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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Eight months ago, I married "Tim." We're very happy. There's only one problem. Tim has a son from a previous marriage. The boy lives with his mother, "Agnes."

Abby, Tim's family invites Agnes to all the family holiday dinners. They say they do it for his son's sake, but I find it extremely uncomfortable. Last Christmas, I stayed home while Tim went to his mother's for dinner so he could be with his son and family.

Now that I'm Tim's wife, I feel strongly that I should no longer have to spend all my holidays with Agnes. Tim knows how I feel. He spends very little time with Agnes at these functions, but he says we must participate in these holiday dinners.

Tim has told his parents how awkward the situation is for me. They say we should be more mature about it. This is very upsetting, but what can I do? -- DREADING THE HOLIDAYS IN MEMPHIS

DEAR DREADING: The solution may lie in compromise. Now that you are Tim's wife, you may wish to start some holiday traditions of your own, and include Tim's son and family members. Consider inviting them for Christmas Eve dinner or brunch on Christmas morning, easing Agnes out of the picture. The situation may improve when Agnes finds a replacement for Tim, but meanwhile, take some positive steps to make your holidays brighter by not relying on his family for all your Christmas cheer.

DEAR ABBY: Having read the letter from "Newly Widowed, Baden, Pa.," who wondered when she could start going out in public, I must respond.

I am also in my 50s and was widowed two months ago. During my husband's last days fighting kidney cancer, our children and grandchildren came from out of state to be with us. The day after he died, I took my family to LegoLand. We had a wonderful day together. My husband would not have wanted us to sit around mourning his death. Instead, we celebrated together as a family.

A week after the funeral, I returned to work. I also signed up for two adult education classes and resumed my swim exercise class. If "Newly Widowed" is being stared at, perhaps it is because people don't know how to express their condolences to such a young widow. She shouldn't care what others think. If she has friends who think she should stay home and cry, she needs to find new ones.

While I miss my beloved husband with all my heart, I believe life is for the living. Please advise "Newly Widowed" to go out and enjoy life while she can. -- LYNN FROM VISTA, CALIF.

DEAR LYNN: I agree. I hope the widow heeds your wise words.

DEAR ABBY: What is the polite way to ask people not to bring gifts to our wedding? My fiance and I have lived together for 11 years and already have most everything we need. More toasters, juice glasses and towel sets will not fit in our house. -- BRIDE-TO-BE WHO HAS IT ALL

DEAR BRIDE-TO-BE: A simple statement printed on your invitation should do the trick: "No gifts, please. Your presence will be our cherished gift."

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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