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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: A few months ago, my husband passed away. I have a little money, but not a lot.

My 40-year-old, twice-divorced daughter wants me to help her buy a house. She has never been able to manage her money. She told me that if I didn't give her $50,000 for the house, I could forget her visiting me or helping me in any way.

I offered to loan her $20,000 for the down payment, but she turned that down and demanded the larger sum as a gift.

Abby, I am 69 years old and must provide for myself, and $50,000 is a lot of money. What should I do? -- MARTHA IN SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR MARTHA: If you give in to your daughter's blackmail now, she will undoubtedly find some excuse to get the rest of your money. And I wouldn't bet on her visiting and helping you once the money is gone.

Face it, Martha, your daughter is manipulative and cold-hearted. Refuse to finance her home. Save your money for your needs and comfort, and look to other family members and friends for companionship and assistance should you need it.

DEAR ABBY: I have always been interested in comedy, so when I retired at 62, I entered a comedy contest in a cabaret in Encino, Calif. There were 475 young people in the contest and most of them looked at me as if to say, "Why aren't you home watching your arteries get hard?" Well, I made it to the finals and won. I got $1,000 and a nice write-up in the newspaper.

My wife and I moved to Las Vegas a year ago. A comedy contest was held at the Tropicana Hotel. I entered, and won again. I received $1,000 and a nice write-up in the Las Vegas paper.

Your attitude is what makes you old, whether it's in regard to your sense of humor or your everyday attitude. I know many elderly YOUNG people. They're chronologically young, but they have old ideas. If we judged people with our eyes closed instead of with a closed mind, you'd be surprised how the term "elderly" would disappear. -- PAUL ORKIN, LAS VEGAS

DEAR PAUL: If we judged people with our eyes closed instead of with closed minds, I'm sure many of the problems that plague us would disappear. Congratulations on your new career.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for saying, again and plainly, "People have telephones in their homes for their own convenience, not for research and marketing firms." I agree, but because I don't want to act rudely, I've come up with a two-part response to "cold callers" like "M.B. in Belle Plaine, Iowa," who wrote to you.

During the afternoon and evening hours telemarketers seem to like, I screen some of my calls with my answering machine. I've told everyone I know that I do this. So far, no one I'd want to talk with has objected to announcing him or herself to the machine.

When I do pick up the phone and find myself listening to someone I don't know who wants to sell me something, I wait for a pause, then say, "Thanks for calling. I charge $135 an hour for phone consulting, with a two-hour minimum. Where should I send my bill?"

I have never heard any reply -- just a click and a dial tone. -- JOHN SHAFFER DIBELKA, SPRING VALLEY, CALIF.

DEAR JOHN: Apparently, your mother didn't raise any foolish children. Thanks for writing.

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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