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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: When I was 12, I couldn't wait to wear a bra. By the time I turned 16 last summer, I decided I'd had enough of wearing a bra. My mom, who hasn't worn one since she was 18, had no problem with it as long as it wasn't obvious that I was braless. And for six months it wasn't.

Not until I went to a slumber party, and some of the other girls there saw me change into my pj's, did anyone notice I was not wearing a bra.

The girls began to make fun of me, telling me that only lesbians go braless. (It doesn't help that I currently have a boyfriend.) Now word has gotten all around school, and people are doing all sorts of things to make fun of me, from boys pretending to unsnap my nonexistent bra to a girl actually coming on to me thinking I was really gay. My mom says she was lucky; going braless was accepted when she was a teen, and I should just ignore the comments and they'll eventually stop.

Having gone without a bra this long, I don't want to go back -- they are just too uncomfortable and I am too flat to have any use for them. But I can't stand the constant ridicule. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do? -- BRALESS (NO CITY OR STATE, PLEASE)

DEAR BRALESS: I'm old enough to remember when feminists burned their bras in symbolic protest of restrictions on our freedom. It had nothing to do with a person's sexual orientation then -- and your classmates are flaunting their ignorance if they think it has anything to do with it now. What nonsense!

What probably started out as a joke has taken on a life of its own and has gone too far. The behavior you are describing sounds like harassment, and the principal of your school should be informed. Part of his or her job is to guarantee that students can pursue an education free of harassment. Please don't wait.

DEAR ABBY: I recently received an invitation to a wedding shower requesting that all gifts should be made in cash. Included with the invitation was a small envelope in which to place the money.

When I inquired about presenting a more traditional gift to the couple, I was told they didn't need anything. They have purchased an expensive new home, furniture, new automobiles, etc. The wedding and reception are being paid for by the bride's family, so the bride and groom have incurred little or no expense for these events.

Abby, I have attended bridal showers and weddings where a money tree was offered as an option in gift-giving. However, I find this to be in extremely poor taste and highly presumptuous. I have talked to others who are being invited, and we see this as nothing more than a ploy to gather a huge cash gift.

Your thoughts on this, please. -- AN OFFENDED FRIEND

DEAR OFFENDED: I agree that to ask for money is in poor taste and presumptuous, and to include an envelope with the invitation was tacky. I'd advise you to skip the shower unless you want to be soaked.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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