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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was appalled when I saw in your column that you had trotted out an outdated, sexist, factually inaccurate and socially dangerous quote: "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

Surely you are aware of the research which now establishes that fathers have unique and important contributions to make to the healthy development of their children. Fathers (not race, not income and not mothers) are the key ingredient in reducing youth violence (crime and gangs), drug abuse, promiscuity, eating disorders and suicides. Fathers have a greater effect than mothers in producing empathy, a sense of humor, academic achievement and more.

My son's mother has assaulted me, harassed me, stalked me, vandalized my property, stolen from me, made false allegations against me and more. I don't love her. But I do something far more important. During most of my son's waking moments since he was 8 months old, the hands he has seen holding him and helping him, the voice he has heard teaching him and loving him, the face he has seen smiling at him and encouraging him have been mine!

My son's mother is not insane and not that rare. She has simply been encouraged by the media to blame a man for everything that makes her unhappy and to think of fathers as second-class parents. You can sign me ... FIRST-CLASS PARENT

DEAR PARENT: Considering the fact that your ex-wife suffers from the emotional instability (not insanity) which you have described, you son is indeed fortunate to have such a committed father. However, there are far more absent fathers in single-parent families than mothers.

DEAR ABBY: Hugo Borreson wrote: "Martin Luther King had to go to India to learn the principles of non-violence because they were neither understood nor practiced in the United States."

Abby, Dr. King did not have to go to India to learn the principles of non-violence!

In his book "Stride Toward Freedom" (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1958), he wrote: "... One Sunday afternoon, I traveled to Philadelphia to hear a sermon by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia.

"Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and, to my great interest, he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

"His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi's life and works ..."

I just wanted to set the record straight, Abby. -- ARTHUR H. PRINCE, PH.D., MEMPHIS

DEAR DR. PRINCE: I am (as always) profoundly grateful for your consistently accurate corrections and additions to my column since its inception. However, I, too, want to keep the record straight. According to "A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Teachings of Martin Luther King Jr." (edited by James M. Washington), Dr. King and his wife did travel to India in 1960 or 1961, and he made reference to the trip in a speech within months of his return.

DEAR ABBY: I have a very dear, older friend who has one bad habit. No matter what the situation, she always asks me the price of everything I buy. She demands to know the cost of any improvements I make to my home.

It seems she puts a price tag on everything.

A member of her family is quite wealthy, and she never hesitates to tell everyone what they spend on everything. I don't have a lot of money and what I do with it, I think, is my personal business. I have tried the old retort, "Why would you be interested?" but it doesn't seem to work. I don't want to be rude, but can you give me a good comeback that might squelch this nasty habit? -- MIFFED IN MECHANICSVILLE, VA.

DEAR MIFFED: What's wrong with this direct response: "That's a very personal question that I prefer not to answer." Smile when you say it, and if you repeat it often enough, let's hope she'll get the message and quit asking.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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