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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Stephanie in Delaware," regarding the compliment she received in high school, reminded me of a compliment that changed my life.

Last September, I was flying home from Pittsburgh. I am one of those "oversized" women who take up the entire airline seat. The plane had three seats on one side of the aisle. Two seats on the other. I had the window seat on the side with two seats.

A good-looking gentleman (if you consider a Cary Grant look-alike good-looking) sat down beside me. He greeted me with a "Good morning," and a great smile. As he buckled his seat belt, he said, "I always feel cramped in these seats. Would you mind if I raised the armrest between us?" I know he didn't feel cramped. He wanted to make sure I was more comfortable.

During our flight, he complimented me on my hairstyle and the "lovely dress" I was wearing. His remarks had a lasting effect on me, Abby. Since that flight, I have lost 23 pounds, thanks to a gentleman who didn't scowl at an overweight woman, but instead, made her feel attractive. -- SLIMMING FAST IN FLORIDA

DEAR SLIMMING FAST: It's not the first time an attractive man has provided the incentive for a woman to do the right thing. Or the wrong thing, for that matter.

DEAR ABBY: Should I tell my ex-husband that our sons (8 and 11) told me they hate his new wife and "can't wait for them to get divorced"?

Although the boys didn't tell me NOT to say anything, I don't want to break a confidence, or worse yet -- make things more awkward than they already are at their dad's house. The boys are with them every other weekend.

Their stepmother is very moody and seems to enjoy belittling children -- including her own teen-agers, who are now exhibiting behavior problems.

Abby, I love my sons and feel it would be in their best interest if their dad knew how they felt about their stepmom. Your advice would be appreciated. -- CONCERNED MOM IN CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

DEAR MOM: Instead of being the town crier, urge your sons to speak for themselves and tell their father why they feel as they do. If it's possible for your ex-husband to encourage his wife to build a better relationship with the boys, it would be a far more effective motivator than anything you could say.

DEAR ABBY: My buddy and I have an ongoing debate about whether it's necessary to tip a person who delivers furniture. Everybody knows that pizza delivery people get tips, but shouldn't other kinds of delivery people as well?

Furniture deliverers move heavy objects like couches, armoires and beds -- and they often assemble the items they deliver. Sometimes they're also willing to haul unwanted furniture and appliances off the premises.

What's your opinion, Abby? Is tipping necessary? -- TWO GUYS IN MINNESOTA

DEAR GUYS: Tipping isn't mandatory. However, if the delivery person has done a good job and nothing is damaged, and some items required assembly, I see no reason why a gratuity should not be offered.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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