DEAR ABBY: I consider my best friend, “Randall,” to be my platonic soul mate – like a brother, only closer. Randall is gay. I am a straight female. We have no romantic interest, but a deep and meaningful love nonetheless.

We have talked about raising children together, but in order to adopt in some states there is a requirement that the parents be married. Our state does not happen to be one of them. Would it be considered duping friends and family to have a “real” wedding? – PLATONIC SOUL MATE IN MICHIGAN

There is no requirement that in order to be married a couple MUST have sex. If you and Randall wish to be legally married and have a “real” wedding, nothing prevents it.

HOWEVER: Before you take such a step, it is extremely important that you and Randall have an understanding and ensure that you are really committed to raising a child (or children) TOGETHER, even if one of you should meet someone. It would be sad, indeed, if after adopting, the marriage didn’t work out and you wound up fighting over custody of the children. It happens all too often when “traditional” marriages fail, and it could happen to you unless you have a meeting of the minds.

DEAR ABBY: There is a bully at my daughter’s school. My child is terrified to get on the bus in the morning and shaking when she comes home. She told me that the bully picks only on her. She has taken my daughter’s lunch money, shoved her against the lockers and pushed her into one of the garbage cans behind the school.

I have complained to the school board and to the bully’s mom. It did no good. I can’t afford to take my daughter out of public school and put her into a private school, and if I quit my job to home school her, we will have no source of income. I don’t want my daughter to suffer any more than she already has. What should I do? – HEARTSICK MOTHER, RICHARDSON, TEXAS

I’m sorry you didn’t tell the principal of your daughter’s school what was happening before it went this far, because he or she would have been required to document the incident. Because your daughter has been robbed and assaulted and your complaints have not been addressed, you should contact the police and file a report.

DEAR ABBY: I am 16 and have been swimming my entire life. Swimming has brought me so much pleasure, I think everyone should have the opportunity to experience it. My friend “Ethan” doesn’t know how. He is 18 and nearly drowned in a friend’s backyard pool when he was 8. He has been terrified of water ever since.

I have been trying to persuade Ethan to take swimming lessons, but he says it would be embarrassing to learn now at this age. He also says being a nonswimmer will not be a problem because he doesn’t plan on ever going near water. I still think he should learn – in case he is ever in a situation that involves water. What would be a less embarrassing alternative for him than swimming lessons at a public pool? – AQUATIC IN OTTAWA

Private lessons at a private pool. And you are correct that everyone should know at least the basics of how to swim. Your friend may not plan on swimming for pleasure, but he should know what to do if a child or pet should get into trouble in a pool, at the beach, etc.

TO MY ASIAN READERS: Today marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year. This is the Year of the Ox. Those born in the Year of the Ox are steadfast and determined – and that’s no bull. To one and all, a Happy New Year!

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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