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DEAR ABBY: I am a 22-year-old man, and I think I have found what I want to do with the rest of my life. There's just one thing: It's not the typical male career. I want to work in a beauty salon as a stylist.

What's holding me back is I'm afraid people will think I'm gay. I have nothing against gay folks, but I am strictly heterosexual.

I have always been told that I'm good-looking, and the fact that I am artistic will also be a plus. I think I could make a lot of money in this field.

Please advise me how to get over this hurdle. -- FUTURE HAIRSTYLIST? IN N.Y.

DEAR FUTURE HAIRSTYLIST?: You have chosen a fertile field of endeavor, one that provides opportunity, portability and the possibility of steady work. While it is true that there are many gay men in the field of hairdressing, there have been over the years some very successful -- and famous -- heterosexuals. Examples: Vidal Sassoon, Jon Peters, Jay Sebring, Gene Shacove and, more recently, Jonathan Antin, to name a few.

How you will be perceived should not be your primary consideration. You know who you are, and the fact that you are straight will get around. Speaking as someone who has spent many hours in beauty salons over the years, I can tell you firsthand that there are very few secrets.

DEAR ABBY: I am basically your average seventh-grader with divorced parents. My dad is about to get married again. I like my future stepmom, except for one thing. She never buckles her seat belt. She says it's uncomfortable, and she doesn't like it.

She recently moved here from Colombia, but that does not excuse her from obeying our laws. I don't know what to do. My dad tells her to buckle up, but she never does. What should I do? -- STRAPPED IN TIGHT

DEAR STRAPPED: Most adults hate being told they are wrong by a young person, so if I were you, I would use a light touch and two-pronged attack. The next time your father's fiancee refuses to buckle up, casually mention that the front passenger seat of an automobile is sometimes referred to as the "death seat" for a reason -- that people who have not fastened their seat belts have been known to go headfirst through the windshield. Then change the subject. (Example: "Oh! Did you see that cool red Corvette?")

Your father should also tell her privately that by refusing to buckle up, she's setting a poor example for his child.

DEAR ABBY: How do you stop someone from serving food you don't like? A woman I tutor was nice enough to make me a dish native to her country, and when she asked me if I liked it, I gave her a rave review (to spare her feelings). I really hated it, but now she thinks I love it, and she keeps making it for me.

How can I refuse without hurting her feelings? I don't want to continue to just accept it and have to throw it away. -- WASTING FOOD IN VIRGINIA

DEAR WASTING FOOD: Try this: "You were so kind to make it, and I thank you. But as much as I like it, it doesn't like ME -- so I cannot accept it."

It's as close to the truth as you can get without being offensive, and should successfully discourage her from making it in the future.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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