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Dear Abby: I have led an unusual life. I lived abroad alone in my late teens, spent my early 20s exploring the West, and finished my college degree a year early while working full time. It gave me independence, experience and clarity.

My problem is, in dating I feel leagues ahead of men who are my age. I am attracted to much older men. My current boyfriend is 15 years older than I am. The age gap is often a topic of conversation among my acquaintances, co-workers and some family members. My boyfriend has also experienced unwanted comments about dating a much younger woman.

What are your thoughts on who a person should be dating in her early 20s? And how should I deal with those who believe I am breaking a social code?

– Old Soul in Colorado

Dear Old Soul: I can’t give you an unbiased opinion because when I was in my early 20s, I dated older men. They liked to talk, I liked to listen, and I learned a great deal about life from them. I hope the same will be true for you. As to how you should deal with people who accuse you of breaking a social norm, unless they have a valid reason for criticizing the man you’re dating, I think you should tune them out.

Love first, live second

Dear Abby: I am a 26-year-old woman who is afraid of my true feelings. I have been friends with a woman who is a lesbian for seven years. I have always been attracted to women – especially her – but I have always dated men. I have just ended a five-year relationship, and over the past few months my friend and I have grown very close. I am starting to have feelings for her sexually. I think about her all the time. She’s beautiful, smart, inspiring and has an amazing personality.

My problem is, I have an 8-year-old daughter, and I don’t know how she would handle it if I were to date a woman instead of a man. I am also afraid of how my family would react. Our attraction is unspoken, but I can see it when I look into her eyes. Should I admit my feelings or should we remain friends?

– Afraid of My True Feelings in Ohio

Dear Afraid: I am reluctant to advise you to spend the rest of your life living a lie in order to avoid upsetting your family, because I don’t think it would be healthy for you. Talk to your friend. Once you are sure the relationship with this woman is serious, mutual and lasting, you can tell your daughter you are dating.

Children are adaptable, and this may be less of a surprise to her than you fear. My advice is to listen to your heart and you won’t go wrong.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com.