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Dear Ann Landers: I have been seeing a wonderful man for nine years. He has a daughter, "Rita," age 15, who lives with us and visits her mother every month. The problem is that Rita's mother, "Clara," has been telling her things that are inappropriate. She told her she had an affair while married to Rita's father. Last month, Clara told her they did a lot of drugs together when they were younger.

Ann, we have all done things in our younger days that we aren't proud of, but I see no reason to fill a 15-year-old girl's head with stories about her father's mistakes. My boyfriend said if he confronts his ex-wife about this, it will only add fuel to the fire. I disagree. Clara should know how damaging these stories are to Rita. Also, she shouldn't tell the girl stories about her father that he might not want her to know.

Teenagers are extremely impressionable. I am worried that these juicy tidbits might send Rita down the wrong path. What should I do?

-- Protective in Canada
Dear Protective: The first thing you can do is stop worrying. "Juicy tidbits" do not send teenagers down the wrong path. Clara sounds a bit loony. You can counteract her looniness best by staying close to Rita and letting her know she can confide in you. (P.S. Maybe you and Rita's father should consider getting married. It would add stability to Rita's life.)

More than generous

Dear Ann Landers: I am a 19-year-old college sophomore with a problem. For my high school graduation, my parents bought me a new car. For my last birthday, they bought me a cell phone. I had not asked for either of these gifts, but I was thrilled with both and did my best to show my appreciation. Since then, my life has been miserable.

My mother insists that I keep my cell phone on at all times so she can reach me "in case of an emergency." She tells me I have an obligation to use my car to pick up my little brother from school every day. I don't understand why this is my responsibility. He is not my kid. Mom also wants me to run errands for her whenever she asks and makes me feel guilty if I say I have other plans.

When I first got the car, I asked Mom if there were any strings attached. She assured me there were not. However, if I say no to her requests for favors, she reminds me of her "generosity" and makes me feel guilty. Do you have any advice for me?

-- Over-Obligated in New York
Dear New York: I assume you do help your mother out when you can, and the problem is that her requests have become excessive. You are a college sophomore. Can you move out of the house into a dorm or apartment? This would be the ideal solution. If it's not feasible, you are stuck -- kid brother and all.

Love those left-overs

Dear Ann Landers: My 45-year-old daughter has a screaming fit if I take a doggie bag home from a restaurant. My son doesn't like it either. They say it is tacky and it embarrasses them. I don't see why they should feel embarrassed.

I hope you will print this letter, Ann. There are a lot of people who do this and need your support. Thank you.

-- Connie in Los Altos, Calif.
Dear Connie: I frequently take home a "doggie bag" from restaurants and have no feelings of embarrassment. Left-over lasagna can make a delicious lunch the next day. Most restaurants have boxes designed for this purpose, and the waiters are pleased to accommodate those folks who want to take the leftovers home. Remember the old saying, "Waste not -- want not."

Gem of the Day

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

-- Woody Allen

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