the school bus. There are many kids doing it, and it happens every day. She has done nothing to cause this.

My parents say I should stick up for her because I'm her older brother. I went and sat with her -- and they are vicious to her. When I defended her, they started harassing me.

One kid wanted to fight me, but I am bigger than all of them, and I don't want to get kicked off the bus. Also, I can't do this for her every day. If we tell the bus driver, it will only get worse. Please help, Abby!

Big Brother, Stanwood, Wash.

Do not stay silent and protect the guilty. By ignoring what's going on, the bus driver is as guilty as your sister's tormentors. Report it to the principal of the school. If it isn't stopped, your parents should report the harassment to the school board -- and if that doesn't do the trick, a lawyer should be brought in. Many school districts have rules about school bullying, and the behavior you have described is exactly that.

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