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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married almost four years. He has two children in middle school from his first marriage who live not far away. He and his ex-wife are on friendly terms, but I am having some problems with their relationship.

Whenever there is a special occasion, like birthdays, Father's Day, etc., my husband's ex-wife buys gifts for him from the children. I think it is my place to see that he has gifts from his children. Am I wrong?

My other concern is that when the children are at our home and their mother comes to pick them up, she always comes into the house. I work irregular shifts so I am seldom there when she comes over. I don't want her in my home with my husband when I am not there. Am I wrong about this, too? My husband says I'm wrong on both counts. -- NO GIFTS, PLEASE IN HUDSON, N.C.

DEAR NO GIFTS: Setting a good example and creating an atmosphere of civility are more important than your feelings of insecurity.

It is the mother's responsibility to teach the children about gift-giving. Be thankful she is setting a tone of generosity and encouraging the children to acknowledge their father on special occasions. The right thing for your husband (and you) to do would be to see that the gift-giving is reciprocal on her birthday and Mother's Day.

However, since your husband's ex-wife's presence in your home when you are absent makes you uncomfortable, your husband should respect your feelings and ask the children to meet their mother out in front of the house when she picks them up.

DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading the letter from "Hurting in Cincinnati," and I think you missed the boat in your reply.

Nosy questions like "How much do you weigh?" don't deserve answers. The flight attendant should simply flash her brightest smile and say, "Wow! That's really a personal question!" then change the subject entirely, i.e.: "Would you like a magazine?"

Questions such as, "When are you due?" and "How much longer do you have before you go on maternity leave?" can be answered with humor by replying, "Probably nine months after we decide to start a family!" with a smile and a chuckle. She can then ask the passenger, "Do you have children?" and change the subject.

As a woman who is overweight and has a sensitive nature, I have had to deal with my share of these questions. A smile and a sense of humor have helped me through most of them. "Hurting in Cincinnati" should remember that everyone has problems. Some are just more visible than others.

Abby, people with a weight problem know they should see a physician. They know they should consider an exercise program and see a dietitian. But knowledge and action are two different things. Ask any smoker, drug user, alcoholic or gambler. Bribing us, shaming us, taunting us and humiliating us will not work. When we're truly ready to seek help, we will. Sign me ... A LOVELY PERSONALITY IN FORT COLLINS, COLO.

DEAR LOVELY PERSONALITY: Thank you for an excellent letter, one of many I received from overweight individuals who have accepted themselves as they are, and who disagreed with my answer. (Some accused me of being fat phobic, and that may be true because it has only been with discipline and conscious effort that I've been able to maintain a consistent dress size for most of my adult life.) However, the reason uppermost in my mind when I advised the flight attendant to regard the questions about her being pregnant as a wake-up call was the fact that her employment could depend upon controlling her weight.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600