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by Abigail Van Buren

Real Sweethearts Spread Valentine Cheer All Year

DEAR READERS: A Happy Valentine's Day to one and all! There may be snowdrifts on the ground or rain clouds in the forecast, but regardless of what the weatherman says, there's sunshine and springtime in our hearts.

So, be a sweetheart: Call someone who's alone to say, "I'm thinking about you." If you know someone who's in a nursing home, take some flowers. Put your discarded belongings in a box and call Goodwill. Donate some blood. Listen to your teen-ager. Tell your parents you think they're great. Tape a love note to his (or her) mirror. Forgive an enemy. Send a donation to Meals on Wheels or the Salvation Army.

And, if you love someone -- tell him (or her) now; please don't wait until next Valentine's Day to be a sweetheart again. -- LOVE, ABBY

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 27-year-old woman with a master's degree. I have a great job at an Internet company. Last summer, my closest friends and I traveled to three foreign countries, saw four plays, three baseball games, one soccer match and seven concerts. So what could possibly be the problem?

My family is concerned that I do not have a boyfriend. They can't understand how I can be 27 and unmarried, let alone without a "significant other." My father is worried that my "eggs will dry up"; my mother "only wants me to be happy." Mother calls only to ask if I am dating anyone, and when I tell her about my adventures, she always says it would be so much nicer with a boyfriend.

I know people have more serious problems, but this is something many single people deal with, and quite frankly, it is very frustrating. There are many more facets to my life than husband-hunting, but my parents aren't interested in anything else.

Abby, please tell your readers who are parents that a constant barrage of relationship questions every time they talk to their child is not going to make it happen any faster. When it does happen, we will joyfully tell them all about it. -- SINGLE AND PSYCHED IN HOBOKEN, N.J.

DEAR SINGLE AND PSYCHED: I'll go even further than you're asking me to. Parents who constantly harp on the "have you found a boyfriend (or girlfriend)" question subtly undermine their children's self-esteem, force them into a defensive posture, and reduce their likelihood of finding someone. People who are happy with their lives and proud of their accomplishments are far more attractive candidates for a meaningful relationship than those who are made to feel their achievements and interests are not important.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a single dad. My daughter just started pre-kindergarten this year. Here's my problem: My daughter's teacher is very attractive. She doesn't wear a wedding ring, seems to be very caring and has a great sense of humor. I would really like to take her out if she's available.

I can't seem to come up with any ideas on how to approach her without making us both uncomfortable. If she says no or that she's spoken for, seeing as how we'll be seeing each other every day, this could be awkward.

I haven't had these feelings for anyone in more than five years. Please help. -- STUCK IN NEW YORK

DEAR STUCK: If you've been out of circulation so long that you no longer know how to ask someone out, try this: Mention a play or sporting event and ask if she'd like to go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Attraction is usually a two-way street.

If you're concerned about possible embarrassment, wait until closer to the end of the school session.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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