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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My son is angry. He demands that I apologize because I said his live-in girlfriend is not really family. This is a girl I would welcome as a daughter-in-law, but unless they marry, I do not consider her one of the family.

They are both divorced and think marriage is just a "cheap license and a few minutes in front of a minister." I disagree. I think marriage is very important. It shows commitment that living together does not.

What do you think, Abby? -- UPSET IN TENNESSEE

DEAR UPSET: I agree with you. The difference between a live-in arrangement and a marriage is the difference between night and day.

Marriage is sanctioned by society and religion in every culture. Living together is not. The right to inherit property, pensions and Social Security benefits applies to spouses -- not live-ins, as many people have learned to their dismay. As next of kin, a spouse can automatically make decisions about medical care should his or her mate become unable to do so.

In some states, living together for a specified number of years constitutes common-law marriage. In those states, it is legal and binding. However, not all states recognize common-law marriage.

If this seems more about law than romance, perhaps that's why another term for "marriage" is "making it LEGAL."

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter from Mike Smith, who was concerned that Veterans Day is no longer recognized.

I have taken steps over the last year that have done wonders for my mental health. Whenever I hear myself saying, "Someone should ..." I stop and remember that I am someone, and then I do something about it.

If Mike wants his company to put out a memo commemorating Veterans Day, he could write it. If he's not in a position within his company to do it, I'm certain his boss would be willing to do it if Mike gave him a written example of what he had in mind.

If everyone would take personal responsibility instead of talking about what someone else should do, we would have much stronger and more satisfying communities. -- DEBORAH L. BLAND, ROCKDALE, TEXAS

DEAR DEBORAH: Your letter is a wake-up call to personal activism, and I commend you for it. Doing nothing guarantees failure. Success in anything begins with individuals who are willing to take a first step.

DEAR ABBY: I have an autoimmune disease that is being treated by two very competent doctors. Autoimmune diseases are difficult to treat, and most of them have no known cure.

My husband and I recently joined a new church. We met a wonderful lady there whose friendship we would like to retain. Unfortunately, she sells health products and is convinced she can cure my disease if I will buy the products that she sells. How can I maintain the friendship while tactfully refusing to buy her products?

If you choose to print this, sign me ... PLEASE, NO SALE

DEAR NO SALE: Stiffen your spine and tell the saleswoman, "I appreciate your concern, but I don't want to interfere with what my doctors are trying to accomplish." You owe her no further explanation.

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