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DEAR ABBY: I have read your column since I was in high school but never dreamed that one day I would be writing to you.

My 21-year-old son and his 23-year-old girlfriend have been living together for nearly a year. They recently became engaged. My husband and I were delighted, because we were never happy about their living arrangement.

They have decided to be married on the beach in Hawaii. Her family owns a condo there. This presents a problem. My husband was recently laid off from his job, and money is tight. I explained to my son that my husband and I will be unable to attend the wedding. I asked them to please reconsider the ceremony in Hawaii, and to take their vows here. The trip to Hawaii could be their honeymoon.

He is my only son, and I have always dreamed of the day I would attend his wedding. However, after many lengthy discussions with him -- some not so nice -- it appears that I will not fulfill my dream. They told us that they have no intention of changing their plans. Of course, her parents will be at the wedding. They have much more money than we will ever have, and they planned on going anyway.

I feel betrayed and hurt by my son and his fiancee. I thought we had a good relationship. Am I right to feel this way? I have told my husband that if you say I should get over it, I will try. My daughter, who is 17, also feels that her brother is abandoning us for the new, wealthier family. Abby, perhaps I should mention that the future in-laws are planning on buying a house for the newlyweds.

I am heartbroken because of my son's disregard for my feelings. Every day that goes by drives a bigger wedge in my relationship with him. Please hurry your answer. -- MOTHER OF THE GROOM

DEAR MOTHER: I understand how hurt and saddened you are by the wedding plans. However, since the bride's family traditionally plans and pays for the wedding, it is up to them to decide where the ceremony will take place. The bride may have always dreamed of being married on the beach, and her dream must come before yours.

Your son is caught in the middle. He is trying to make his bride happy, form a good relationship with his new in-laws, and take your feelings and financial circumstances into account.

Perhaps your budget could be stretched to allow one of you to travel to Hawaii for the wedding, or you can host a small reception for the honeymooners when they return to the mainland. But please, do not make your son feel guilty.

DEAR ABBY: For the most part, the letter you printed from "No Name, No City, No Church" expressed some understandable sentiments. However, there was one statement made by "Ms. No" that caused me to take umbrage. She said, "If they (the men at church) were still unmarried in their 40s, there was usually a very good reason for it."

I am in my 40s. I am unmarried, and I often remark to friends that I love being single. There are many of us 40-ish men who are unmarried because we want to be -- not because we are warped, psychotic, too attached to our mothers, immature, have smelly feet, or for any other reason. It's because we like it that way.

"Ms. No's" statement would seem to imply that there is some defect in us, and I just don't think that's true. -- MIDDLE-AGED, SINGLE AND CONTENT IN ANDERSON, S.C.

DEAR MIDDLE-AGED: You'll get no argument from me. Men like you are called confirmed bachelors. Your female counterparts are equally committed to singlehood. Since you are happy, and your social lives give you all the satisfaction you desire, enjoy!

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-sized, 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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