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DEAR ABBY: About a month ago, I was shocked out of my shoes. My longtime friend, "Orville," told me he had bought $280 worth of women's clothes. He went on to describe how "great" it feels to wear them. He says he has been a cross-dresser since boyhood when he started wearing his sister's clothes. When she found out, she continued dressing him up and he loved it.

Orville says he's a woman trapped in a man's body -- something about brain lobes. I saw it once in the newspaper, but didn't read it because I wasn't interested.

Orville has told a lot of his friends and now he is isolated. I don't go over there either, because I don't want to hear it. (He even said I should try it.) We are in our 60s, and I think Orville is headed for trouble. I just can't believe he is gay. I am heterosexual (when I get the chance). Does he need a shrink? Please advise. -- SHOCKED IN OKEECHOBEE, FLA.

DEAR SHOCKED: Feeling that one is trapped in the body of someone of the opposite sex does not make the person "gay." It means he or she is a transsexual. Your friend needs understanding, not isolation.

By all means he should see a psychiatrist -- one who specializes in gender disorders. He should have counseling if he wants to take this where it is heading, and also to cope with the loss of his friends. It would be a kindness to tell him that.

DEAR ABBY: We always have a large birthday party for my 8-year-old daughter every year. We hold the party later in the evening when we know people can come if it falls on a weekday because of work.

My sister returned to college this year, and I knew she could not come because she had a class that evening. So I asked my husband if we should have the party on another day or on the weekend. He said, "No, we're having it on her birthday in the evening, and if they can't come, they can see her at a later date." He said, what if they can't come on the weekend either? So the party stayed the same.

Football started that night for my other sister and her son, and my husband's sister had to work late. I feel like a heel! I agree that I don't want my daughter's party to be a week or two after her birthday, and I don't want to combine mine with hers, since they are two days apart. What do you think about this? Couldn't they miss one event to come to a party? -- BRENDA IN AUSTIN, TEXAS

DEAR BRENDA: The type of parties you have described are more for adults than for children. It is more important that your little girl be able to enjoy her birthday with some of HER friends than it be a command performance for your sisters. Please consider this next year, because I don't think you are being fair to your daughter.

DEAR ABBY: I have a problem. I have been having this recurring dream that I am getting married to my boyfriend of four years, and every time I have the dream, I end up backing out of the wedding. In other words, I always panic and run away. What does this dream mean? -- DREAMER IN BIRCHLEAF, VA.

DEAR DREAMER: I'm no expert in dreams, but to me, your dream means that on some level you're not fully committed to marrying your boyfriend. Pay attention to it because that's something that you should examine with both eyes open, in the clear light of day.

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.)

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