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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The other day, a female co-worker and I were talking about friendship. She informed me that she prefers the company of men. When I asked her why, she said that women were small-minded and boring.

It saddened me to realize she has so little insight into human nature. The characteristics she shuns are individual personality traits, not qualities of gender.

Abby, I am profoundly pleased that during the past 50 years so many things have changed for the better for women. Nevertheless, when I consider how in the past mankind lost the contributions of an untold number of brilliant and wise women, it fills me with regret. Who knows what advances could have been made in this world of ours if half of the population hadn't been left out of the process?

My workmate's perception of her own gender may be understandable, given how few women have had the chance to contribute much outside their own homes -- but I caution her and others who share her opinion to realize how small-minded these perceptions sound to those who have the wisdom to know better. -- TENNESSEE (MALE) FEMINIST

DEAR FEMINIST: From the tone of your co-worker's comments, she must be living in the 1950s. Women who make blanket accusations about their own gender to men in this day and age often do it to be manipulative. Watch out for that one.

DEAR ABBY: This is an unusual "how we met" story. If you think it's worth printing, it would be a wonderful anniversary surprise for Marie and Ed.

Several years after my father died, my mother, Marie, invited my two sisters and me, and our husbands, on a seven-day cruise with her -- her treat.

One night, we met a group of lovely young women from Minneapolis, my Mom's hometown. A few days later, one of the women, Debbie, noticed that Mom was attractive and fun-loving -- but alone. She said her husband's grandfather, Ed, was a widower, and she thought Ed and Marie would enjoy each other. She asked Mom if it would be OK to give Ed her phone number. Mom agreed.

When Debbie returned home, she gave Ed Mom's phone number and a snapshot of her that had been taken on the cruise. He called Mom, and they spoke on the phone for more than an hour. Among other things, they discovered they had both been happily married for more than 50 years. After that, they talked almost daily for the next couple of weeks.

They met in person on April Fool's three years ago. During the months that followed, they fell deeply in love. On Labor Day, Ed proposed, and he and Mom were married Thanksgiving weekend. She was 76 and he was 79.

Mom and Ed will celebrate their third anniversary on Nov. 29. His family and ours are thrilled they are so happy. They're beautiful together. -- DELIGHTED DAUGHTERS

DEAR DELIGHTED: Your family indeed has much to be thankful for.

Congratulations, Ed and Marie, and many more years of happiness.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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