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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: A friend of mine complains that her husband, who's in his 80s, talks far too much in social settings. She says his ramblings and storytelling threaten to ruin their social life, which consists of small, private dinners and the occasional cocktail reception. She says if she doesn't shut him up, their friends will shun them because they've heard all his stories before. However, he has either forgotten this -- or relishes so much in the telling that he repeats them anyway.

To fix this, she's preparing a written list of subjects -- family, job, etc. -- that he's absolutely forbidden to discuss when they're socializing.

Some who know about this think it's a good idea and the only way for her to avoid more embarrassment and discomfort. Others feel it's an insult to her husband, and the real risk is not the couple's social standing, but her own marriage.


DEAR CURIOUS: I wish you had given me more information in your letter. Was the husband always this way? Could it be that he's become forgetful, or has had some small stroke? Or is he just a chatterbox who loves the sound of his own voice? At the very least, he needs a complete physical and mental status examination.

It's unrealistic to believe this man will carry his wife's list with him at all times and consult it before opening his mouth. Besides, true friends will reflect upon his positive traits and the friendship he has bestowed upon them in the past if his stories are repetitive or boring. And there is no law that says topics that have been discussed before can't be discussed again.

Whether the marriage will withstand her criticism depends upon the extent of his tolerance for her criticism. But he's a little old to trade her in.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter from the woman in Grand Prairie, Texas, who was a victim of "drug rape."

I am a deputy district attorney in San Diego, and her history is all too familiar. We see a number of cases just like hers, and she is right -- they are very difficult to prosecute. That is why the San Diego district attorney's office is launching a rape awareness campaign designed to educate young women about the dangers of drug- and alcohol-facilitated rape. The campaign consists of television and radio ads, posters, billboards and literature. Our hopes are that young women will become more aware of these dangerous predators out there who appear harmless. They are, simply put: RAPISTS.

Whether a victim was raped because she was surreptitiously slipped a drug or she took the drugs voluntarily, rape is rape. So, if you and your friends go out for the evening, watch out for each other. If a friend looks like she's had too much to drink, or looks like she can't take care of herself, take care of her -- before someone else does.

And if, despite your best precautions, you become a victim -- please go to your local police and report this crime. -- LISA WEINREB, DEPUTY D.A., SAN DIEGO

DEAR LISA: I applaud you for your rape awareness campaign, and hope other communities will follow suit. While I agree that a rape victim should report her assault to the police, I would also advise her to head straight for the nearest emergency room so she can be treated and evidence can be collected.

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