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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband took me out to an expensive restaurant. As we chatted over dinner, we realized that the couple next to us was eavesdropping on our conversation. They could hear everything we were saying. They kept turning their heads and looking straight at us. They even tried to peek when the check came.

My husband and I tried to ignore it, however, it put a damper on our nice evening. How should we tell nosy people to "butt out" of our dinner conversation? -- CONVERSATIONALLY SPEAKING IN DELAWARE

DEAR CONVERSATIONALLY SPEAKING: You and your husband missed an opportunity to have some fun. If you invent wild enough dialogue, the reaction can be funnier than a floor show. You could have raised your voices just a bit and begun discussing how you were going to spend the "drug money" -- or which girl you planned to send on the next "call." Short of asking to be seated at another table, there is no foolproof way to discourage nosy eavesdroppers.

DEAR ABBY: My letter is in response to the one from the neighbors who complained about the noise their neighbor's children made playing basketball in the yard.

As a boy, many years ago, I probably annoyed our neighbors the same way. Now that boy has grown into a man, who has taken care of literally thousands of youngsters in my practice of behavioral pediatrics.

Experience tells me that if all youngsters would be outside playing basketball or any other activity of exertion, we would have far fewer academic and behavioral problems. Approximately 75 percent of my patients never go outside to play. Many of them are addicted to video games, and some to television. (Studies have shown that exercise reduces the need for psycho-stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, as well as the dosage.)

The ramifications of this addiction are enormous. These children tend to be more agitated and anxious. Their blood pressure and pulse are often increased. Their imagination is dulled. They have a higher risk of obesity, early onset diabetes, and future cardiovascular disease. Their sleep patterns are upset (many stay up all night to play their video games after their parents are sleeping), and there is some evidence that they are at increased risk for seizures.

If the pounding of a basketball is annoying to some folks, they should step back and look at the big picture. That sound would be a symphony to my ears because I know that these youngsters are doing something that will benefit themselves and ultimately society. -- JOEL P. SUSSMAN, M.D., FAAP, COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR DR. SUSSMAN: Thank you for an important letter. As some readers pointed out, the complainer should be thankful the neighbor children are involved in activities as healthy as athletics. (Better to shoot hoops than each other!) People who can't stand the sound of children playing should relocate to a development for seniors. Let us not forget that children are people, too, and they have a right to play on their own property, providing they're not disturbing someone late at night.

CONFIDENTIAL TO JANIS IN SUN CITY: "Americans will accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic or a dope fiend, but if a man doesn't drive, they think there must be something wrong with him." -- ART BUCHWALD

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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