Dear Abby: I am an 18-year-old male, and every day I face judgment, cruel remarks, disapproving stares and other harassment.

The reason? I want to be a tattoo and piercing artist. I currently have one tattoo (which my shirt sleeve covers) and more than 20 piercings. Eight of the piercings are in my face, and most of the others are in my ears. My main ear holes are stretched out to a half-inch.

I can't walk down the street without hearing some comment, or someone stopping and staring, slack-jawed. Even friendly inquiries are becoming irritating. I'm passionate about tattoos and piercings and have been since childhood. I chose my piercings to balance each other and create an art form on my face and ears.

At school I was judged and stereotyped at the beginning of each year and would go out of my way to prove I am a nice, respectable human being with feelings. Now, with a new school term approaching, how can I get people to stop judging me and asking dumb questions like, "How bad did that hurt?" —Future Skin Artist, Port Huron, Mich.

Dear Future Skin Artist: You have chosen to look different, so you shouldn't be surprised at the staring and the questions. The sooner you realize it and learn to answer the questions without being defensive, the better your chances will be of being accepted.

P.S. Perhaps in the future you should consider moving to Los Angeles. In this town everyone has seen almost everything, and people who are different are less shocking.

Dear Abby: I have been dating "Daryl" for four years. We're very much in love and usually get along well. The problem is I'm a schedule-oriented person. I like to plan ahead what we're going to do and what time we're going to do it.

Daryl, on the other hand, hates schedules and sometimes flat-out refuses to commit to something because he "doesn't want to be tied down" to one.

I have tried to be more flexible, and I think Daryl has tried to bend a little for me, too. However, I'm worried that this issue will eventually come between us. I don't want to break up with him over it because I really do love him, and this seems like a petty thing. Please advise. —Clocking In From Illinois

Dear Clocking In: Your concerns are not petty. I don't know how "loosey-goosey" Daryl is, but men who "refuse to commit" and "don't want to be tied down" are often not only extremely disorganized but also confirmed bachelors.

You and Daryl have been dating for four years. Please give serious consideration to whether this is the way you want to spend the rest of your life, because your differences will be a constant source of friction.

Dear Abby: I have been fortunate in most areas of my life. I have a loving husband, a beautiful apartment and will graduate from law school in a few months. My problem is my parents are indifferent about anything I have achieved in my life. They refuse to visit our home or acknowledge my milestones — like high school or college graduations and my wedding.

What have I done wrong to make them so ashamed of me? And how can I make them love me and show some pride in their eldest daughter? —Upset Down South

Dear Upset: You have accomplished much in your young life. That your parents are unable — or unwilling — to give you the acknowledgment you crave is more a reflection on them than it is on you. Not knowing them, I can't say what their reason is.

However, you are no longer a child. Rather than continue blaming yourself, it's time to take a long, hard look at them and ask yourself what kind of people would treat their firstborn child the way you have been treated. Then draw your own conclusions and go on with your life.

You can't get blood from a stone, and you can't force loveless people to love you. But you can stop beating yourself up for not being able to "please" them and go on to live a happy and useful life, and that's what I'm advising you to do.

Dear Abby: Please help me alert your readers about an important program launched by companies in the information technology (IT) industry to educate, train, certify and provide job placement assistance for returning veterans. Military who successfully complete the Creating Futures program will have the knowledge and skill level they need to start a rewarding career in IT.

Creating Futures is free for all participants. The cost is covered by organizational sponsors such as HP, Xerox and Ricoh.

The Creating Futures program is tailored to help individuals with various levels of skill. Individuals who have honed their computer skills in the military will be taught how to transfer those skills to civilian life, and those who are new to IT will be taught the basic skills they need to pursue a career in information technology.

Returning veterans, people with disabilities, youth- at-risk and dislocated workers interested in participating in the program should visit www.creatingfutures.us for information on how to participate. —John Venator, Computer Technology Industry Association

Dear John: Thank you for bringing this to the attention of my readers. I'm sure many individuals in each of the categories you mentioned will be interested in learning more about the Creating Futures program.

Readers, as workers in the baby boom generation begin retiring, they will leave a significant gap in the talent pool of the technology industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 600,000 more jobs than available employees in the IT industry by 2012. This could be opportunity knocking, so please spread the word.

Dear Abby: Could you please tell me at what age a person can claim to be a senior citizen? Also, at what age is one considered a senior citizen in a restaurant? —Old Enough? In San Diego

Dear Old Enough: I have known some people in their 20s, already jaded with life, who were "older" than many vibrant people in their 80s who claim to be 80 years "young." Years ago, individuals were considered to be seniors at 65. But then, to the disconcertment of many, AARP began soliciting people at age 50. It seems the age of eligibility for "seniorhood" dropped as they became a financial demographic that attracted marketers.

The specific age to qualify for seniorhood isn't carved in granite — as you will find in various restaurants and movie theaters. Start asking around and you'll see what I mean.


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.


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