DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Sean," died suddenly last year. He was a wonderful husband and father in every way. I knew about Sean's cross-dressing from the beginning and accepted it unconditionally.
Our 11-year-old son, "Brad," knows nothing about this part of his father's life. Sean and I discussed it many times, and it was his wish that Brad not be told until he was older.
My concern is, I receive mail, credit card applications, personal letters, etc. addressed to "Serena." Only one member of Sean's family knows about Serena, although most of his friends do. I am unsure what to do if and when Brad asks questions, as we all know he will.
There are also clothes to get rid of and other personal items of Serena's.
I want to honor the memory of my husband and his other self without hurting his family or our son. It is hard sharing this information with banks, credit card companies, and other places where "her" name appears. I try to explain that Serena was Sean's alter-ego and that when he died, so did she, but I do not want to go into detail.
How do I honor the man and woman I loved, and at the same time, protect our son? This is the only subject we never had a chance to talk about. -- ALONE WITH THE SECRET IN WISCONSIN
DEAR ALONE: Please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your husband. When dealing with credit card companies, banks, etc. it is not necessary to go into detail about who Serena was. It is none of their business. Simply state that your husband, Sean, is deceased, and mail in his name should be stopped. And also do the same for Serena.
As to discussing your husband's other self with your son, my experts advise that the best time to let children know about the cross-dressing is when they are very young (3 or 4), and can accept it naturally as "the way things are." Eleven years old is too advanced an age for the subject to be introduced now. You would be better to wait until the boy has matured into his late teens or adulthood to discuss it with him.
When you dispose of Serena's things, do it at a time when your son is away or out of the house. If there are special items you would like to hold onto as keepsakes, consider renting storage space or putting them in a location in your home to which your son does not have access.
For support and information -- as needed -- you should visit the Tri-Ess Web site, � HYPERLINK "http://www.tri-ess.org" ��www.tri-ess.org�, as well as a chapter of Tri-Ess called Nu Lambda Pi. This is a family-oriented support group for heterosexual cross-dressers, their spouses, partners and family members. It can be accessed at www.geocities.com/nulambdapi.
DEAR ABBY: My daughter and I have been busy addressing her graduation announcements. We came across a problem we thought you might know the answer to. How do you address a formal announcement to a married couple where the woman is a physician and the man is not? "Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith" is obviously not right, but I'm not sure "Mr. and Dr. Joe Smith" is correct, either. Can you help? -- NEEDS TO KNOW FAST IN ST. LOUIS
DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: The envelope should be addressed to Mr. Joe Smith and Dr. Helen Smith.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)