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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 27-year-old woman with many friends and a good job. I have been described by many men as "beautiful."

My problem: I can't keep a boyfriend. The reason: I refuse to have sex before marriage. As a Catholic, I am not allowed premarital sex.

Recently a man I had been dating for four months said he loved me, but he dropped me because I wouldn't have sex with him. He asked, "Would a man in his right mind buy a car without driving it first?"

I'm frustrated and very hurt. I keep looking for decent men, but it seems they are all the same.

Sometimes I wish I were ugly; then I would know that a man liked me for who I am and not for my physical attributes.

Does anyone else have this problem? Am I crazy, or old-fashioned? I'm beginning to think I'll be alone for the rest of my life. -- ALONE IN ANN ARBOR, MICH.

DEAR ALONE: You are neither crazy nor old-fashioned. You are to be admired for refusing to do that which you feel is morally wrong. Plenty of good and decent women -- and men -- remain virgins until they marry.

And by the way, a woman is not an automobile to be taken for a "test drive" first. The man you were dating wasn't a buyer; he was a tire-kicker.

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to "Very Unhappy," who felt that giving her baby up for adoption was the best thing to do at this stage of her life when she couldn't properly provide for a child and complete her education, too.

You supported her decision to put her child up for adoption, which was excellent advice.

I was adopted when I was 5 days old. My birth mother had made her decision ahead of time to give me up. (That was 41 years ago.) I want to tell "Very Unhappy" that some very grateful couple will be overjoyed to adopt her child for reasons too numerous to list. It takes special people, who desperately want a child, to raise him/her as their own. I am grateful daily for my adoptive parents.

Being a mother myself, I know that admitting you can't properly care for a child is a tremendous decision to make and to live with. It should not be made lightly, but if it's best for the child -- as well as the mother -- then it is the right decision. She is making the ultimate sacrifice of loving her child more than herself.

I wish her the very best and hope she took your advice. -- TRACY L. HOUSTON, NEWPORT NEWS, VA.

DEAR TRACY: So do I. I'll keep you posted if I hear from her again. And I hope I do.

DEAR ABBY: The recent letter concerning respect for funeral processions cracked me up because it reminded me of this story:

Two gentlemen were playing golf near a highway when a funeral procession passed. One gentleman, a very dedicated golfer, laid down his club, removed his hat and bowed his head until the procession passed.

The other gentleman said, "My, that was reverent and thoughtful. That must have been someone you knew."

The first golfer responded, "Yup -- I was married to her for 40 years." -- CURT M. KING, WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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