Dear Abby:

I am a woman in my mid-twenties with a B.A. degree and a full-time job. My parents refuse to accept that a self-supporting woman my age can be happy. They keep pestering me to find a boyfriend, get married and have children. I have calmly explained to my mother that I'm in no rush to settle down -- but she says if I "really loved her," I'd find a man to take care of me so she wouldn't have to worry.

My older brother followed my parents' wishes when he was my age. Now I am the "bad child" for refusing to conform.

Ever since I was a child, I have put money into a savings account and -- little by little -- it has become a large sum. I would like to use that money to further my education, but my parents have denied me access to it. They claim that when I marry, the funds will be my "dowry" to buy a house.

Abby, I don't want to cut off my family, but they aren't willing to accept me without a man to make me "complete." How can I get through to them that my goals in life are different from theirs?

Single and Happy in Ohio

Your parents' thinking appears to be stuck in a time warp. A life partner can be wonderful, but it's no guarantee of happiness or security. Witness the number of marriages that fail and the number of households headed by single mothers who struggle to make ends meet.

You should contact the bank manager and find out how your account was set up and how you can access it now. Your parents should not hold your money hostage. If you wish to use it to further your education, you should be free to do so. (I assume that the salary you earn now is banked in your name only.)

You weren't put on the Earth to make your parents' dreams come true. As parents, it's their job to help you be the best that you can be. They should thank their lucky stars that you are self-supporting and motivated to do even better. Many parents would be proud to have a daughter like you.

Dear Abby:

I am 14 and my best friend is named "Amanda." One day I went over to another friend's house and Amanda got very mad at me for it. She decided to get me in trouble, so she told my mom that I smoked cigarettes, drank beer and did drugs. It was a lie.

It has been nearly two months since she did it. Now she is e-mailing me and calling me and inviting me over to her house. I don't trust her and I'm tired of being treated like this. What should I do?

Mad at Amanda

You now know that Amanda is not above lying to get you in trouble, so keep her at a distance. It shouldn't be difficult -- you already have a two-month head start.

Dear Abby:

I need your help. I was recently introduced to my boss's mother, who will soon be working with me. I was given her first name by her son, and she also told me her name was "Angela." Should I use her first name, or as a sign of respect call her "Mrs. Jones"?

Uncomfortable in Washington

Since both she and her son gave you her first name, it's probably all right to address her as Angela. However, just to be sure, ask her what she would prefer.

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