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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: On May 8 last year, my girlfriend read me the article in your column signed "Kissing Cousins," asking in which states cousins could marry. You rattled off a list of them, and my jaw hit the table. My first cousin and I had adored each other our whole life, but had never spoken of it because we wrongly assumed it was forbidden by God and man. As it turns out, Jacob and Rachel, and many Biblical characters, were cousins, which was the preferred way to go in ancient and modern times.

Albert Einstein married his cousin, Elsa, which probably provided him inspiration for discovering the theory of "relativity."

The family of Ashley Wilkes, the man Scarlett O'Hara was always after, married their cousins in "Gone With the Wind," with no social stigma at all.

Two months after reading that article, my cousin and I were married, and the ecstasy of this marriage cannot be captured in words. You are responsible for it, Abby, and I wanted you to know. -- IN HEAVEN IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR IN HEAVEN: It's gratifying to know that something you saw in my column affected your life so profoundly. In many countries, marriage between first cousins is considered a perfect union. Healthy cousins may face a slightly elevated risk of genetic defects in their offspring because they are more likely to share a recessive gene than are most couples. But that can be dealt with through genetic counseling. I wish you continued success and happiness in your marriage.

DEAR ABBY: I was appalled at your answer to "Old-Fashioned and Glad of It." She was complaining that her son's wife did not cook. Why didn't you tell her that she should have taught her son how to cook?

Today boys need domestic survival skills as much as girls do. My 12-year-old son knows enough about cooking so he will never be dependent on someone else to serve him.

With more women working outside the home these days, it is unrealistic to expect the woman to have the master's dinner ready when he comes home. In our household, the person who has the most time cooks the meal, and does the laundry, vacuuming, etc. -- HAPPY WITH A '90S HOME LIFE

DEAR HAPPY: That letter stirred up a hornet's nest. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I have a message for "Old-Fashioned and Glad of It," the woman who complained that her son's wife did not even know how to boil water: MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!

How her son and his wife live is their business. I had a mother-in-law who thought things should be done her way, and that women should be the workhorses. Needless to say, my husband and I are separated.

He moved back in with his mother 12 years ago and has remained there ever since. She's in her late 70s and still cooking him his wholesome meals, cleaning his room and doing his laundry. Her "baby boy" was 51 years old this year.

Maybe "Old-Fashioned's" daughter-in-law is saving her energy for things that are more important to her son than cooking. -- MODERN AND GLAD OF IT

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.)

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