DEAR ABBY: I'm 22. Ever since I was 8, I've had the best friend I could ever have asked for. "Kylie" stood up for me when I was bullied as a child and hung out with me when I had no other friends.
The problem is, Kylie is extremely pretty and has always been charismatic, too. It's not her fault, but people have always been attracted to her, both as a bright personality and as a romantic interest.
All through high school, I fell into the role of sidekick. When I became romantically interested in someone, nine times out of 10 he liked her. When we were together, people would pop in and speak only to her. It made me feel somewhere between shy and invisible.
We are adults now, and Kylie is married with four kids. We're still very close. The thing is, breaking out of her shadow has become impossible. I went to a different college, and my job has nothing to do with her, but old habits still hold me back from making friends, and romantic interests still magically disappear when I introduce them to my best friend. What do I do? -- SECOND BEST IN MONTANA
DEAR SECOND BEST: You're right. Old habits -- not to mention attitudes -- do die hard. Because this pattern has been going on for so long, it may take the help of a licensed mental health professional to help you gain the tools to change it. It's crucial that you realize what fine qualities YOU have to offer.
Looks are an asset, but they are only skin deep. If a man you are interested in is distracted to the point of disappearing by someone else's good looks, recognize that he's interested only in the veneer of a relationship, not the hardwood. Until you get this straight in your head, it might be wise to distance yourself from Kylie.
DEAR ABBY: I love my sister "Susan," but her 4-year-old son is completely out of control. "David" runs around restaurants, screaming and throwing food and doesn't listen at all. Susan keeps wanting to plan trips and outings with me, but when she brings David, it's embarrassing and unpleasant. I don't want to take off work and pay for a trip with my sister if I'm going to be miserable.
I do want to spend time with her, so how do I tell her this? I have kids of my own, and I work with kids. I am very tolerant of children, but even for me it's too much. -- LITTLE TERROR IN TEXAS
DEAR LITTLE TERROR: Assuming that David does not have an emotional or developmental disability, I don't recommend telling your sister any version of "Your kid is so obnoxious I no longer want to be exposed to his bad behavior."
I wish you had mentioned whether she brings along coloring books, toys or gadgets to keep her son entertained while he's in adult company. (Many parents do.) If the answer is no, suggest it. If the answer is yes, then it would not be out of line to say to your sister that you prefer your visits be adults-only because it will enable you both to concentrate on each other with no distractions.