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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am flabbergasted at all the letters from people who are desperate to have children.

I am a baby boomer who, like many of my friends, was delighted to discover that getting married and having children was not the only option for women. We went to college, pursued careers, traveled to exotic places and got involved in our communities. Some of us got married, and some of us even raised our husband's children from a failed first marriage. Overall, we've had a great half-century.

I know I owe much of my happy state to the adults -- aunts, uncles, cousins, friends of my parents, teachers -- who took an interest in me when I was growing up. My immediate family verged on the dysfunctional, but these other wonderful, caring people provided the shelter, laughter and inspiration that my parents couldn't give me. I've tried to return the favor to nephews and nieces, and the children of my friends and neighbors.

In this day and age, an empty womb is not a tragedy -- it just means that you have the time and good fortune to make a difference in someone else's life. It's time for childless people to toss those tear-stained pillows away, go to the nearest school, and offer to tutor or help a disadvantaged child. -- NO REGRETS

DEAR NO REGRETS: You are a prime example of two profound adages: "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be" (Abraham Lincoln), and "Life is what we make it (William James)."

God bless you for your generosity.

DEAR ABBY: I have read many letters in your column from men who aren't particularly handsome, but would love to meet a decent woman who would appreciate him for what he is on the inside. I feel sorry for those men. However, there must be something wrong when a 30-something, educated professional man can't find someone to love, and says it's because women don't think he's good-looking enough.

I'm not drop-dead gorgeous, but I got married when I was 25. I had about a dozen proposals before Mr. Right came along.

My best friend, brainy and leggy with a wonderful heart, could barely find a date. The reason? She didn't know how to communicate with the opposite sex. Finally, after much encouragement, she went down your list of places to meet decent men and (here is the clincher) she sought therapy.

The therapy taught her a lot about herself. The church and volunteer organizations gave her a place to try out what she had learned.

She met a wonderful man who appreciates her for what she is. Two years ago, I was a bridesmaid at her wedding. Two months ago, I attended the christening of their first child.

Abby, there is hope for those without partners, but blaming others for their being alone will get them nowhere. -- TRULY HAPPY IN TENNESSEE

DEAR READERS: "When a man says, 'I lie,' does he lie, or does he speak the truth?

"If he lies, he speaks the truth. If he speaks the truth, he lies." -- MARK TWAIN (1835-1910)

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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