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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 38-year-old man with no children. For some reason I tend to attract the attention of children wherever I go. Even though I make no attempt to speak to them, they often approach me. I know when children talk to strangers it makes their parents uncomfortable, but I don't want to be rude to the kids.

I was recently eating at an outdoor restaurant when a friendly little girl walked up, sat herself down at my table, and began asking me questions. I was terse but polite. She was soon joined by several other kids, all of whom seated themselves at my table.

Their parents, who had obviously not been paying attention, shouted at them to "get away from that man!" It created an embarrassing scene with the parents telling me I had no business talking to their kids. The other diners looked at me as though I was some kind of pervert.

I don't want to be rude to children, but what can I do to prevent things like this from happening again? -- CRYING "UNCLE" IN TEXAS

DEAR "UNCLE": The parents overreacted. The next time a child approaches and wants to talk, ask the child, "Did your mother/father say it was OK to talk to a stranger?" If the answer is no, then tell the child he/she must first ask a parent for permission.

DEAR ABBY: My 35-year-old daughter, "Rhonda," is intelligent and creative, but her house is a disaster. There are clothes, books, magazines, etc. piled on every surface. Dishes are stacked on her bed; socks and paper litter the floor.

How can she feel good living like this? The place is becoming a health hazard. Rhonda is caring and attractive, but she rarely dates. Could her mess be a symptom of something more serious?

Abby, I'm worried about my daughter's chances for future happiness, but I have no idea how to help her. Or should I? -- WORRIED MOM IN OREGON

DEAR WORRIED MOM: If you're the kind of mother who always picked up after her children, then this is only more of the same. If your daughter's disorderliness is something new, then it might be a symptom of depression or some other emotional problem.

When you say you are concerned about Rhonda's chances for future happiness, do you mean you're worried that she's 35 and still single? Not every woman needs a man to complete her. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your daughter and explain your concerns. You won't find out what's going on in her head until you do.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have been involved in an ongoing debate about how to place the pillows on our king-size bed. Should the opening of the pillowcase face the outside of the bed or the inside?

I place my pillows with the opening facing the middle of the bed so the pillow won't show, while my wife does it the other way, and the edge of the pillow can be seen through the opening. Can you please settle this? -- PILLOW TALK IN ABILENE

DEAR PILLOW TALK: Hotels make up the beds with the opening of the pillowcases turned to the middle because the maids usually tuck the edge of the pillowcase inward. A specialist in the bedding department of my local department store says that in most homes, the opening of the pillowcase faces the edge of the bed. But the bottom line is -- there is no right or wrong way!

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, 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 in the price.)