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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Regarding your advice to the physician whose girlfriend has poor table manners, you advised him to tell her that "her parents shortchanged her in one area -- her table manners."

Her parents? Always the parents! Nowhere in his letter did the physician refer to her parents. I am overweight and love good food. However, I eat too fast. My parents always told us to take our time while eating, to enjoy our food and not to eat the meat first. Is it my parents' fault that I did not listen? I think not!

This lady may have developed her bad habits in school or in work cafeterias. Perhaps her schedule forces her to eat "on the run." Please, Abby, don't blame the parents. You can do better. -- WILLIAM S., TORONTO, CANADA

DEAR WILLIAM S.: The physician did not complain that his girlfriend ate her food too quickly; he said her table manners were poor. He asked if I had any suggestions on how to give her pointers on manners without embarrassing her.

I advised him to begin by listing the qualities he loved about her, and then explaining that there was one area in which her parents had shortchanged her -- her table manners. The reason I suggested it was not to malign the parents, but to introduce the subject in a way that would not make the woman defensive.

DEAR ABBY: My husband travels extensively on business. Because he's gone so much of the time, I pay the bills and handle his correspondence. He often calls and asks the children to check the post office box for letters and postcards to them from him.

Some weeks ago, he was in a post office in Arizona to send some letters home. The postal clerk who assisted him copied our P.O. box number and wrote him several letters about how infatuated she was with his looks and how she hoped he was not really married. She mentioned in one of the letters that she does this regularly, in order to have so-called pen pals.

Our 14-year-old daughter opened one of her letters by mistake, thinking it was from a relative, and was horrified. My husband is completely unaware that this has happened. He's en route between Cincinnati and Maryland.

I am furious. If my husband were a celebrity, this would be considered stalking. I feel the clerk's behavior was highly inappropriate and something should be done about it. Our privacy was violated, and I need some answers. -- FURIOUS IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FURIOUS: I don't blame you for being furious. The postal worker was a mile out of line. I contacted the Postal Inspection Service and explained your problem. The representative said the most effective way to handle this is to go to your local post office, request a complaint form and turn it in. That ought to cool her ardor in a hurry.

CHUCKLE FOR THE DAY: A young boy handed a bank teller a check made out for 1 cent and said, "Please cash this check." The teller looked at it and asked the boy, "How do you want it -- heads or tails?" (Submitted by Lou Yelnick, Sea Gate, N.Y.)

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