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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 20-year-old college student. I first met "Andy" in my freshman year. We became good friends and shared a fair amount of time with each other. I became very fond of him after several months of dinners, going to Mass each week and studying together. I finally asked Andy point-blank where our relationship was headed. He responded that relationships "evolve."

Although I'm in no hurry to rush into anything, I wouldn't mind a little kiss from Andy now and then. He is very courteous and caring when we're together. He calls our get-togethers "appointments," and if he has to break one (which has happened only twice in two years) he is very apologetic.

My question: In developing a serious relationship, how slow is too slow? -- PERPLEXED SOMEWHERE IN FLORIDA

DEAR PERPLEXED: THIS is too slow. Andy appears to be a master of the noncommittal understatement. He has a way with words, but they're not the words you want to hear. You are both young, and you clearly want more than Andy wants to offer. I suggest you look elsewhere if you're looking for romance.

DEAR ABBY: Excuse me? Did I detect the perception of a correlation between "uncool" and "being in the high school band" in recent letters in your column?

I played baritone horn in school band and married my childhood sweetheart, a tuba player, 22 years ago. We gave birth to a French horn-playing daughter and a trombone-playing son, both all-state band musicians. Our homegrown brass quartet plays together in churches, at festivals and in our local community band, and I arrange music for us.

Can life even get any cooler than being able to share brass with your entire family? As they say (to paraphrase just a bit), "The family that PLAYS together, STAYS together!" My advice to your school-age readers is, don't bypass those band people! Our kind of "cool" holds up over time. -- KAY IN BASS CLEF, MILFORD, DEL.

DEAR KAY: It certainly does. Through music, your children have learned more than the value of teamwork -- you live together in beautiful harmony. What a gift!

DEAR ABBY: I am a 75-year-old married man. Recently a good friend of mine died. He is survived by his wife.

Is it proper for me to call her on a regular basis to see how she is getting along? Would it be more correct to just call her once in a while? Please let me know. -- FRED IN FLORIDA

DEAR FRED: You are a caring friend. It's fine to call her on a regular basis as long as you call her together with your wife.

You and your wife should also, as a couple, invite her out occasionally. Sometimes after a death, friends seem to pull back just when their friendship and support are most needed. I'm sure your friend's widow will appreciate being both remembered and included.

TO MY IRISH READERS: Happy St. Patrick's Day:

May there always be work for your hands to do.

May your purse always hold a coin or two.

May the sun always shine on your windowpane.

May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near you.

May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.

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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