DEAR ABBY:

I'm in middle school. I have had a few boyfriends since I started here. I try my best to look OK each day, but I always find a flaw in the way I look or act. Sometimes I find it hard to trust guys when they tell me I'm pretty. I have low self-esteem, so it's hard for me to believe them. Can you please help me learn to trust people and be comfortable with my body?

- Awkward in Ogden, Utah

DEAR AWKWARD: If it's any comfort, 99 percent of girls your age feel the same way you do. Your body is still a work in progress because you're not finished developing yet. Believe it or not, no one is as preoccupied with your looks and perceived "flaws" as you are, so please try to be a little kinder to yourself and less critical.

There is truth to the old saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." By that I mean - if people tell you you're attractive, that is the way you appear to them. So just smile and say, "Thank you for saying that." Accept the compliment, but don't rely on it to gauge your self-worth. Concentrate on developing your personality and your mind, and you'll be on a path to success in everything you do.

DEAR ABBY: My son is in the process of being divorced from his wife after only four short years. Before they married, I gave him an engagement ring and wedding band that had been in our family for years. Now that they are divorcing, I'd like to have him get the rings back.

Is this an acceptable request?

- Hurting Mother in New York

DEAR HURTING MOTHER: Engagement rings and wedding rings are gifts that are given with the promise of marriage. The heirloom rings are now the property of your soon-to-be-ex-daughter-in-law. Depending upon your relationship with her, you could ask for them back or offer to buy them from her. She may be more receptive to the offer if she hears it from you rather than your son. However, they are hers to keep or dispose of as she wishes.

DEAR ABBY: My husband lost his job in November. Since the holidays, none of our friends has asked us to go out again. I don't know if they feel bad about talking about their work or if they think we can't afford it, but I'm really lonely.

We've invited friends a few times, but I get weary of making all the effort. A night out laughing with friends would be nice; so would being remembered. What should we do?

- Lonely Heart Club

DEAR LONELY: Your friends may be uncomfortable for the reasons you mentioned, or feel guilty because they are not experiencing the struggle that you are. Of course, the answer is to keep reaching out. But I will add this: The time for people to step forward and be supportive is when someone they care about needs it. That's what true friendship is all about. And with the rate of unemployment in this country what it is today - "do unto others . . . "

DEAR ABBY: What is the protocol when someone is asking to see his mother's will while she is still in good health?

- Pondering in Pennsylvania

DEAR PONDERING: The two most difficult subjects to discuss are death and money, both of which come into play when the topic of wills comes up. A wise and compassionate parent will discuss this with her (or his) children so there won't be any surprises when the eventual happens.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable - and most frequently requested - poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby - Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)