Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: The short story is, I slept with a married co-worker. I paid him to come to my house to hook up my computer, but when he arrived, everything but that happened. He had been flirting with me for months, and when he got here one thing just led to another.

He is a complicated mess, and I knew that going in, but I allowed myself to do it anyway. Now when we're at work, he acts like nothing ever happened. Guilt is not his thing. He has other women in the office on the line, as well as several others I have heard about through the grapevine.

I am confused by my need to be around this man and wonder what I was thinking. I feel hollow, sick and lonelier than I did before. I have been widowed 10 years and have never slept with anyone else until now.

How do I handle, first, my feelings, and second, the work relationship? I am beginning to wonder if he did this out of pity for my being lonely. If that's the case, I feel even worse.

Please help me deal with the guilt and understand why I did this, and come out of this with some self-respect. -- CONFUSED AND ASHAMED IN MINNESOTA

DEAR CONFUSED AND ASHAMED: You probably were thinking how nice it felt that someone made you feel attractive and special after 10 years of widowhood. That kind of a "high" can be pretty intoxicating. You feel "hollow, sick and more lonely than before" because you didn't get what you really wanted, and you know you sold yourself short.

Rather than continue beating yourself up over this, use it to spur yourself into getting out and meeting eligible men so you can find what you need in a relationship that has a future. As to how to handle things at work, keep your communications with the office Romeo short and strictly business-related. He appears to have already put this behind him, and so should you.

P.S. If you paid him to hook up your computer and all you got was sex -- you know what that makes him. He owes you a refund, but don't count on getting one.

DEAR ABBY: I come from a mid-Atlantic state. I recently met a woman named "Diana" from New England. When Diana introduced herself, she pronounced her name "Di-ann-er."

When I address her, should I pronounce her name as she does? Or should I pronounce it "Di-ann-a" in my normal manner? I don't want to seem like I'm mocking her by mimicking a New England accent, but I also don't want to mispronounce her name.

My friends and family are split on what is more courteous. What do you think? -- BETH IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR BETH: Your question brought to mind the old song lyric, "You say 'potato' and I say 'po-tah-to.' You say 'tomato' and I say 'to-mah-to.'" In your case, the polite thing to do is also the safest. Pronounce Diana's name as you normally would, and you won't get into trouble.

DEAR READERS: This Saturday, Dec. 2, the Hallmark Channel will air a made-for-television movie, "The Christmas Card," that features a romance strikingly similar to the ones that have resulted from Operation Dear Abby.

As you know, many romances, marriages and children have "sprung" from Operation Dear Abby, which supports our men and women in the military stationed worldwide. So, tune in, sit back and enjoy it with me!

And now that the holiday season is in full swing, remember to take a moment and send a holiday greeting to our men and women in the military by logging onto � HYPERLINK "" ���.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby