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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This letter is for "A Mom in Washington" concerning her daughter "Sybil's" boyfriend and his reluctance to give gifts. I hope this letter will be helpful.

The young man won't change, and the situation will only worsen as time goes on if Sybil allows it. The only person Sybil can change is herself.

Instead of crying and putting a strain on the relationship, she needs to ask herself if the young man has other important qualities that might make him a good husband and father. If so, she should be prepared to purchase things she likes, charge them to him, and tell him that's what he "bought her" for her birthday, Christmas, anniversary, etc.

I was married to a man very much like him, and I shed more tears than I care to remember. Valentine's Day was just an ordinary day at our house; on Mother's Day I was told "you're not my mother"; our aniversary was his birthday, so we celebrated his birthday; my birthday was close to Christmas, so I might receive a gift for one or the other -- but never for both occasions.

Life is short. So pick your arguments. Some people are givers and others are takers. Somehow relationships always seem to have one of each in them. -- WISER NOW IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR WISER NOW: Thank you for sharing your personal experience. As the song says, "Little Things Mean a Lot." I received many comments about that letter. Read on for another perspective:

DEAR ABBY: I must respond to "A Mom in Washington" regarding her daughter's boyfriend who was reluctant to buy gifts.

I don't understand the obsession that people (and women, in particular) have with gifts. They are NOT what is important. Yes, I am a woman -- happily married for 26 years and practically giftless for all of them. I did receive flowers twice, when our children were born. I have never received jewelry, candy, lingerie, perfume, or any of those other gifts that women seem to think define their relationship. I have received appliances -- and even a smoke alarm one Christmas.

Do I care? No. No gift could possibly substitute for the daily kindness that abounds in this household. There are hundreds of examples, but most recently, when I severely cut my finger, I awoke the next morning to find a newly purchased bag of bandages -- just because I "might" need them. It was one of the sweetest, most considerate things I've ever seen -- and far more touching than any obligatory gift on a special day.

Sisters, get over your obsession with gifts. If you're not getting thoughtfulness every day, no gift is going to make it better. (And if it does, you are indeed materialistic.)

Your advice missed the mark, Abby. The boyfriend doesn't need to "adjust" -- Sybil does, and so does her mom. -- WAKE ME UP WHEN WOMEN GET A CLUE

DEAR WAKE ME: Whether it's a gift or a compliment, thoughtfulness and romantic gestures are never out of style.

I have often thought that the most sensitive sex organ in men or women is the EAR, and the most potent aphrodisiac is the spoken word.

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