DEAR ABBY: After I dated an older man, I gained a bad reputation among some lower-level, gossipy co-workers at my job, even though I tried to keep it quiet and even denied it.

Now I’ve started a friendship with an older man at the company where I work. Although we are just friends, these co-workers think there is something more and are spreading gossip, saying that we are having an affair.

This could be damaging to both my career and my friendships with the man and my co-workers. How can I stop the gossip? Or does my past behavior make me forever guilty? – NOT LOVING IT IN NEW YORK

DEAR NOT LOVING IT: Wait a minute. How did your co-workers learn about your relationships with these two men? Were you obvious about the personal relationship at work? Did you, perhaps, mention it to someone who dropped the tidbit at the water cooler?

Once gossip starts, it is impossible to stop. You can, however, make it seem less plausible if you keep your behavior above reproach in the workplace, and your lip tightly zipped when it comes to your personal life. Period.

DEAR ABBY: “Danny” and I have been together six months. During the first six weeks I was studying in Europe, and when I got back we jumped straight into an intense, time-consuming relationship. Then he asked if he could move in with me. It was all too sudden for me, and I said I wasn’t ready. Danny reacted by breaking up with me.

Since then, our relationship has been rocky. We never established a foundation, and we have been trying to ease our time commitment to each other.

Danny says that he loves me. I feel I centered my life around him, and I need to regain my balance before I can be in a relationship with him again. I want to take a couple of steps back this summer, and get to know each other again and build a foundation. I know Danny is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, but I’m not ready for that kind of commitment now. Should I give up and walk away, or continue to try to rebuild our relationship? – LINDY IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR LINDY: Danny may say that he loves you, but if it is more than lip service, he should be willing to give you the space you need. If he’s unwilling to do that, then the message he’s sending is that he’s more interested in a live-in than a life partner. What you’re proposing is reasonable, and if he can’t respect your feelings, you should, indeed, walk away.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in reference to the letter from “Katie’s Daughter” that ran in your column about a month ago. I lost my mother when I was 21 and wish I had written down some of her recipes. I, like Katie’s daughter, wanted to make some of my mother’s specialties.

I am now in my 60s. I decided that while I am still able, I would compile a collection of recipes that my sister and I have prepared over the years for my sons, nieces and nephews so they would not have to “search” for them.

By December, I had typed all our family favorites on a special computer program. I printed it, and then took it to a local office supply store, had it bound and a cover put on. It was one of the favorite Christmas gifts they received. – ALMA’S DAUGHTER IN AUBURN, N.Y.

DEAR ALMA’S DAUGHTER: What a terrific idea. I never thought I’d be discussing Christmas gift ideas in June, but for a project like this one, it’s not a bad idea to start early. Thank you for sharing a delicious suggestion with me and my readers.

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.

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