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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You have said that the secret to being beautiful is feeling beautiful. I learned that lesson on my first day of high school. As I was washing my hands in the rest room, a girl I didn't know started talking to me. I looked up and standing next to me was the plainest-looking girl I'd ever seen. Her face was round and flat. Her thin blond hair hung limply to her shoulders. Her figure was out of proportion and her posture was terrible. However, she was also bubbly, confident and kind.

I was surprised such an unattractive girl had the courage to be so outgoing and friendly. And yet, there she was, completely at ease with herself. I immediately decided I liked her.

I soon learned she was one of the most popular girls in school. Everyone liked her and thought she was beautiful. It seemed I was the only one not blinded by her personality.

As the school year progressed, we became good friends. One day as we talked, I caught myself thinking how much I liked the color of her hair. I tried hard to remember her as ugly -- but I couldn't. She was beautiful.

Since I met that girl, I no longer let my own feelings of inadequacy hold me back. I initiate conversations and refuse to indulge in cruel gossip. Because I want people to see me as pretty, I dwell on being beautiful on the inside and forget about my own limp hair and big nose. -- A FORMER PLAIN JANE

DEAR FORMER PLAIN JANE: There is an old saying, "Pretty is as pretty does." It's a wise woman who learns that lesson early. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I'm swamped with being a mom, a full-time student and a part-time nurse. My deadline for a case study presentation is four hours away, but I am putting my work on hold to address a more pressing issue.

Lesson: ALL women are beautiful. Not only is that statement grammatically correct but it is also psychosocially correct. It's an individual's right to define what is beautiful. Women should be judged on attributes other than physical appearance. Some of my friends who regard themselves as beautiful are spiritually and emotionally deficient. Others who regard themselves as overweight or unattractive exude positive energy and make those around them feel good.

I want my daughter to be judged for her tender heart and her unending efforts to save the Earth and save humanity. She clears trash from the beaches during summer vacations, directs my attention to every Salvation Army bucket at Christmas so the less fortunate can be cared for, and opens her bedroom windows on chilly mornings to hear birds sing. To me, that is true beauty.

Physical beauty dissipates with time. Lasting beauty comes from the heart and becomes eternal as it is passed down to future generations. -- READER ON A MISSION

DEAR READER ON A MISSION: Thank you for a terrific letter. You have said it very well.

DEAR ABBY: My first real kiss was with a girl back in 1988. Now, almost 14 years later, I am still in love with her. Every time I see her, I get butterflies in my stomach, weak knees, and the cat gets my tongue.

I don't know how to go about telling her how I feel. I'm afraid I'll be rejected or lose her friendship. Abby, what should I do? -- HOPELESSLY IN LOVE IN MISHAWAKA, IND.

DEAR IN LOVE: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Take the risk and tell your friend how you feel. There's a 50 percent chance she feels the same.

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-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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