DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in regard to the mother who discovered her 14-year-old daughter sleeping in the nude. I say bravo to that mother and father for creating a home where the girl felt safe enough to sleep that way.

When I was young, I had an older brother who harassed me. I slept with my ears alert and covers up to my nose. I have been through two divorces -- and I wouldn't have allowed myself to be caught sleeping in the nude by either of my husbands. They might come home or wake up in a rage, and I needed to be prepared for whatever might happen.

I now have a husband with whom I'm completely relaxed -- so I no longer feel the need to wear anything in bed. I keep a robe at bedside for emergencies, but I now sleep comfortably without nightclothes that wrap around my legs or cut off the circulation in my arms. -- SLEEPING WELL IN TOPEKA

DEAR SLEEPING WELL: I have always considered wearing (or not wearing) clothing in bed to be a comfort issue. It hadn't occurred to me that it might reflect a measure of emotional security. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: The letter from the "Worried Mom" made me laugh, remembering when I was in high school. A group of friends and I decided to "kidnap" four other friends and take them out for breakfast before school. We surprised them in their beds, intending to take them out in public in their pajamas.

All was well until the third house. Like the girl in the letter, our friend "Angie" slept in the nude. I have never seen anyone blush harder than she did that morning. -- CHRISTA IN SALT LAKE CITY

DEAR CHRISTA: I guess the "surprise" was on YOU.

DEAR ABBY: I suspect that "Worried Mom" reacted so strongly because she's terrified of her daughter's awakening sexuality, and Mom equates nudity with sex, and sex is "wrong."

Now Mom has two tasks ahead of her. The first is to overcome her own hang-ups. The second is to have a frank discussion with her daughter about how to protect herself in sexual situations. Please tell her to stop worrying. Sleeping nude IS more comfortable. -- DOES IT TOO, COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR D.I.T.: What was it that Marilyn Monroe used to say? At bedtime her preferred attire was Chanel No. 5.

DEAR ABBY: There are few things in life more freeing than taking a hot shower and jumping nude into bed with fresh, crisp sheets. Please tell that mother not to make something nasty of it. She should try it herself. -- BIRTHDAY SUIT SLEEPER IN CASEYVILLE

DEAR SLEEPER: One thing about a birthday suit, it's always in style. And if it loses its shape, it can be altered.

DEAR ABBY: That mother needs to worry about more important things in life than what her daughter wears to bed. If the worst thing that girl has ever done is sleep in the nude, the writer is one lucky mom.

Obviously, "Mom" hasn't started menopause yet. If she had, she, too, would be sleeping in the nude because of hot flashes. -- HOT FLASH MOM, ROCKY RIVER, OHIO

DEAR MOM: Good point.

DEAR ABBY: As a nation that prides itself on freedom and liberty, we sure have become a nation of Puritans when it comes to the human body. In most of Europe, the sight of breasts on public television is matter-of-fact, and nude or partially nude bodies sunning on the beaches of the Mediterranean are commonplace.

I would like to challenge your readers to explain why the sight of a nude body is an object of fear and shame rather than of beauty and pride. -- ANTI-PRUDE IN SCOTTSDALE

DEAR ANTI-PRUDE: That's an intelligent question.

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What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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