Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am a 33-year-old man who has never been in a serious relationship until now. I have been seeing "Stephie" for eight months and think I may be in love with her.

I have successfully managed to evade Stephie's questions about my past and got away with it until recently. She keeps asking me about the scars on my body. (I was physically abused by my parents when I was a child.) Regrettably, I lied to her about the nature of the scars.

Stephie wants to be married and start a family, and so do I. She wants her kids to have a great dad, and I think I can be a very good parent. I would never do to my kids what was done to me.

On the one hand, I want an open, honest relationship with her. On the other, I'm afraid if I tell her the truth she will leave me, and I'll spiral into another five-year depression I may not be able to escape from.

My parents are both dead now, so I could continue to lie without Stephie ever knowing. But I get the feeling she doesn't entirely believe what I've been telling her. What should I do?

— SURVIVOR IN OHIO

DEAR SURVIVOR: Because you are discussing a future together, it's time to level with Stephie about everything. That you would not want to discuss this painful subject at the beginning of a relationship is understandable. But please do not continue the deception.

You should also explain to Stephie about your period of clinical depression. If she's going to marry you, she has a right to know your medical history.

Yes, telling her may be risky. However, if she loves you, she will accept you just the way you are. And if she isn't up to the challenge, it's better to find out now before becoming any more involved.

P.S. If you feel that a breakup could trigger another round of depression, it is important that you talk to a psychotherapist NOW. The abuse you suffered in childhood may have left emotional scars as lasting as the physical ones, but with therapy you may be able to heal.

DEAR ABBY: I'm not sure how to react to something a friend of mine recently told me. We have known "Lois" and her husband for more than 30 years. They no longer live in this city, but visit occasionally. When they do, we always invite them to stay in our home.

On their last visit, Lois was talking about her only child, "Deidre," whom I have always liked. Lois, out of the blue, began chuckling and then told me that Deidre does a good imitation of me. Lois sat there giggling for a few minutes, then said that Deidre sounded almost as much like me as I do. I made no comment.

Frankly, I was taken aback that someone would do an imitation of me. I got the impression that Deidre has been doing my "act" for a while, and I found it disturbing. My husband says it's a form of flattery, but I think it's demeaning. I also think impersonating someone for the amusement of others — especially if the person is not around — is rude. What do you think?

— JOKE'S ON ME IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

DEAR J.O.M.: I think you should have asked your friend Lois to clarify her remark at the time she made it. But because you didn't, bring it up the next time you talk to her and let her explain what was so funny.

Personally, I think such imitations are often a form of ridicule and are unkind.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.