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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I dated "James" for 18 months before he proposed. Our wedding is set for the fall of next year. James is loving, considerate and honest. However, we're completely opposite in our tastes and interests. I am romantic, artistic and impulsive. He is practical, predictable and stable.

I was happy with this relationship until a couple of months ago, when I went out to lunch several times with a single man I'll call "John." (We work together.) What began as a casual friendship seems to be developing into more. The attraction is mutual. We share the same values, the same likes and dislikes, and we often think alike. When I look at him, I see myself, so we're very compatible.

John, however, has a less-than-perfect past. He's been in some bad relationships and is twice divorced. He has a troubled family history and two teen-agers in therapy with numerous unresolved problems.

Abby, we both realize we won't remain "just friends" if we continue going out to lunch, etc. John hasn't mentioned marriage, but he has told me that he wants me in his life.

I think I love them both. James is safe. John is exciting. John knows about my fiance, but James doesn't have a clue. Should I go through with the wedding because I'm certain that James would be a good husband, or should I take my chances that John and I will find happiness together? -- BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED

DEAR BEWITCHED: If you are attracted to John, it's obvious that you are not in love with James. You would be doing James an enormous favor if you broke the engagement and freed him to find a woman who would love and appreciate him. And the sooner the better.

DEAR ABBY: Regarding your advice to "Hair Splitting": You advised her that a true friend would discreetly tell John that he desperately needs a new hairpiece. Also, since the friend admitted wishing he'd never started wearing a hairpiece, a true friend should suggest that John again consider appearing without the hairpiece.

For many years, in the world of entertainment, we had Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas showing us that "bald is beautiful." Today, there are athletes by the score making the same statement.

John might find that this is the way to go. You may use my name. -- DEREK VAN DEREN, SOUTH BEND, WASH.

DEAR ABBY: We are preparing for my son's bar mitzvah. He would like to invite the many elementary schoolteachers he had through the years. Would it be acceptable to invite all of these wonderful people without their spouses? We don't know the spouses, and feel the teachers would be comfortable being seated with one another at the reception. I don't want to appear tacky, but the expense would be double for people we don't know and who don't know us. Can we invite just the teachers?

Do not identify me, but please answer soon. -- GETTING READY

DEAR GETTING READY: Invite the teachers only. Those who want to accept will come without their spouses. Do not be hurt if some politely decline; those who accept will be there because they want to be there. Some schoolteachers, as a matter of policy, decline all such invitations because they feel that if they accept one, they will be obligated to accept all. (Also, buying gifts can get very expensive.)

All good wishes to you and your family, and Mazel Tov to the bar mitzvah boy!

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