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by Abigail Van Buren

Lowbrow Gossiping Is Topic of High Interest

DEAR ABBY: I live in a medium-sized community where a lot of people know one another. I often hear them discuss such private matters as the state of someone's marriage, their finances, etc. Even if they don't know if what they're saying is true, they still repeat it.

Whenever someone starts talking to me about a person who isn't there, I remind her that she wouldn't appreciate having her business discussed behind her back. One neighbor even asked me about my own marriage in front of a group of people. When I politely asked why she would ask about such an intimate matter, she became angry and told me I was being rude to her. I may have embarrassed her, but not as much as she did me.

I think gossiping is a low form of entertainment at someone else's expense. What do you think? -- MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS IN NEVADA

DEAR MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS: Gossip is, indeed, a low form of entertainment -- and if we're honest, it's something most of us have indulged in at one time or another. Everybody wants to know other people's business. One need only look at readers with their noses buried in the scandal rags at the supermarket checkout counter for verification.

Why we have this compulsion is anybody's guess. Perhaps it's because gossip requires little intellectual effort, distracts us from concentrating on important tasks in our lives that might be painful or difficult to confront, or makes us feel superior.

P.S. You did not embarrass your neighbor by rebuffing her inappropriate question. She embarrassed herself by asking.

DEAR ABBY: I am a high school senior, currently going through the process of applying to colleges. As I've visited various schools, I have realized that college isn't cheap. Many of them cost more than $45,000 a year.

My question is, how do I go about paying back my parents for college? They can afford to pay for my education and still be financially solid, yet I know I will have to repay them. How long after I graduate should it be before I begin? -- MATTHEW IN BURR RIDGE, ILL.

DEAR MATTHEW: Discuss this with your parents. The answer may depend on how quickly they will need the money, and what kind of payment schedule you can comfortably handle once you have graduated and become self-supporting.

Please consider that you may be eligible for scholarships and grants that could lessen your -- and their -- financial obligation. Your school guidance counselor can provide you with this information. Your public library also has information regarding scholarships, so you should consult the librarian.

DEAR ABBY: An elderly relative, whom I love dearly, is dying. She has always been demure and ladylike, and I am concerned that when the time comes for the embalming and viewing, the deceased is never buried in underwear or shoes. Is this true? -- DONNA IN ENID, OKLA.

DEAR DONNA: Put your fears to rest. A person has the right to "dictate" what she (or he) wants to be buried in. If the deceased has left no instruction, the funeral director will take direction from the family.

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 only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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