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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This letter is in response to "Wants to Be Loved in Pennsylvania," whose fiance refused to set a date because he said she "loved him too much." There is one strong, practical, inescapable truth. Almost NO single man, including her fiance, thinks that marriage is a good idea. He associates it with getting old, becoming settled and being tied down. Almost ALL fiances need a strong jolt to upset their satisfied complacency and to make them realize how important and necessary their woman is to them.

She should make herself unavailable to him. No ultimatums, no blame-placing, no arguments. Just a clear announcement that he obviously has different future goals than she, and that she is immediately separating toward hers. And stick to it! If it's meant to be, he will quickly realize that she is essential to his happiness, and he'll discover (as have millions of other married men) how happy and fulfilling the dreaded marital life really is.

Take it from this 79-year-old married man who faced and made that fortunate decision as a 40-year-old bachelor. Believe me, almost all men need that strong kick in the pants to awaken them to what life is really all about. She should stop kicking herself and direct it where it will do some good. -- JOHN H. STEINEMANN, SAN DIEGO

DEAR JOHN: You may speak for a percentage of men of your generation, but you don't speak for all of them. Many men want to be married -- and they want it more than some women do. That's when they write to me. Readers, something tells me this letter will generate some interesting comments from many of you.

DEAR ABBY: You have printed stories in your column about the kindness of strangers. Well, I have a story to tell:

In 1978, my sister and I were traveling together. We visited the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Ariz. We had some car trouble near Parker, Ariz., and had to be towed to a motel.

After the car was fixed the next day, we toured the Joshua Tree National Monument. At about 2 p.m. we decided we were hungry, so we stopped at a restaurant, only to discover when we entered that they were closed until 4:30 p.m. We asked one of the men sitting at the counter where we could find a restaurant that would be open, since we were traveling and were very hungry. He jumped up and said, "Come on in!"

Abby, the cook was stretched out on the floor napping, but the man got him up to prepare a meal for us. We had pot roast, creamed potatoes, vegetables, biscuits and honey and fresh coffee. We felt like royalty being served in a "closed" restaurant. It was one of the highlights of our trip.

As we were leaving, we took a snapshot of that little restaurant to remind us in years to come how kind they were to total strangers. It was called the Stardust. -- RUTH RANSHAW, HARRISBURG, PA.

P.S. At the time, I was 62 and my sister was 73.

DEAR RUTH: We are bombarded daily with bad news, so it's refreshing to hear stories about acts of kindness. It reaffirms the basic goodness of people.

With a customer service policy like the Stardust's, I hope they're still in business and thriving. Thank you for writing.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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