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by Abigail Van Buren

Trip to Mailbox May End Up as March to Altar

DEAR ABBY: Congratulations, you've done it again! You can now put another notch in your "success column" for Operation Dear Abby.

Last Thanksgiving, I wrote a letter to "Any Serviceperson" and sent it to the Persian Gulf as a part of your letter-writing campaign. I never really expected a reply, but I received one from a Lt. Patrick E. Fortune, which I answered promptly. We soon learned that we had a lot in common: His name is Patrick, my name is Patty; he's Irish-Catholic, I'm Irish-Catholic; he's one of seven kids, I'm one of seven kids; he went to an all-boys Catholic school, I went to an all-girls Catholic school; we both have dreamed of biking through Ireland. We also share many of the same beliefs about God, family and values.

When Pat returned to the states, we started talking on the telephone. We have had three- and four-hour long conversations. (Don't ask about our telephone bills!) I finally broke down and told him that I was absolutely nuts about him! He then confessed that he felt the same way about me.

We finally met in Cincinnati over the Labor Day weekend and had a sensational time. We knew there was no doubt about it -- we were right for each other.

Pat sent me a plane ticket so I could visit him at Fort Bragg, and our romance flourished. He will get out of the service in about six months, after which he plans to move to Milwaukee and make spoiling me a full-time job. That's wonderful because he's the most important person in my life.

So, Dear Abby, that's the saga of Pat and Patty. How can I ever thank you? -- PATTY TREACY, GREENFIELD, WIS.

DEAR PATTY: You just did.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend and I have been friends for 6 1/2 years. I am a single man who has never been married, and my best friend is a married woman with two children. Her husband's job allows him to be home only three nights a week. I even stay at her home about 50 percent of the time. Her husband has no objections to my staying in their home. In fact, we get along very well.

The problem is that everyone thinks it is abnormal for us to "hang out" as much as we do. We do not have sex, and never will; we are not attracted to each other sexually at all. We are just good friends and that's all.

So, what do you think, Abby? Is our relationship normal or not? I hope you will print this so our friends will know that two people of the opposite sex can be good friends -- and that's all. -- BUGGED IN BARSTOW

DEAR BUGGED: It is indeed unusual for a single man and a married woman who are not romantically involved to spend so much time together. It is also out of the ordinary for the woman's husband to be as secure and generous about his wife's close friendship with another man.

And yes, people of the opposite sex can be friends -- and that's all. It is not necessarily "abnormal," but it is unusual.

DEAR ABBY: I recently remarried. My new husband was also previously married. How should I introduce my first husband's relatives who are my former in-laws? I am very friendly with my ex-husband's nieces and nephews, too. -- SECOND TIME AROUND

DEAR SECOND: There is no reason to call attention to the fact that you were formerly related by marriage. Just introduce your ex-in-laws -- nieces and nephews -- as "dear" or "old" friends, and save the explanatory details for subsequent meetings.

Abby's family recipes are included in her cookbooklet. Send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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