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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I must respond to "On the Spot in Florida," whose girlfriend announced her requirements for an engagement ring. You said it showed she was more interested in what she could get than in the man.

That may be so; however, I have two daughters, and I told them early on that when they received a marriage proposal to inform their suitor their mother would not give her approval unless they received at least a 1-carat diamond engagement ring.

My reason was not to teach my girls to focus on the ring, but on the willingness of the suitor to sacrifice in order to buy the ring, his willingness to strive toward a goal for the one he loves. Let's face it, if the man couldn't come up with a way to provide such a ring prior to marriage, how could he be counted on to provide the necessities once they have children? -- MOTHER IN HAMPTON, GA.

DEAR MOTHER: Your take on this was in the distinct minority. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "On the Spot" should run, run, RUN and never look back. He's the current joke with his "girlfriend" and her friends. She wants to see how many hoops she can make him jump through in the "relationship game." I know. It's a game my girlfriends and I all played. The common strategy: Make demands early in the relationship when a guy's emotions are running high, and you're likely to get whatever you ask for.

OK, "On the Spot": You have now been tipped off by a pro. I hope you'll see you're being played before you make a financial investment. The emotional investment you have already made will hurt you and affect your future relationships.

I no longer play the "game," and I wish I never had. -- GUILTY IN TENNESSEE

DEAR GUILTY: If confession is good for the soul, I hope yours will also help that naive young man see the truth about his "Sweetie." Read on:

DEAR ABBY: That piece of 32-year-old "eye candy" won't be that way in another 15 years, but she'll still be a gold digger. She's not in love with him; she's in love with being beautiful and what it can bring her. Let someone else be the high bidder, then she'll be his problem, not yours. There are plenty of women out there who would appreciate a fine man, regardless of the size and shape of the diamond. Run, fella, run -- and count your blessings that you found out early about her. -- STEVE IN TUCSON, ARIZ.

DEAR STEVE: Spoken like a man who had a narrow escape of his own. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Tell "On the Spot" to watch out for the words "prove your love." When a man says that, it usually means he requires sex from a woman before he'll propose. Then he will disappear into the night, and she's left sans proposal.

With a woman, it can mean something different. I'll lay dollars to doughnuts that "lady-love" will accept the proposal and the ring, and then five days later break the engagement and refuse to return the ring. The alternative is even worse -- he could marry her.

Please tell him there are easier ways to get from being "On the Spot" to "Sadder but Wiser." He should drop her immediately. She's poison. -- A WOMAN WHO'S SEEN TOO MUCH, PINE BUSH, N.Y.

DEAR SEEN TOO MUCH: Thanks for adding to the chorus. If "On the Spot" isn't warned by now, there's no hope for him. Thanks to all of you readers who took time to write such heartfelt letters.

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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