Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Recently when I dropped by my sister "Judith's" home for a visit, I found my 13-year-old niece, "Libby," curled in a fetal position on the sofa. Her face was red and wet from tears. After half an hour of coaxing, she confided what caused her to be distraught.

Libby had confronted Judith that morning with suspicions that her mother was having an affair. Not only did Judith confirm her daughter's suspicions, she informed Libby that the affair had been going on for several years and was nowhere near finished. Then my sister swore Libby to silence. Libby said Judith was not only not sorry, but she was proud of what she was doing.

I held Libby for the next two hours while she poured out her sorrows. Then she asked me what she should do. Abby, I didn't know what to say. I've always lived by the "mind your own business" dictate, but I'm not so sure about it now.

I don't doubt Libby's story. I know of two other affairs my sister has had. What upsets me is Judith's lack of good sense. Tell me, what kind of mother proudly confirms her affair and then forces her 13-year-old daughter to keep the secret from her father? -- MY HEAD IS SPINNING

DEAR MY HEAD IS SPINNING: A very shortsighted, cruel and unrealistic one.

Stay close to your niece. She needs someone to talk to. Tell your sister you know about her affair. Suggest she and her husband go to marriage counseling -- or else you will have to tell him for the sake of your niece's emotional health. Whatever the outcome, this is an unfortunate and traumatic event in your niece's life. She will need counseling.

DEAR ABBY: This is for "No Name, No City, No Hope, No Life," who remained in an abusive marriage "for the sake of the children." She said she'd leave when the children were grown, but now her husband has health problems and she has responsibilities.

Abby, this woman is only middle-aged. I was 72 when I left a miserable 45-year marriage. My message to her:

You say you have "responsibilities." What responsibilities? To him? Get out! Don't look back! I love being free! Abby is right. It is never too late until you are dead. I love living alone. -- FREE AT LAST IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR FREE AT LAST: Bless you for writing. Your letter may be just the push that others need to reclaim their lives and self-respect.

DEAR ABBY: I am wildly in love with a wonderful man. We have been seeing each other for two years. There is only one problem: He has one long, bushy eyebrow that grows above both eyes. It's very unattractive. I have tried dropping hints about how quick and easy waxing and plucking can be. It does no good.

What can I do, short of attacking him with a tweezer while he's asleep? -- SPLITTING HAIRS, SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR SPLITTING: Stop hinting and tell him that many hairy, masculine men have their eyebrows shaped. Also, consider presenting him a gift certificate for a day at a spa for a hair cut, manicure, massage and facial. If you do, he'll be so "mellowed out" he won't protest the wax job.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600