I am a soldier currently deployed in Iraq. My unit's mission has ended, but we must remain here for the next two months with no real mission to occupy our time. Because of this, I - along with other soldiers - spend free time in the gym.

Recently, a female American civilian contractor has started working out at the same time I do. She's gorgeous and wears skimpy, provocative clothing while working out. Because I have not seen a female in civilian clothes for many months, I find it hard not to stare.

Is it wrong for me to stare? Should I confront her and tell her that her clothing distracts me from my workout and makes me feel uncomfortable?

- Cruel and Unusual Punishment

in Iraq

DEAR CRUEL AND UNUSUAL: You know darn well that it's wrong to stare. Didn't your mother tell you that staring is rude? Do not "confront" the woman. Have a gym supervisor talk to her or you might get in trouble for harassment. Or better yet - change the time of your workout.

DEAR ABBY: My father died six months ago after many years of declining health. He was 87 and had lived a long and rich life. My oldest brother insists we have an annual celebration on my father's birthday at Dad's favorite Chinese restaurant. This isn't how I want to honor my father. He was a simple man who liked working "behind the scenes."

Everyone in our large family showed up at the restaurant, and my mother and brother loved all the attention. I do not want to memorialize my father this way, but not participating will create a rift. Should I stay true to myself and honor Dad in my own quiet way or fake it and go to this annual shindig that is really about my brother?

- Manipulated in Massachusetts

DEAR MANIPULATED: That's a decision I can't make for you. You need to weigh the benefits of honoring your mother's feelings against the fallout your absence would create. While this celebration may have been your brother's idea, he really doesn't figure into the equation. If your father died at 87, your mother may not be around much longer, and you'll have many years to honor your dad in your own quiet way.

DEAR ABBY: After a year together my boyfriend has broken up with me. He's going through a divorce and says that right now is not a good time for us. I'm confused because he has told me I'm the best thing that ever happened to him.

He wants to keep in touch and says that maybe, down the road when things are different, we can get back together.

My friends and family think he's using me as a standby so he can live the single life but still have someone waiting on the side. I'm left wondering, does he want to get past his issues or is he just playing games?

- Not a Game-player, Pleasanton, Calif.

DEAR NOT A GAME-PLAYER: Neither one. You have been dumped. The technique your "boyfriend" used is called the "easy letdown." Don't count on getting back together "down the road" or you'll waste more time on a losing proposition. In the future, hook up with a man who's available and you may have better luck.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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