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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I agree with your advice to "Concerned Knoxville Mom," who would like to scare her latchkey daughter into not opening the door to strangers. However, I have a better solution.

Mom should take the girl for a frank chat with a police officer who can relate actual horror stories. Perhaps arrangements could also be made for a police officer to address a school assembly occasionally on the topic of personal safety. The police would much rather prevent crimes than solve them. -- ROGER LEONARD, BOWIE, MD.

DEAR ROGER: That's a terrific idea. I love it when readers help each other. I'm sorry I didn't think of it. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the mother who allows her 10-year-old daughter "Amber" to stay home alone after school. If that mother would walk in my shoes for just one day, she would immediately abandon the practice. I am an emergency department nurse who has seen horrors occur to 10-year-olds who were left unsupervised.

I have tried frantically to blow life back into a 10-year-old boy who plunged into the icy water of a pond after he attempted to walk across too-thin ice. I have held the hand of a 10-year-old girl during an exam after she was brutally gang-raped by neighborhood teen-agers. I have heard the screams of a 10-year-old boy whose body was 100 percent burned in a raging house fire. I don't think I need to go on.

I realize children have different levels of maturity, but we must never forget that they are indeed children. How difficult would it be for "Concerned Mother" to find a teen-ager who would be willing to earn a few dollars to be with Amber for a few hours after school?

Some states have laws that prohibit children under a certain age being left alone. In Pennsylvania, the age is 12. If Amber were here in Pennsylvania, the "concerned" Knoxville mother would be arrested.

Please print this so that some parent who may not have considered all the consequences of leaving a child alone may see it. If it saves just one child from injury, it will be worth it. -- MORE CONCERNED IN YORK, PA.

DEAR MORE CONCERNED: I like your idea of getting a teen-ager to stay until the mother returns from work. If she has not already done so, the mother should also look into organized after-school activities for children of working parents.

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Tired of the Roots in Pennsylvania," about her boyfriend's fetish for women with blond hair, I'd like to throw in my 2 cents:

Many years ago (I am now 86), I had a blind date with a supposedly nice man. We went to a concert in a park. While we were walking up a hill, he went a little haywire when he noticed a blond woman walking about 10 feet ahead of us. He speeded up, and in order to keep pace, so did I. As soon as we got ahead of her, he turned around to look at this "blond goddess" and found himself staring at a woman who was close to 90! It proved how true is the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover."

If my poor blind date had been wearing false teeth, they surely would have fallen out! Needless to say, our first date was our last. -- GRAY-HAIRED GRANNY, LAGUNA HILLS, CALIF.

DEAR GRAY-HAIRED GRANNY: Perhaps the saying should be modified to: Don't judge a book by its front -- or back -- cover. The lesson your date learned holds true today: Flowing tresses do not necessarily mean a lovely young maiden is beneath them.

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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