Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 38-year-old woman who has been dating a 32-year-old man I'll call "Vinny" for three months. When I realized that I had developed strong feelings for him, I decided to ask him what his feelings were about our friendship and where he saw it going. Keep in mind, Vinny has no children, and I have two from a previous marriage.

Vinny told me he has developed feelings for me, too, but that he wants to have children of his own someday. I respect and understand his honesty. He also said he was scared, and that in the past, when he has felt he was getting too close to someone, he would pull away. That suggests to me that he is commitment-phobic.

My problem is, Vinny continues to call me several times a day and every night before he goes to bed — although we have not been spending as much time together as we have in the past. Am I wasting my time? Should I start dating other people? I care a lot about Vinny and would like to be with him.

— BEWILDERED IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR BEWILDERED: Frankly, the questions you are asking me should be directed to Vinny during one of your daily or nightly conversations. If he's serious about wanting children of his own and you are not interested in having more, that could present a serious problem. If you ARE interested, then there is also the issue of your biological clock.

That said, you and Vinny have known each other only three months. You may have been premature in asking him to declare his intentions so quickly. However, if you weren't on his mind, you wouldn't still be hearing from him. And if he is interested in playing the field, then so should you.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend, "Jade," and I went to college together and now, years later, we live in different parts of the country. She just married a man ("Paul") with whom she is deeply in love, and I am happy for her. At the same time, though, I feel sadness because I do not like Paul. He is cold and curt with me, and seems to be devoid of personality. I feel uncomfortable in his presence.

Because we always stay at each other's homes when we visit, going to see Jade now, of course, means having to be around her husband — and I dread such a trip. If I tell her I don't like Paul, you can imagine how upset she'll be. Should I simply announce that from here on out I'll be staying at a hotel when I come to visit?

— LOVES HER, NOT HIM

DEAR LOVES HER: By all means. Your visits will no longer be two college friends getting together because a third person has been added to the mix. From your description of Paul's behavior, he isn't particularly comfortable around you either. And if Jade should give you an argument — as she may — that's the way you should explain it to her.

DEAR ABBY: I frequently dine out for business meetings. What is the proper way to react when someone asks you a question and you have just taken a bite of food or are in mid-chew? I feel I must acknowledge them, but I don't want to talk with my mouth full.

— FOOD FOR THOUGHT, FORT COLLINS, COLO.

DEAR F.F.T.: Hold one hand up, palm outward. Continue chewing and swallow your food. Point out that the person "caught you with your mouth full," and then answer the question.

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.