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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am divorced, work full time, and a year ago I became an Internet "love bug" when I met a man who lives 3,000 miles away. We started out as friends, but soon began e-mailing and talking on the phone almost daily. This relationship has become much more intense than I expected, yet I have some nagging questions.

His nickname is "Skip." He swears that he loves me and is not married, but he refuses to give me his full name, home address or phone number. (He calls me only from his office.) He says that when "the timing is right," he will give me all the information he has been withholding. We have become quite intimate over the Internet and telephone -- and yes, he has my home phone number. He tells me it's not "convenient" for me to visit him right now, and he can't visit me because when he flies he becomes deathly ill.

Abby, I enjoy his attention, the passion and excitement. We've tried several times to break it off, but I always give in and contact him. Do you think I am living in a fantasy world? -- LOVING SKIP FROM AFAR

DEAR LOVING SKIP: I sure do. Or to put it another way, you'd feel right at home at Disney World. A telephone romance may make your heart "skip" a beat, but it pales when compared to the real thing. Why are you wasting your time like this?

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Elmer," seeks attention from every woman he meets. He tells stories boasting about himself, and it's always about what he did 40 or 50 years ago.

Elmer will say to a friend, "Tell so-and-so (the wife of a mutual friend) I still love her." Or, "How's my old sweetheart? Tell that little lady I'm still waiting for her."

Other times, Elmer will telephone a buddy and if the wife answers, he'll start with, "This is your old lover-boy," instead of giving his name.

Most of the time I'm embarrassed for my husband. I also consider his behavior disrespectful to me. What's my husband's problem, Abby? Help is needed here. -- DISGRUNTLED LONGTIME WIFE

DEAR DISGRUNTLED: You married a man with an outgoing, flirtatious personality. Elmer is not being disrespectful of you -- this is simply his "shtick." Having heard his routine over and over, you've lost your sense of humor about it. He may need some new material, but I doubt he's going to alter the script, so please lighten up and try not to take it personally. I'm sure nobody else does.

DEAR ABBY: I have been secretly dating "Brandon." He has a live-in girlfriend, and I know I shouldn't be dating him, but when we're together I know I make him happy. Brandon complains about how unappreciative his girlfriend is and that she throws him out every other week. We enjoy being around each other and talk on the phone for hours at a time.

However, I have reached the point in our relationship where I want it to be just "me and him." I would like Brandon to tell his girlfriend about us, but the problem is, she's my hairdresser. How should this be handled? Sign me ... HIS GIRLFRIEND'S CLIENT

DEAR CLIENT: In order to avoid the "unkindest cut of all," change hairdressers. Brandon doesn't want a permanent relationship with anyone. In plain English -- he's a flake, and if you're smart you'll give him the brush-off.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY DEAR MOTHER IN MINNEAPOLIS: Happy Mother's Day to the dearest mother in the world. You are in my thoughts and heart today, and every day.

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