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DEAR ABBY: While researching my family, I discovered that my now-elderly mother was charged with the murder of a toddler 40 years ago, before I was born. She was never convicted and never mentioned it. However, after reading her testimony and things she's said after the incident, I have no doubt she is guilty.

This has me reeling because she has always been a great and loving mother. When she heard I was researching our family, she mentioned that I would find something unsavory and asked me to please not look into it because it's in the past and she didn't want it to tarnish my image of her. I don't know how to feel or what to do. — SHOCKED IN THE WEST

DEAR SHOCKED: If your mother was charged with murder, either the charges were dropped or she was found innocent by a jury. You wrote that your mother was a great and loving mother. For that you should feel grateful because not all children are so fortunate as you were. I think it's time for you to take the opportunity to get her side of the story. Unless you have all the facts, the last thing you should do is judge her.

DEAR ABBY: My sweet, introverted son has just started high school. He's a shy person who has a hard time making friends, and the few friends he had in middle school aren't attending the same high school. He has confided that he is terrified that he will be bullied and won't know how to respond. He asked me if there was a phrase that repels bullies. I told him I don't know any and I would ask you. — WORRIED MOM

DEAR WORRIED MOM: Like your son, many students transitioning to high school are afraid of the unknown. Why is he afraid of being bullied? Did it happen to him in middle school? If so, why? Many schools have antibullying policies in place, and students who are subjected to it should report it immediately.

While I know of no one-size-fits-all phrase that will repel a bully, I do think that enrolling your son in martial arts classes would give him a sense of confidence that he is lacking now. You should also encourage him to get involved with special interest groups at his new school, which might enable him to meet and interact with more kids and possibly make new friends.

DEAR ABBY: My husband insists that I go out in public without wearing any underwear. He thinks it's sexy. I am uncomfortable doing this because it makes me feel dirty and trashy. I also feel it is unsanitary. Your thoughts? — NOT MY THING IN VIRGINIA

DEAR NOT: I'm glad you asked. Dirty and trashy are separate issues from unsanitary. You are a married adult woman, and wearing or not wearing anything under your dresses or skirts has no bearing on whether you are (or aren't) a "good" girl.

I imagine some couples go out for a special night on the town "commando" because it's exciting, their secret, and maybe can lead to romance later. Some people also feel more comfortable never wearing underwear. If you have questions about whether the practice is unhealthy, discuss it with your physician or gynecologist.

Bottom line, you should not do anything you're uncomfortable with.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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Jeanne Phillips
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