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DEAR ABBY: There's a man in our community I'll call "Uncle Harry." Uncle Harry is in his mid-70s and considers himself one of the finest Christians in the area. Many of us, however, know this to be an exaggeration.

The main problem with Uncle Harry is his insistence on hugging almost all the women he comes in contact with. These "hugs" are not chaste, loose hugs about the shoulders. Uncle Harry insists on bear hugs, where he puts both arms around the woman and presses her breasts against his chest. Occasionally, his hands will also drift to the area of the buttocks.

Several women have complained, and family members have cautioned Uncle Harry about his behavior. He will stop temporarily, and then start up again in a few days. He has convinced himself that all these women want to hug him, but I have seen the expressions on the faces of some of his hug victims, and most are not at all happy. The women are hesitant to complain because Uncle Harry's wife IS one of the finest Christians in the area.

What can be done about Uncle Harry? I see him as a sexual predator, but he insists his hugs are just an example of his fine Christian fellowship. -- NO HUGS, PLEASE, IN ALABAMA

DEAR NO HUGS, PLEASE: Because the complaints have been ignored, a dose of aversion therapy might dampen the ardor of lecherous Uncle Harry. I recommend that the ladies who are offended by his behavior form a "united front." By this I mean, agree to put thumb tacks in your brassieres (facing outward, of course) when you know you'll be seeing him. I predict that if you do, he will hug you less enthusiastically from then on.

Seriously, any woman who objects to Uncle Harry's "hugs" needs to open her mouth and tell him so in no uncertain terms. Enough is enough.

DEAR ABBY: My 8-year-old daughter has had the same "boyfriend" since preschool almost four years ago. They play together at recess, and "Eric" has always been invited to her birthday parties. His mother, "Geneva," and I have always gotten along well and joked about the little couple.

Recently, though, Geneva learned that her son has been hugging my daughter goodbye. I have no problem with this, as I see children hug babies and friends all the time. But she has now banned the children from playing together!

This causes problems because Eric often plays at his cousins' house, which is right next door to mine. When Geneva drops Eric off next door, the neighbors get the unpleasant job of telling my daughter she isn't welcome in their yard, where she has always played with their kids. And I get to try and explain to her why everything has changed.

Abby, Geneva will not return my phone calls, and I don't know how to make things right. Also, I fear that if a hug elicits this kind of reaction, her son may just be more intrigued with physical affection. Should I keep leaving messages on her answering machine, or drop it and write her off as a nasty woman? -- VEXED IN ILLINOIS

DEAR VEXED: I don't know what has sent Geneva off the deep end, but the fact that she has taken the leap doesn't make her "nasty" -- it makes her worried and overprotective. Something tells me more may be going on with her than you are aware of, and since you have left messages for her that haven't been returned, you should not harass her.

Explain to your daughter that Eric's mother felt her son was too young to have the serious kind of relationship she felt was developing between him and your daughter. It's the truth. And it's better than allowing her to think that because she's no longer welcome to play at the neighbor's, there is something wrong with her.

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