Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I recently watched a country music award given to two men. The first to speak hogged the mike, gabbed about his sick child at home, thanked everyone in the music business and then invited his partner to speak. As the other man approached the mike, the first remembered he hadn't thanked his wife, shouldered his way back in and droned on about how many years they had been together, yadda-yadda-yadda.

The partner looked sad as the music came up and they went to commercial. I felt angry that he wasn't acknowledged and didn't get to say a word or two. It happens so often, I wanted to comment.

At every Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, etc., award ceremony, every double or group award has one windbag who grabs the mike, tells his kids to go to bed and thanks everyone from his kindergarten teacher to his mailman while the others wait patiently until the allotted time runs out. It hurts to see the pained expressions on the faces of the partners whose finest hour is ruined by a selfish, egotistical microphone hog.

Since we know we can't teach them to be considerate and to share, maybe the awards committee could make new rules that would stifle the selfish windbags and eliminate those endlessly long programs. What do you think? -- RUTH W., VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.

DEAR RUTH: Take a bow. You deserve a standing ovation for saying what a great many members of a captive audience have long been thinking. In the days of vaudeville, a long-handled hook was used to remove lingering performers from the stage.

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Frustrated," who was looking for an alternative to a religious wedding ceremony, may I suggest secular Humanist clergy?

I am a Humanist minister from the Humanist Society of Friends whose celebrants, ministers, chaplains, counselors and pastors are all secular Humanists. You can find us throughout the United States and Canada. For details, your readers can call the American Humanist Association toll-free number: (800) 743-6646, or e-mail them at

I have performed nonreligious weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies since 1963, when I first obtained my license from the state of Ohio to solemnize marriages. My state license is identical to that of any other clergy. -- DR. RICK RICKARDS, CLEVELAND

DEAR DR. RICKARDS: Thank you for pointing this out. After I printed that letter, I was flooded with letters from readers telling me that Humanist celebrants function the same way members of traditional clergy do -- with one exception: They are nontheists.

Many people also wrote to remind me that Unitarian Universalist ministers are also willing to perform ceremonies without reference to God. The telephone number of the Unitarian Universalist Association is (617) 742-2100. Their Web address is:

To all of you who took the time to write, thank you for the input.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600