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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: I'll be on vacation between Aug. 18 and Aug. 31. Don't panic -- I've selected some of my favorite letters from past years to fill the gap. I hope you enjoy them.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married (in name only) for five years. I was a lonely divorcee (age 47) and John was a well-to-do widower (60) when we were married.

The first night we were married I found out he was impotent. I know it's not his fault, but he should have told me. (He later said he was afraid he'd lose me.)

We had everything a happily married couple could want -- a lovely home, friends, trips. I can't say I wasn't living a good life, although I missed the physical side of marriage some.

Now I have met a wonderful man. He is my age (52), and it was skyrockets and Roman candles the first time we were alone together. We're in love and want to get married, but I hate to hurt John.

Would it be wrong to leave John and grab what little happiness is left in life? -- IN LOVE

DEAR IN LOVE: If you want to justify leaving John, the fact that he failed to tell you about his impotence is sufficient. (That's probably grounds for an annulment.) Trying to keep an affair a secret will be like trying to smuggle dawn past a rooster. You'd better tell John before he tells you.

DEAR ABBY: Everybody starts out by saying they have a problem. And that's the way I am starting out, but don't throw this away yet because I get better as I go along. (Ha ha!)

I am a married man with three kids, 9, 12 and 13. I always wanted to be a writer but I can't seem to break into the field. I bet I sent 100 short stories to different magazines, but I never heard back from nobody. A person would like to be told what is wrong with their stuff, wouldn't you think?

You must know a lot of big shots in the publishing business, Abby. Can't you put in a good word for me? I don't expect you to say I am any good unless you see some of my stuff, so I am sending you 26 stories I've wrote. If you are too busy to write and tell me what you think of them, you can call me up. I'm sending you my phone number, and if the line is busy, keep calling because my kids are on the phone a lot. In the meantime, have you got any suggestions? -- LOVES TO WRITE

DEAR LOVES: Please don't send me anything, because my lawyer advises against reading unpublished material. And in the meantime, don't help your kids with their English.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old, and my parents force me to go to church every Sunday.

I hate going to church because I see people there who I know are drunkards, gossips, liars and cheats, and they are right there every Sunday saying their prayers and singing the hymns. I don't have any respect for hypocrites, and our church is full of them, my own parents included.

I am only 13, so maybe my opinion doesn't count, but I don't see any sense in my going to church with a bunch of hypocrites. -- ONLY A BOY

DEAR ONLY: Christ became a man at 13, and you are not too young to become a man either. One goes to church to learn about the Bible and the word of the Lord, although God dwells in one's heart, and it's not necessary to "go" to church to communicate with him.

A church is not a museum for saints; it's a hospital for sinners. So "judge not, lest ye be judged," young man.

DEAR READERS: If you would like your letter considered for publication, please include your name, area code and telephone number.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, 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. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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