Dear Abby: What percentage of women’s problems do you think could be avoided if, for the first year after beginning to date someone, they were to use birth control and not marry?

Many of the women who write to you seem to be shocked that the men they’re with do not have sterling characters. But I have never dated anyone who could hide his true colors longer than six months. I’m sure the same is true of women, too. Much of your advice to these ladies entails seeking counseling or an attorney, but to the millions of women who haven’t yet made this mistake, how about a shout-out for prevention?

– Susan in Arizona

Dear Susan: Sometimes people marry before they really know themselves, let alone their partner. But I’m all for giving that shout-out for prevention of unplanned pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 49 percent of the 6.7 million pregnancies each year fall into this category. While some result from carelessness or mistakes in using birth control, others stem from lack of assertiveness on the part of women because they are economically dependent or lack the self-esteem to insist their partner use a condom.

Your comment about rushing into marriage reminds me of the saying, “Act in haste, repent at leisure.” Perhaps it should be amended to, “Act in haste, repent, repent, repent.”

Burning up calories

Dear Abby: I once read in your column a list of physical activities and how many calories are burned while performing each one. You included sex. Would you please list those activities and the calories burned for each?

– Looking To Lose

Dear Looking: You didn’t see it in my column, but here is the estimated number of calories burned per hour for several types of measured physical activity: slow walking, 115 to 200; dancing, 275 to 350; skating or swimming, 300 to 600; gardening, 250 to 300. There are no reliable figures on the number of calories burned during sex because the amount of exertion varies with the individual.