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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I need advice on airline etiquette. I am over 6 feet tall and a frequent traveler. As the distance between my knees and the seat in front of me in coach class is reduced by the airlines, is it unreasonable to expect the person in front of me to ask permission before pushing the seat back? Do passengers have the right to push as far back as possible without regard to the inconvenience and discomfort it may cause the passengers behind them?

Several times in the past few years, people -- usually women -- have pushed their seat backs into my knees, and when I told them nicely there was no more room for reclining, proceeded to push their seat back even farther. Not only is it uncomfortable and rude, it makes work on a laptop computer impossible. If someone were behind me, I wouldn't dream of reclining without his or her permission.

If there isn't a definitive rule, how about taking a stand to establish one? I know many travelers would be pleased to have this point of etiquette specifically addressed. -- PDX TRAVELER, TIGARD, ORE.

DEAR PDX TRAVELER: The passenger in front of you has a right to recline his seat, although it is rude and abrasive to do so without first obtaining permission. A solution to your problem would be to request bulkhead seating when you make your next reservation.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend, whom I've known for eight years, frequently asks to borrow my clothes. I don't mind lending them to her, but she never returns them. After a while, she can't remember if they're hers or mine, so when I ask for something back, she claims it is hers.

I've tried saying no to her, but she always talks me into it. I value her friendship, and that makes it harder to stick to my guns and not give in. Is there a way to stop her from borrowing without destroying our friendship? I'm running out of clothes and patience. -- ALMOST NUDE IN OAKLAND, CALIF.

DEAR ALMOST NUDE: Stand in front of your mirror and practice saying, "No more. I'm running out of clothes and I'm no longer comfortable with this." If she's a real friend, she'll stop taking advantage of you.

However, if you can't bring yourself to refuse her, mark the labels in your clothes with your initials so there will be no question to whom they belong.

DEAR ABBY: My grandparents are flying into town soon to celebrate my mother's and grandfather's birthdays. My father wants to take a home-baked cake to the restaurant where we're having dinner. Is this appropriate? He insists it shouldn't be a problem. However, my mother and I think it would not be a good idea. We even joked about a "cake cutting fee" similar to that of a "corkage fee." What do you think? -- HEIDI

DEAR HEIDI: I see nothing inappropriate about taking a home-baked cake to the restaurant. It would add a personal touch to the celebration. However, I would contact the restaurant in advance and obtain their approval to be certain they wouldn't prefer you purchase a cake from them.

You could always forgo dessert at the restaurant and have cake and coffee at home.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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