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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Prefers Her World to Stay at Arm's Length

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter you printed concerning all the wonderful benefits of hugging, I had to write to express a contrary opinion.

Except for my husband, small children and animals, I am a person who does not like to be touched, and I think I have the right to feel that way. There is nothing wrong with me, and I am sure there are others who share my feelings.

Granted, a great many people feel that a hug can make their day, but a hug can ruin mine. Occasionally someone I know only casually will hug and even kiss me, when I have given them absolutely no reason to believe I would welcome such familiarity. Not wanting to appear rude, I grimace and bear it.

I don't know how this problem can be resolved, since apparently most people don't object. But how is one supposed to know in advance that someone does not want to be hugged? However, once I inform a person that I don't like to be touched, I would hope that my wishes will be respected.

I have even thought of wearing a T-shirt with "Thank you for not hugging me" across the front. Any suggestions?

Just sign me ... HANDS OFF

DEAR HANDS OFF: Lest you believe you are alone in your aversion to being touched, let me assure you that you are not. When a known hugger approaches you, immediately offer your hand, inviting the hugger to accept a firm handshake. Your body language will signal that that's about as close you care to get. There is nothing rude about setting limits.

DEAR ABBY: My co-workers and I are ticket takers at a large annual event. All too often, people, for a number of reasons, put their ticket in their mouth to free up both hands in order to put change in their wallets or to hold a youngster's hand -- or whatever.

They do not consider that when they remove the ticket from their mouth, they grasp the nice clean end, while we, the ticket takers, must handle the wet and unsanitary portion.

This is a rather disgusting procedure. Oddly enough, the majority of offenders are clean and courteous people who would ordinarily be careful of their personal hygiene, and have respect for the health and feelings of others.

We are expected to be friendly and gracious, but how can we handle this without offending anyone?

Perhaps a word in your column would send a message to those who are unwittingly guilty of this offensive habit. It would make work a little more pleasant for those who handle tickets for public events. I hope this is column-worthy. -- A TOUCHY TICKET TAKER

DEAR TOUCHY: Just when I think I've heard everything, along comes a letter like yours. Is it column-worthy? You bet.

DEAR ABBY: Most of us lick postage stamps. Are they sanitary? How about envelopes? -- HENRY LOBLE, HELENA, MONT.

DEAR HENRY: Maybe yes, maybe no. But since you are concerned, use a damp sponge to moisten postage stamps as well as the flap of the envelope, and you won't have to worry about whether they're sanitary.

What teen-agers need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with their peers and parents is now in Abby's updated, expanded booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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