DEAR ABBY: You have printed letters about tattoos, so I thought you might get a kick out of my experience.

Two summers ago, my sister “Julie” confided that her daughter, “Whitney,” had decided to get a tattoo before returning to college in the fall. Julie was upset about it, but could not change her daughter’s mind because Whitney is on a full scholarship and didn’t need anyone’s approval. Julie asked if I could talk Whitney out of it, and I racked my brain trying to think of something to say that would sway her.

A few weeks later, our families got together to celebrate Julie’s 50th birthday. Whitney was there with her boyfriend. After we all had enjoyed ice cream and cake, I took Whitney and her boyfriend into the living room and popped in a videotape of a party my husband and I had thrown during the disco craze of the ’70s. There we were in our leisure suits, gold chains, permed hair, platform shoes and having a great time.

Whitney and her boyfriend were rolling on the floor with laughter. They couldn’t believe that “look” was actually the craze at the time. “Yes,” I said, “that was the style. But as times changed, styles changed, and what was once ‘in’ was soon ‘out.”‘

At that moment, Julie and her husband walked into the living room dressed in retro clothes and wigs. It was like we were in a time warp. They were followed by Grandma and Grandpa, who had applied fake tattoos to their arms and shoulders. Whitney was stunned to see her normally conservative grandparents so out of character.

It was then that we reminded Whitney we had been able to buy different clothes and change our hairstyles when the fad was over, but tattoos are forever.

Disco clothes and wigs: $85.

Fake tattoos: $30.

The look on Whitney’s face: priceless!

(To date, no tattoos for Whitney.) – CREATIVE IN LAS VEGAS

Your letter: a gem.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. You made your point with an object lesson that was far more effective than any lecture would have been. Thanks for the chuckle!

DEAR ABBY: I’m a 17-year-old guy with a big problem. Almost a year ago I got together with a girl I’ll call Sara. I was told she had feelings for me. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Sara and I have been together ever since. She has always had problems with depression. I want to break up with her because she tries to control my life, but when I tell her we can’t be together, she gets sad and cuts herself later.

It has gotten so bad that I’m afraid if I DO break up with her, she might do something drastic – like commit suicide. I’m scared. What should I do? – NO NAME, CITY OR STATE

This is too big a problem for you to handle on your own. Talk to your parents, or a trusted teacher, coach or counselor and tell him or her what you have written to me. Sara needs professional help. Whether or not she is doing it intentionally, she is making you a prisoner of emotional blackmail.

Sara may be upset and angry when you divulge her problem, but in the long run, it’s the biggest favor you could do her.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Good advice for everyone – teens to seniors – is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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