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Q: My little girl, "Angela," is 3 and has never seen her father. We were engaged to be married, but he left me three weeks before I had her. She is now asking lots of questions about who he is and where he is.

People who are "educated" in this sort of thing have instructed me to talk about it, keep it simple and not to lie. I have explained to Angela that "you have a daddy, his name is Jeff, and that he lives too far away to see." This was acceptable for a while, but she continues to ask about him.

What is hard to explain to my child is that her father abandoned us with no explanation. The guy didn't even give me a phone call to let me know he wasn't going to be around. He just disappeared. It has been four years of grieving, and I still cry over the loss of my best friend, the father of my beautiful little girl - not to mention the many issues that go with being a single mother.

Please help me answer questions that are painful for me to explain, so it won't leave a permanent scar on my daughter.

Devastated in St. Charles, Mo.

A: I have often thought how unfortunate it is that boys can father children at the age of 11, when many of them don't grow up until they're in their 30s. The "best friend" who fathered your little girl is a prime example.

This is the "mantra" to repeat when your daughter asks about him: "Your father's name is Jeff. I don't know where he is. He left before you were born." It's simple, it's no reflection on her - or you, for that matter - and it's the truth. Of course, as your daughter grows older and asks for more information, she should be given more details. But for now, this should be enough.

A final thought. Because four years into the grieving process you are still crying, please consider some sessions with a psychologist. You deserve more happiness and satisfaction than you appear to be getting. You can't change the facts, but you can change the way you react to life's challenges.

It's their prerogative

Q: My husband and I were recently asked to join another couple, "Johnny" and "Brooke," at an upscale restaurant that we would not ordinarily frequent. We decided to join them and had a lovely, if extremely expensive, dinner.

When the check came, Johnny took several gift cards out of his pocket and applied them to their half of the bill. (They covered the majority of it.)

We had no idea that this was the reason Johnny and Brooke wanted to eat there and were shocked that they had not said something earlier. We might have declined.

Of course we paid our portion of the bill, but when we discussed it later, we both felt that we had been duped. Had the tables been turned, we would have applied the gift cards to the entire bill. Were we duped, and were they cheap?

Am I Stupid in Pomona, N.Y.?

A: If you went to the restaurant under the impression that you were being treated to dinner, then you were duped. If you went there planning to split the check - as many couples do - then you would have paid for your half of the bill anyway. Whether the money they applied to their half was earned or gifted should not be your concern.

As to whether they were "cheap" - well, they could have been more generous. But they were under no obligation to be.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips.

Universal Press Syndicate