DEAR ABBY: I am a 51-year-old woman dating a 39-year-old man. He is smart, funny, sexy, considerate and nice to me. I don't see much of my family anymore because they were abusive, and it's better if I don't. However, I am worried about what they and my other friends will think.
Is the age difference too great to make a lasting relationship? What do I say to people who ask his age? Isn't it rude for them to ask? I was raised to believe that it's rude to ask people how old they are. What about other rude comments people may make? -- LONELY AND LOOKING FOR LOVE
DEAR LONELY: As you've passed the half-century mark, the time has come to start living your own life and stop worrying about what other people "might" think. You and this man are both adults. If you like each other and want to spend some time -- or even lifetime -- together, it's strictly up to you. Should anyone ask how old he is, tell them to ask him. It's really nobody's business.
DEAR ABBY: I have a laughing problem that pops up only at school. I go into uncontrollable laughing fits in the middle of class. It has gotten me in trouble various times over the past couple of weeks. I have asked my mother for help with this problem. She said to think about other things and to pinch myself so I'll be distracted from thinking about it -- but neither of her suggestions seems to work for me. Can you give me any suggestions? -- GIGGLES IN NAPLES, FLA.
DEAR GIGGLES: It would be interesting to know exactly what is setting you off. If it's eye contact with another student, then stop looking. If you have a learning problem of some sort that's keeping you from concentrating on the tasks at hand, talk with your teacher about getting help for it. But if it's sheer mirth that's causing your laughter, then I recommend you start thinking about the penalty that will follow if you continue disrupting the class, because I'm sure it won't be funny.
DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of the groom. It will be an out-of-state evening wedding. What is the correct attire for the mother? I can only guess at what the color of the bridesmaids' dresses will be -- which I have been told are shades of "moss."
I certainly don't wish to conflict with the bride's mother, whom I have never met, nor have I met the bride. -- LISA IN LOS ANGELES
DEAR LISA: Pick up the phone and call the bride's mother. Ask her what color she will be wearing, and if she would send you a small piece of the fabric so there will be no chance that you'll "clash." I'm sure she will not only be glad to help you out, she'll also be pleased that you reached out to her. Consider it the opening of lifelong dialogue between friends.
DEAR ABBY: I am one of your male readers. More than one person has come into my house and commenced going through my personal papers, my desk drawers, my checkbook and other personal items. I have been told that this is acceptable because I am unmarried.
Is there some rule that states there are different rules for married and unmarried people? -- TAKEN ABACK IN POCATELLO, IDAHO
DEAR TAKEN ABACK: The visitors you have described are rude and nosy, and no rule of etiquette validates their behavior. If you must entertain them in your home, then put your personal papers under lock and key.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)
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