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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I go out for lunch quite often. Our check is typically about $15, to which I customarily add a 15 percent tip.

My problem is the food servers who ask if I want my change back. This puts me in an awkward situation because it appears that the server is expecting a $5 tip, which in my opinion is too much for a $15 check.

Abby, this happens all the time, and it's getting me steamed. I think it's totally improper for a food server to ask for a tip, and to specify the amount.

How would you handle a situation like this? -- STEAMED IN BOSTON

DEAR STEAMED: I would tell the server that, yes, I wanted my change. Then I'd leave a 15 or 20 percent tip, depending on the service I'd received. Although in the past, servers have written to tell me that the question is asked to save a trip back to the table, I consider it to be presumptuous. Servers should courteously return change to the customer as a matter of course.

DEAR ABBY: This letter is in response to "Lost in North Carolina," who has herpes.

I am fortunate to be in a relationship with a fine woman who knows how much she is worth and brings joy and a great attitude into my life and the lives of her children. Yes, she has herpes. She had it long before I met her, and I knew she had it before I asked her to go out with me. She had so many of the important qualities I was looking for in a woman that it was not an issue.

With proper care and proper precaution, "Lost in North Carolina" can have a normal life and a great sex life to go with it. My darling and I have been together two years, and I have not contracted herpes. I expect to live a long life with her and not have a problem. And if I get herpes, it will not be the end of the world. There is life after herpes.

To "Lost," I would say, "Start believing in yourself and don't look for reasons to fail. If you think no one will want you, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fact that you have herpes will not stop someone from loving you. What will is a defeatist attitude." Sign me ... HOLDING THE HAND OF SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN THERE

DEAR HOLDING: I subscribe to your philosophy for successful living -- and it applies to more challenges than herpes. Thank you for a helpful letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I write to offer hope to the lady who confided to you that she feels that now she has genital herpes, no one will ever want her.

When I caught genital herpes two years ago, I felt the same way. Back then I took your advice and contacted the Herpes Foundation. These caring people got me set up with my local support chapter and I began attending their monthly meetings. Through these meetings I met my soul mate, who is also afflicted.

We plan to be married in the future. Out of something bad came something wonderful! I hope this helps the woman who wrote to you by letting her know that all is not lost. -- LIVING (WELL) IN MESA, ARIZ.

DEAR ABBY: I have a problem that may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it really bothers me.

I meet people, and the next time I see them, they do not remember having met me. While I can't always remember the name of a new acquaintance, I can at least remember having met that person.

Abby, it's a blow to my ego when someone has no recollection of having met me. I admit that I am on the shy and quiet side; perhaps that is why I'm not remembered.

Is there anything I can do to make a lasting impression? -- MR. FORGETTABLE

DEAR MR.: A good way to be remembered is to pay a new acquaintance a compliment. You need not go overboard, but everyone appreciates being complimented.

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