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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Jack," is a wonderful companion and a caring father, but he has one hang-up that's driving me up the wall and embarrassing me in front of our friends. I've talked with him about it until I'm blue in the face, but he refuses to accept it. He has been losing his hair steadily for the last 10 years, and although nearly half of our female friends have bald husbands, Jack refuses to acknowledge the fact that he no longer has the hairline he once had. Abby, he now parts his hair behind his ear and "sweeps" it over the bald spot.

To make matters worse, his favorite sport is boating. No matter how much "goo" he uses to keep his swatch of hair anchored down, once we're out on the water, he has a foot-long "flag" of hair streaming in the breeze. When we have friends with us, they often stare at the back of his head in horrified fascination, and I'm so embarrassed that I don't know where to look. What can I do to get Jack to wake up and realize the only person he's fooling is himself? -- FRANTIC IN FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.

DEAR FRANTIC: Balding is an issue for many people -- both male and female. Some people are more sensitive about it than others, and go to great lengths to "cover up" the problem. However, your husband's sensitivity to losing his hair has gotten to the point where it has become a case of "the emperor's new clothes."

If you can't convince your husband that bald is beautiful, you might be able to convince him that his disguise is fooling no one by taking a video camera along on your next boat trip. One look at the replay should help him see the wisdom of consulting a hairstylist who can assist him in maximizing the hair he has left -- or visiting a specialist to explore the option of a transplant or hairpiece. I wish you the best of luck. There are none so blind as they who will not see.

DEAR ABBY: My husband (I'll call him Nick) fathered a daughter out of wedlock 23 years ago. Nick and the mother were both very young and marriage was not an option. The child, "Sherry," was placed for adoption.

Sherry located her birth parents about six months ago. Only a few people (mostly relatives) know about this young woman. Nick and I have been married 18 years and have two children, 16 and 12. He and Sherry have a close relationship, and she has met our children.

Abby, we're unsure how we should explain this to people. Nick would like to have a large party and introduce her to our friends and family. I'm not certain that a large "coming out" party is the best way to go.

We have read your column for years and would appreciate your opinion. What would you do in our situation? -- NICK'S WIFE

DEAR WIFE: I commend you for your mature, healthy attitude. Since Sherry and her father now have a close relationship, your friends and relatives are sure to find out about her one way or another. Rather than giving Sherry a "coming out" party, a diplomatic way to introduce her might be to host a party during one of the holidays, when friends and family usually gather anyway. As the invitations are extended and accepted, all prospective guests should be told exactly who Sherry is to avoid any surprised reactions that could make her feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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