DEAR ABBY: I am a 12-year-old, and I’m not pretty. I just started seventh grade, and I have noticed that people date each other based completely on looks. I think that’s superficial, and I wouldn’t want to date someone just because of it. The sad thing is, everybody does it. People are passed over because of their looks who may actually be nice people inside.

I don’t understand why people judge me based on what my parents gave me ­- like my eyes or the shape of my lips. I mean, I know I could change my hair or wear makeup, but I can’t change my genetics. Suggestions? – PLAIN OLD ME IN NORTH CAROLINA

Absolutely. Good looks can be an asset. However, before you put yourself down anymore about what you inherited from your parents, it’s important that you give yourself a reality check. Their appearance didn’t prevent them from finding each other attractive and falling in love. Also, it takes some people longer to mature into their final “product” than it does others. In other words, the way you look now at age 12 isn’t necessarily the way you will look by the middle or end of your teens.

While I believe that each generation is becoming more beautiful than the one before, not everyone will be a classic beauty. And beauty is a trait that’s notorious for its short shelf life. That’s why it is so important to develop your personality and your mind, so you will have tools for success later in life. This is the time you should do it, instead of worrying about who is dating whom in seventh grade. Believe me, your classmates’ tastes will change – and so will yours. That’s what growing is all about.

It’s far more important to concentrate on what you can do to better the world you live in than it is to worry that you might not be beautiful enough. When the right person comes along, he will be more interested in a collaborator than a trophy. Trust me on that, because it’s the truth.

DEAR ABBY: You often print letters from parents who are baffled by how selfish and ungrateful their children are. They are hurt and perplexed because they believe they were the best parents anyone ever had.

It’s time to take off the blinders. These parents are just as egocentric as the kids they raised. Their children are a direct byproduct of their upbringing. Kids don’t turn lazy or selfish overnight. It is their parents’ duty to teach them how to be caring, concerned and appreciative, but someone failed to teach them every step of the way. Somehow, they repeatedly showed their children that it was OK to treat others badly and that they, as parents, deserve no appreciation.

Parents: If a student hasn’t learned, then the teacher hasn’t taught. If the method you have used to teach someone has failed, then it’s up to you to do something differently and try again – or to accept your failure and make the best of the situation. – ONE WHO KNOWS

Your point is well-taken, although you may be overly harsh in your assumption about the parents’ motivation. I agree that some parents fail to assert themselves because it’s the “easy way out” instead of laying down the law when discipline is needed. However, when parents have had a difficult childhood, they sometimes have a tendency to “overcorrect” in the opposite direction, trying to make sure their children don’t have the same experience. And that is why they do too much, give too much and fail to teach their children consequences or how to achieve true independence.

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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