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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I work in an office with many other women. Over the years, the happier in life I have become, the more jealous and petty these women have become toward me.

Abby, I come to work on time, do my job, try to be pleasant to everyone and go home. I adore my bosses, and I cannot understand the serpent's tongues of my co-workers.

Another woman in the office has mentioned the meanness of some of the people we work with, so it isn't just my own perceptions. I am not a confrontational person and I do not wish to return ugliness for ugliness, so I don't know how to defend myself against these sharp-tongued women. Sometimes the nastiness is very subtle -- it can be a smirk or the tone of voice -- and there isn't any obvious thing to address.

My job pays extremely well and I have been here for many years. I have many benefits and prefer not to leave. Have you any suggestions? -- "LOIS" IN SANTA ANA, CALIF.

DEAR "LOIS": Yes. Keep your private life completely separate from your professional life. Give these women nothing to fuel their jealousy. When something good happens to you, do not discuss it at the office. Be pleasant, but restrict your conversation to subjects that are work-related only. If you do this, they will have to find someone else to be the target of their sniping.

DEAR ABBY: This letter is to offer advice rather than to seek it. It's directed toward people who are planning to relocate after they retire. I would suggest to them that they live in the area in which they are planning to move for at least one year before making a final decision, and to make sure they are paying a fair market price before they buy.

My wife and I bought a home in Florida, thinking it would be the ideal place to retire. There is considerable development going on in the area. While it is a nice community, w have found it is not really what we wanted. We would like to sell our home and move.

Abby, the home we purchased has been on the market with a nationally known real estate company for two years. During that period we have had only one offer and it was for a price well below that for which it listed. (The house is listed at $20,000 less than what we paid for it three years ago.) If it does sell, after the commissions are paid, we will realize a loss of more than $25,000.

I would urge those contemplating retirement to avoid buying until they are absolutely sure. I guarantee it will save them a lot of time, money, frustration and disappointment. -- SADDER AND WISER IN FLORIDA

DEAR SADDER AND WISER: Thanks for sharing your expensive lesson with my readers, and for the reminder that a prudent investor carefully sizes up the market before investing in anything.

DEAR ABBY: Among the letters you printed about transsexuals using the ladies room was one from a woman who noticed the shoes on the person in the stall next to hers were pointed the "wrong" way, and she was outraged.

That letter made me laugh because a couple of years ago my bladder, for all intents and purposes, ceased functioning and I had a urostomy operation. In plain English, that means I now have a tube inside attached to a bag outside, and when I go to the ladies room to empty it, my shoes also point the "wrong way" and I occasionally wonder if anyone ever notices.

People shouldn't jump to conclusions -- especially about things that are none of their business. Please do not use my name if you print this. -- THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

DEAR GIRL NEXT DOOR: Most people are not privy to this kind of information, so thank you for speaking out. You were 100 percent on target when you stated that people shouldn't jump to conclusions.

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