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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was upset when I read the letter from "Sally B." about bra straps. However, when I read the comments from other readers, I was furious!

I am a 50-year-old woman who wears a 34DD bra. Last year, I consulted a surgeon about breast reduction, but was told he wouldn't be able to take off enough for my insurance to pay for it.

He told me he would have to take off 5 ounces in order for them to pay for it -- and he could only remove 4 ounces without making me look bottom-heavy. They go by the average woman's height, which is 5 feet, 4 inches. I am only 5 feet tall, so until I can grow more chest, I'm out of luck.

During the hot summer months, wearing a bra is uncomfortable to say the least. I envy women who don't have to. The bras made to wear with tank tops have elastic straps. They don't work. Someone my size looks like a cow. Sure, having one made would do the trick, but a $50 bra is not in my budget. If I had that kind of money, I'd have the surgery.

Wasn't it said somewhere, "Judge not lest ye be judged"?

I'd be more than happy to let one of these flat-chested shrews walk a mile on a hot day with my boobs. -- CHRISTINE IN TACOMA

DEAR CHRISTINE: Before you give up on having breast reduction, get a second and third opinion about the medical necessity of the operation. If your breasts are so large they cause pain, surgery could be indicated. The doctors should write your insurance company stating the medical necessity for breast reduction, and request that the surgery be pre-authorized on that basis.

Another approach might be to ask your insurance agent to assist you in obtaining authorization.

DEAR ABBY: Who is "Sally B." to complain about bra straps showing? Abby, bras cost a lot of money these days, and they are beautiful.

I'm a teen who works part-time at a fast-food restaurant, and I worked for two whole days to pay for just one beautiful bra I wanted. When my beautiful bra strap shows, I think it's not only acceptable, but sexy, too. (I've even seen some teens wear black lace bras under open jackets or with vests, and it looked way cool!) -- CARRIE IN CLOVIS, N.M.

DEAR CARRIE: Beautiful undergarments are nothing new, but they are just that -- undergarments. If you want to show off something beautiful, save your money and flash your ever-expanding bank balance.

DEAR ABBY: I realize there are no absolutes in this world. However, I'd appreciate your opinion on the following question:

Can a man and a woman be friends if one of them is married? -- PONDERING IN PONTIAC, MICH.

DEAR PONDERING: Of course. Many married individuals have friends of the opposite sex. A stable marriage in which both partners really trust each other can accommodate friendships of either sex.

DEAR ABBY: You made the remark in defense of older people, "Just because there's snow on the roof doesn't mean there's no fire in the furnace."

Abby, a male neighbor recently made a similar remark about my graying hair. I replied, "The fire in the furnace depends upon the stoker."

He never mentioned my gray hair again. -- EVELYN POTTS, NEWPORT NEWS, VA.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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