DEAR ABBY: I joined an online dating service six months ago. Although my family disapproved, I researched my options and found a reputable company.

After two months of meeting numerous nice people whom I would consider friends, I met a really special guy. We have been talking on the phone and e-mailing for four months. We have never met, nor have we exchanged pictures. We wanted to get to know each other from the inside out first.

We have finally decided to exchange pictures. I asked a friend to take my picture and was disappointed with the results. I know I could look better. She says I’m being overly critical and shallow, that if he finds fault with the picture that I look just “OK” in, he’s not worth it.

Shouldn’t I attempt to send the best picture I can, even though he assures me that looks aren’t everything? Don’t I owe it to myself and to him to look good – not just “OK”? – OK BUT NOT GREAT IN IDAHO

DEAR OK: Listen to your head and not your girlfriend. Looks aren’t everything, but they can be an asset. Go to a professional photographer and have some pictures taken with good lighting – both head shots and photos that show your figure. It’s called putting your best foot forward. First impressions are important, so don’t sell yourself short.

DEAR ABBY: I am a freshman in high school. This guy I like is very sweet, but he has a girlfriend. He likes me a lot, too, but he doesn’t want anyone to be hurt so he’s reluctant to break up with her. I told him I won’t wait forever, and he told me he’s trying to get her to break up with him.

He doesn’t accept her calls, doesn’t take her anywhere, and has asked his friends to tell her bad things about him. She refuses to get the message.

How can we get the point across to her without hurting her more than necessary? Did I mention that he’s sweet, sensitive, caring and CUTE! – IN LOVE IN GRAND RAPIDS

DEAR IN LOVE: He may be sweet, sensitive, caring and cute, but the boy is also too immature to realize that his unwillingness to level with his girlfriend will hurt her more in the long run than telling her the truth. Unless he speaks up, the girl will continue to hang on because she has nothing to lose. The sooner she hurts and heals, the sooner she can begin looking for someone who will truly care for her.

Now a word of caution to you: Watch carefully how he treats this girl, because chances are great that it’s the way you will be treated one day.

DEAR ABBY: I am a nanny for twins who are now about 6 months old. I have a degree in education and specialize in preschool. Based on my experience with developmental milestones, it is quite obvious that one of the twins is hearing-impaired. I was hoping the pediatrician would notice it at their last physical, but that didn’t happen. I don’t know if it is my place to tell the mother, because I certainly wouldn’t want to learn that my child cannot hear from the nanny. Should I let this go, or should I tell? – NANNIFIED IN OHIO

DEAR NANNIFIED: You should certainly tell the mother that you are concerned about the child, and why. Suggest that during the baby’s next visit to the pediatrician she mention your observation to the doctor. You are a professional, and as such, your expertise should be shared with your employer. It’s the responsible thing to do.

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.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable – and most frequently requested – poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby – Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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