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by Abigail Van Buren

Displays of Affection Between Parents, Children Win Praise

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for your response to "Alarmed in Apple Valley" (Aug. 28), who was concerned because her teenage nephew shows so much affection toward his mother. I raised a very affectionate son who, to this day at age 30, hugs and kisses me no matter where we meet. I raised him with the principle that because he is male does not mean he has to hide his feelings as generations before him did. My daughter-in-law tells me often that she could not ask for a better husband and father to her children.

Americans coddle girls when they hurt, but a boy is supposed to "take it like a man" and not express his feelings. I am pleased to know other mothers out there are also raising their sons to be well-rounded, emotionally healthy men. -- PROUD MOM OF A NAVY SON

DEAR PROUD MOM: I advised the "Alarmed" aunt that she was off base in her concerns, and the majority of readers who wrote to comment agreed. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Have we become so cynical in this day and age that genuine affection is looked upon as dirty and unsavory? How sad!

My 22-year-old daughter hangs on me and smooches me (and her father and grandparents) in public. It's a great feeling for parents to know their kid loves them and isn't embarrassed to be seen with them. (Too many of them are.) The aunt who complained about her nephew kissing his mother on the cheek and putting his arm around her may have intimacy problems that she's projecting onto her sister. -- LESLIE IN SELMA, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: I hope "Alarmed in Apple Valley" doesn't end up doing what my sister did when she saw the display of affection between my 11-year-old daughter and me, her dad. My sister's "concern" prompted her to coerce her adult son into visiting my clergyperson about it. A short investigation found me innocent of wrongdoing but left me with my innocence violated. Relationships were drastically altered -- especially between my sister and me. Eventually, I came to realize why she was so suspicious of abuse. She herself was willing to abuse -- the church, her son, her brother and her niece. -- WISER NOW IN SALT LAKE CITY

DEAR ABBY: I was never prouder of my son than when a friend of his said to him, "You hug your mom in public?" (It was after a game.) I was the one to hold back in public because I didn't want to embarrass my son who was a "big guy on campus." My boy's simple reply to his friend was, "Don't you?" It was never questioned again.

No child should ever feel it's wrong to show affection to his or her parents. For me, having a 15-year-old who wasn't embarrassed to be seen with his mother was huge. I agree with you, Abby. Some people read evil into everything and that's a shame. -- KARIN IN CHELMSFORD, MASS.

DEAR ABBY: Your response to "Alarmed" included a French saying that translates "Evil be he who thinks evil of it." That saying originated in England, where the highest, most ancient order of knighthood is the Order of the Garter. Around 1340, King Edward III was dancing at a formal ball with the Countess of Salisbury. During the dance, she dropped her garter. The king picked it up, put it on his own leg, looked at the others present and said, "Honi soit qui mal y pense" (Shame on him who thinks evil of it), then gallantly returned it to her.

Margaret Murray writes in her 1931 book "The God of the Witches" that it would have taken more than a dropped garter to embarrass a woman in the 14th century. The garter was probably a ritual one, signifying that the countess was a pagan leader -- a priestess of witchcraft. To drop the garter before the high dignitaries of the church could certainly have caused embarrassment. Edward's smart gesture in placing it on his own leg not only saved face for the countess but demonstrated his willingness to be a leader of the pagan population of England as well as the Christian. So I've heard ... MARK D. DUNN, GARLAND, TEXAS

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)