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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was recently out for a walk with a group of women. Our plan was to have brunch together afterward. One of the women wore a baseball cap.

After we were seated, the lady removed her baseball cap and put it on the tablecloth where the next place setting would soon be. I proceeded to tell her to remove it immediately because it was inappropriate to place it on the table. She was very irritated when I corrected her. She said my opinion was stupid, raised her voice at me, and as much as said, "Shut up!"

The other women in the group didn't want to get involved. However, I informed them that placing a cap on the table was unhygienic. I asked the offender how she'd like to be seated where someone's cap had been and said I was surprised her mother had never taught her that. She finally removed it and placed it on the floor near her chair.

Abby, was I wrong to point out that headgear does not belong on tables where people eat? Isn't this something we should be taught and should teach our children? -- HATS OFF AT THE TABLE

DEAR HATS OFF: Yes, children should be taught that hats should not be placed on the dining table. However, the scene you created was more inappropriate than any breach of etiquette that may have occurred. You could have told the woman privately. By lecturing her publicly, you embarrassed everyone present.

DEAR ABBY: This letter is in response to "Troubled Mom in Washington," the grandmother who is raising the little girl. I would like her to hear the granddaughter's side:

I am 22 years old and would like to urge that woman to please continue to care for the child, for the child's sake. That child needs her. When I was 8, my father was murdered in a "supposed" drug deal. My mom had a nervous breakdown and lost all connection with reality. My stepdad mooched off our Social Security checks for dope and who knows what else, and left us practically penniless. As the oldest of three children, I assumed responsibility for my brother and sister and learned quickly what it was like to be a "mom." A neighbor would help us when she could, but otherwise we were pretty much on our own.

That is, until my grandmother rescued us. That year I entered the ninth grade weighing a pitiful 78 pounds, with a smile that had been pretty hard to come by. Grandma was 60 years old when she took in my mom, my brother and me. (My half-sister went with her father.) Grandma gave us all the love we hadn't had in a long time and desperately needed, and never once made us feel we were a nuisance. Grandma is a strong woman who's 67 years old now -- and I'm very grateful to her for rescuing us. -- LOVED GRANDDAUGHTER IN DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS

DEAR LOVED GRANDDAUGHTER: Your grandma is a matriarch -- truly the head of her family, and one who leads by example. That's often not an easy role to play, and I'm sure your loving tribute is justified. Orchids to Grandma.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "DONE IT ALL IN MUSKOGEE": Don't rest on your laurels yet. As Will Rogers once said, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

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

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