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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I had an ear infection while my regular doctor was out of town. The doctor I was referred to has practiced here for many years.

While I was seated in the examination room, the doctor stood behind me looking around the side into my ear. No nurse was present. Suddenly, without warning, I felt his hand go down my blouse and into my bra. I was so shocked I stood up and walked out.

I have since learned that this doctor does a "breast exam" on his female patients each time he sees them. I have talked with some of these women (my friends), and they see nothing wrong with this method of examination. In fact, they feel fortunate to be checked so often. I say this is not the way to do a breast exam. What do you think? -- NO DOCTOR'S PLAYMATE

DEAR NO PLAYMATE: I think you need a second opinion, and it should come from the licensing committee of the state in which this doctor is playing doctor. The way he's doing breast exams is highly unusual and may even be sexual battery.

DEAR ABBY: I have been a loyal employee working for the same company for nearly 40 years. Six months ago they switched to a new computer system. It has been very stressful for me and others in my age bracket to learn the new procedures. Younger people seem to grasp them more easily.

Management won't give me a buy-out package, and I am too young to retire. I was hoping my last seven years with the company would be pleasant. I hate going to work. I hate feeling ignorant. What should I do? -- BAYPORT BABY BOOMER

DEAR BAYPORT BABY BOOMER: It's normal to feel unsure of things new and foreign to our experience. Since you can't avoid the changes that have occurred, change your attitude and join the computer evolution.

Because you and the other older workers are behind in the learning curve, ask your boss to provide extra computer classes and workshops for those of you who did not grow up with computers. It's cost-effective and will save the company time and money in the long run -- as well as relieve the stress you and others are experiencing.

DEAR ABBY: Today many extended families use the word "step." After my mother died and Dad remarried, we didn't know how to address his new wife. She was quick to suggest "Bonus Mom." Since she and my father lost their spouses within days of each other, they consider this their "bonus time" together.

Extended families should adopt the word "bonus" and dump the word "step." It's a great conversation starter, too. -- BONUS FAMILY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR BONUS FAMILY: I like the positive message that "bonus" conveys. It connotes something unexpected and desirable. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: In response to the woman in Canada who told her stepson to refer to her as his "Wicked Stepmother," my 13-year-old stepson and I have coined a new word for our relationship. He calls me "S'Mom." It's an abbreviated version of "stepmom." It expresses the affection we have for each other and has become a term of endearment. -- GLAD TO BE A S'MOM IN VIRGINIA

DEAR GLAD: S'marvelous idea! Thanks for sharing.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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