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

by Abigail Van Buren

Teacher's Idea of a Joke Is Student's Idea of a Dud

DEAR ABBY: I need your opinion about something that happened at school. I am 13 years old, and my science teacher has an expression that bothers me. He says, "Life's unfair -- and then you die." He uses this expression whenever a student complains about something. He thinks it's funny.

I know kids complain a lot, but I think he is wrong to say this. He makes it seem like life is hopeless. It makes me think about the boys in Colorado who shot up their school, and about teen-agers who commit suicide. I think they felt hopeless, too.

I would complain to the principal, but he knows about this, and he also thinks it's funny. What do you think? -- WONDERING IN MURRIETA, CALIF.

DEAR WONDERING: I think your teacher needs some new material, because if you have quoted him accurately, his attitude is extremely condescending. Perhaps he should lay off the smart remarks and consider whether some of those complaints are valid.

One thing is certain: He will never make it as a stand-up comic. He should put more effort into his daytime job.

DEAR ABBY: Until January 1997, I thought I was destined to die weighing more than 350 pounds. Losing weight seemed like an insurmountable challenge. However, a health crisis got me started, and with the motivation, information and fellowship provided by the weight-loss support group TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), I have literally become half the person I used to be.

I'm proud to report that I'm at the goal weight prescribed by my doctor. I now wear clothes nine sizes less than I did three years ago. Abby, I can now walk up to four miles without stopping instead of one block, and I'm able to climb 10 flights of stairs without breathing hard. I'm sharing this personal information to encourage others who struggle with being overweight to consider joining a chapter of TOPS for help.

TOPS differs from commercial weight-loss organizations. Goals and food plans are not set by TOPS; members get their food plans and goals from their physicians. Ours is the oldest international, nonprofit weight-loss support group, and our philosophy is that change comes from within. By helping one another, TOPS members make that lifesaving change.

I owe my life to TOPS, and I know from personal experience that it can be a godsend to many of your readers. Please let people know about it, Abby. -- ROE WIERSGALLA, MILWAUKEE

DEAR ROE: First, let me congratulate you on your 180-pound weight loss. The photographs that accompanied your letter show you to be not only beautiful on the inside, but on the outside as well.

Readers, I have mentioned TOPS in this column before. It was founded in 1948 and boasts more than 270,000 members worldwide in more than 11,000 chapters. TOPS provides friendship and emotional support for its members, both inside and outside meetings. It is affordable -- annual dues are only $20 in the United States and $25 in Canada. Local dues are set by each chapter to cover expenses and are normally 50 cents to $1 a week. Because TOPS is affordable, members can receive ongoing support necessary to maintain their goals for a lifetime.

TOPS offers retreats, rallies and recognition days, as well as a monthly membership magazine. It is also a leading supporter of obesity research, and since 1966 has donated more than $5 million to fund obesity and metabolic programs at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Those interested may obtain more information by calling the toll-free number: (800) 932-8677 or by visiting the Web site at

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