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Dear Abby: I’m a girl, 16, just starting to dip my toes into the dating scene. It’s not that I haven’t wanted a boyfriend in the past, but I live in a rural area where options are few.

I am becoming close with a guy who lives near me, and I care a lot about him. We’re getting to the point where we are finding out EVERYTHING about each other. I love learning things about him, and I want to share myself entirely with him.

Lately we have been talking about the past. To make a long story short, my childhood was traumatic. From the age of 6 until 11, I was molested by a family member. Although I’m a virgin, when I’m with my friend, it’s obvious I’ve done certain things before.

I don’t want to “unload my baggage” too early and scare him away, but if we are going to commit to each other, I feel it’s important for him to know. When is a good point in the relationship to tell him, or in future relationships, as well?

Dipping My Toes

In The Dating Scene

Dear Dipping: The answer depends upon how mature this young man is, because the information you’re considering imparting to him is sensitive. How would you feel if this first relationship ended badly and he broadcast your history to the entire community? This has been known to happen — as we all know — with intimate photos.

Personally, I think it will be a while — a few years — before you will be ready for a truly committed relationship. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun and romance in your life, but until you are absolutely sure that you are in a committed relationship, my advice is not to confide this.

If you haven’t already received counseling for the trauma you experienced as a child, please consider it. Licensed counselors are ethically bound not to reveal what is discussed during sessions.

Dear Abby: I bring a hostess gift when I’m invited to someone’s home for a dinner or a party. Should I bring one to a “purchase party,” where a company rep sells products? Is it OK to show up empty-handed, knowing I’ll be opening my wallet to purchase something at the end of the party?

Unsure Guest

Dear Unsure: Absolutely. When invited to an event the purpose of which is to get you to buy something, your presence is present enough!

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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