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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Congratulations to "Abnormal in California," the 34-year-old bachelor who lost 100 pounds and wonders where the women he's now dating were when he was fat and alone.

Perhaps he should look to women who understand what he's been through -- those who may be sitting at home feeling rejected and alone because they are overweight.

If he doesn't consider a fat woman worthy of his time, then he's doing the same thing he accuses the women of doing to him. -- A DULUTH, MINN., READER

DEAR DULUTH READER: You make a valid point. "Abnormal" has a special understanding to offer women whose social lives are suffering because of their weight. I was inundated with letters from readers who shared their painful experiences. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: In reference to "Abnormal in California": I, too, was overweight during my childhood and teen-age years. After painful harassment and great struggle, I finally lost the weight. Suddenly, I miraculously fit into the socially acceptable world, even though nothing else about me had changed. I had the same personality, moral standards and sense of humor I had when I was heavy.

Although being overweight is unhealthy, it doesn't mean an overweight person is not worth knowing.

Unfortunately, we live in a "visual" world where people cannot see us for what we are inside.

Perhaps "Abnormal in California" should consider dating overweight women instead of those with "body perfect" figures. He could then be sure they would have something in common with him, and they could see each other for who they really are.

My husband is overweight, and he is the most wonderful friend and companion a woman could have. -- C.A.A. IN DELAWARE

DEAR ABBY: Recently I left a pot of rice on the stove too long. By the time I remembered it, the pot was smoking. Last week, a friend of mine accidentally started a grease fire in her kitchen. I heard many tragic news reports over the holidays about Christmas trees causing fires and heartbreak in what should have been a joyful season.

Abby, I'd like to pass on a suggestion that was made to me after my close call with the rice: Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher. The new ones are inexpensive and come with easy-to-follow instructions. Learn how to use it as soon as you get it home, then put it in plain sight. If you buy only one, the kitchen is the best place to keep it.

I have decided to purchase fire extinguishers as gifts for the weddings, housewarmings and graduations I know I'll be invited to this year. What better way to say, "I care about you"?

Thanks, Abby, for printing my letter and for the love and concern you have shown for others over the years. -- WISER NOW

DEAR WISER: Thank you for a practical suggestion that may save lives. Fire extinguishers should not be considered a replacement for smoke detectors, but rather as an additional important tool for home fire prevention.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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