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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 42-year-old happily married man. About six years ago, my wife bought me a panty girdle to help me look a little trimmer. I had been trying to lose 15 or so pounds for almost a year without any success. My wife searched for a support garment designed for men and couldn't find anything, so she finally purchased a long-leg panty girdle with a high waist. I was reluctant at first, but eventually tried it on. It made a remarkable difference, holding in my potbelly and smoothing my love handles.

I now wear a panty girdle virtually every day and own several different brands. My wife is very helpful when I need to buy a new one. We both agree that it greatly improves my appearance.

So why do I have to worry so much that someone will discover my secret? Why is it OK for an overweight woman to wear something under her clothes to look trimmer, but for a man, it is weird?

I am not gay, and neither am I a cross-dresser, but I do wear what is considered a woman's undergarment. Either the manufacturers should start marketing a man's foundation garment or market their existing girdles for both men and women. I shouldn't have to be embarrassed by the fact that I need a little extra support to look good. I am sure I'm not the only man in the world who wears a panty girdle. What do you think? -- R.J. IN N.Y.

DEAR R.J.: If you feel secure wearing a panty girdle, more power to you. What people wear under their clothing is their business -- and nobody else's.

I have never heard of foundation garments for men, but you make a convincing argument in their favor.

DEAR ABBY: May I air a few gripes? Maybe someone will take notice.

I cringe when I see someone throw trash on the ground, or dump it out of a car window. I saw a lady in a new Mercedes dump her filled ashtray out the window at a stoplight. I honked my horn and gestured, but she ignored me and drove off.

I hate seeing people scream and hit their kids in public. I always wonder if they do that in public, what will they do when no one is looking?

Why can't schools teach courses in kindness, patience and manners?

Why do people buy dogs, then never take them on walks, never take them in the car when they go out, and make them languish in lonely backyards? Don't they know that dogs are pack animals who crave companionship and get bored just like humans?

Finally, I wish schools would start early on teaching kids that having babies is not the same as playing with dolls. Teach the difficult aspects. Show them how much money flies out the door when you have kids; teach them how exhausting it can be; let them see that if you have a kid when you are a kid, you are kissing your free-spirited, fun childhood goodbye, and saying hello to years and years of hard work. -- BIBI IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR BIBI: Lessons in kindness, manners, consideration for others and self-control should be taught in the home long before a child sets foot in school. But it may please you to know that in some high schools they are attempting to teach teens the responsibilities that parenthood entails. They "handcuff" automated dolls to students who are required to care for the "babies" day and night for one week. The dolls are programmed to cry at unpredictable intervals. I'm told that the program is very successful.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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