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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's Cool Confidence Trumps Man's Crassness

DEAR ABBY: I recently attended an Indian Head Start Directors conference in Washington, D.C., where I met an amazing woman.

This lady and I were riding a city bus, taking in the sights, as neither of us was able to walk for long periods of time because of health problems. As we chatted, a young man in his 20s who was standing near our seat listened to our conversation.

During the conversation, I asked her how old she was. When she said she was 46, I couldn't believe it because she looked so young. When I expressed surprise at her age, the young man chimed in, "Yeah, you'd be a real knockout of an older woman if you'd lose some weight!" I, and the other bus passengers, were appalled at his rudeness.

My friend, however, simply looked at him coolly and replied: "I'll have you know, young man, that I AM a knockout. My self-worth and self-esteem do not depend on what you seem to perceive as my shortcomings. There are people in this world who think I'm the sexiest, wittiest and most dedicated person that they have ever met -- so what you think does not concern me!"

The other passengers broke into applause when she finished. Although I had the impression that he hadn't planned to, the young man got off at the next stop.

I wrote this to thank the lady for not letting the crassness of some people destroy her positive self-image. She has become my role model, and although we may never meet again, I'll never forget her example. Her name was Brenda. -- STANDING TALLER NOW

DEAR TALLER NOW: Those who would remind someone that she (or he) is fat, thin, short or tall are either woefully ignorant or brutally insensitive, and possibly both. And after reading your letter, I'm sure there will be more people applauding Brenda's stance than her fellow passengers on the bus.

DEAR ABBY: "Worried in Woodland Hills" wanted to know what she could do to make the "coming out" process easier for her son. I was moved by her caring and loving regard for her son, whom she feels might be gay. I have no advice for her, only my admiration for what a wonderful mother she must be.

I am 42 and have been out since I was 18. It has never been a problem for me. The problem was always in the minds of other people, and their reaction to something they did not understand. If she is right, her attitude will make a world of difference and help create one more well-adjusted, loving human being. I have known too many who have suffered, and some who have even died, because of the shame and disgrace they were made to feel. I am writing to say thank you to that woman who is truly a mother in the highest sense, and to you, Abby, because your answer was right on. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, SEATTLE

DEAR BEEN THERE: I'm sure your letter will be meaningful, not only to the mother from Woodland Hills, but also to parents everywhere who are emotionally supportive of their gay children. Thank you for your kind words about my reply.

However, several readers have written to tell me that I missed my chance to tell the mother that PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) could be an excellent resource for her. Founded in 1981, PFLAG is a respected support, education and advocacy organization with chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 11 other countries.

For literature or referral to a local chapter, write: PFLAG, 1101 14th St. N.W., Suite 1030, Washington, D.C. 20005; or call (202) 638-4200. The e-mail address is info@PFLAG.org, or you may visit the Web site at http://www.PFLAG.org.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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