Dear Dr. Wallace:

My cousin and I attend the same school. We are not real close, but we do talk to each other on campus here and there. Whenever we do talk to each other, all she talks about is how many friends she has. She is trying to convince me that she is popular. She is a “joiner.” She is in a ton of clubs and is the president of the pep club. She seeks to hook on to any group that has a specific interest, no matter what her personal level of interest might be. She’s truly in it to socialize, not discuss the topic at hand. I’ll admit she knows more kids and has more friends than I do, but I have my fair share of friends, too. I just don’t brag about it — and each friend I have is a true, close friend, not an acquaintance I met at some social event.

The next time she brings up the subject of “her friends,” what can I say to her to make her realize that I’ve got good friends, but I don’t care to brag about it?

— Anonymous, Patterson, New Jersey

Dear Anonymous: When the talk with your cousin turns to friends, simply tell her that it’s not the number that counts to you, it’s the quality of the friendships that is most important. Tell her you place great importance on the integrity of your friends and little importance on the actual number of friends you have. Be diplomatic, and she will get the message.

Dear Dr. Wallace: I’m a 16-year-old girl who needs your advice. Two months ago, I started writing to a man who is in prison. I got his name from our church. Our minister felt it would be good for convicts to be pen pals with members of our church. My parents didn’t want me to write to a convict, but I talked them into allowing me to correspond with someone behind bars.

We have exchanged about 10 letters each over the past few months. At first, his letters were sweet. He wanted to know about my school, my family and if I had a boyfriend. His last two letters have been very personal and he signs his letter “Love, Ray.”

My heart keeps telling me that he is lonely and I should continue being his pen pal, but my brain tells me to stop writing to him because he’s now scaring me by saying “love” at the end of each new letter. I’d like your opinion, please. I really don’t know what to do from here.

— Unsure,

Mesa, Arizona

Dear Unsure: I never encourage teens to correspond with a prisoner unless the prisoner is a relative or a close family friend. I believe your minister made a mistake in encouraging you to correspond with a prisoner. The invitation to be a pen pal to someone behind bars should have been for adults only. Yes, this prisoner may very well benefit from a pen pal, but it should be an older adult better equipped to handle the emotions that can arise from such a situation.

Send one more letter saying that you will no longer be writing due to your young age. Tell your minister that you know he or she is earnestly trying to help, but request that an older adult take over. I trust your minister can accommodate everyone’s wishes here.

You’ll then be relieved of the pressure to continue writing and glad to know this prisoner will still be receiving letters.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.