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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Why do people assume that happiness comes only with a relationship or marriage? I am a 24-year-old, happy, successful mother who enjoys the single life. I loved my son's father very much but things did not work out for us, and he hasn't been around for three years. I work at least 50 hours a week at my dream job, and enjoy my evening and weekend time with my 5-year-old son.

However, everywhere I go I hear how I "need" someone, or people ask how I can stand to sleep alone every night. (I love it!) I have been told by men wanting a relationship that it is "unnatural" to prefer being single and that my son "needs" a father.

Abby, my son is well-adjusted and has a grandpa and two uncles he spends a lot of time with. My parents have a wonderful loving marriage after 34 years, and I think that's great, but it is also unusual in this day and age. I may marry someday, but right now I'm enjoying the time with my son and an occasional date. Why can't people understand that? -- ALONE AND LOVING IT IN MISSOURI

DEAR ALONE: Many people feel they need someone else to make them "complete." Obviously, you are a strong and fulfilled individual in your own right, and you should not have to explain or defend your choice to anyone.

DEAR ABBY: I am a clergyman, and over the course of my 32 years in ministry, I have officiated at hundreds of weddings. I can't tell you the number of times the bride has gotten tangled up in her wedding gown, or tripped up the aisle or lost her veil. Some of them appear so awkward, and it's sad to see them floundering around in billows of fabric.

As the wedding season is upon us, may I suggest that bridal shops give brides some pointers about the dress they will wear. There must be techniques they can learn for their important day so they don't end up looking so silly. And is it possible for brides to practice at home so that they learn how to maneuver the dress? -- REVEREND IN N.J.

DEAR REVEREND: Those are good suggestions. Brides should practice walking in their gowns and bridal slippers. It will give them confidence and possibly prevent embarrassment or an injury.

DEAR ABBY: My father died 20 years ago. During his final illness my mother purchased two side-by-side cemetery plots in the town in which I grew up. My mother still lives there, although some of us kids have moved out of state.

I am writing because after 20 years, my father still does not have a gravestone. As a veteran, he got a military marker, but that's not a gravestone, and it's sinking into the ground. Since Mom is still with us, is the gravestone any of my business? (She has not remarried.) I have kept my mouth shut for almost two decades now, but I feel this is disrespectful to my father. Money to buy a gravestone is not a problem for Mom or for us children. Any suggestions? -- R.I.P'D OFF IN WALLA WALLA, WASH.

DEAR R.I.P.'D: Since your mother is still with you, discuss your feelings with her. It may be the result of gross procrastination, or a grave oversight.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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