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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I were having dinner with another couple when a conversation ensued that divided the men's views from the women's. It concerned a recently widowed man (I'll call him "John") who is dating a woman from our wives' circle of friends, "Peggy." (Peggy is a widow.)

The wives were appalled that John has begun dating only three months after his wife "Gloria's" death, and insisted a woman in his situation would not. Furthermore, the women went on to question whether it was appropriate for him to date within Gloria's circle of friends. Our wives believe that anyone within this circle should be off limits, while we men don't see it as a problem.

So my question is: What is the proper protocol? (As an aside, the women now shun both John and Peggy.) -- JUST WONDERING IN THE BAY AREA

DEAR JUST WONDERING: "The wives" obviously identify with Gloria and feel that John's not wearing sackcloth and ashes for at least a year after her death is disrespectful to her memory. That's what they would expect from you. They would also prefer that you not date any of the available women in your circle. They were stating their feelings. So consider yourselves put on notice!

From my perspective, it seems your wives feel neither John nor Peggy has grieved long enough, and so they are punishing them. It is possible, however, that Gloria told John she didn't want him to be alone and grieve after she was gone, which is why he is being comforted by someone who knew them both. I'd advise your wives to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of shunning them.

DEAR ABBY: I regularly get phone calls that start with, "How are you doing?" I am often stuck trying to recognize the voice and sometimes I can't. When I ask who's calling, the caller becomes miffed that I didn't recognize his or her voice.

Have people forgotten telephone manners? Receiving no introduction from a caller often leaves me in the dark. I was taught to identify myself before starting the conversation. Am I being a fuddy-duddy? -- WHO'S CALLING? IN RICHMOND, KY.

DEAR WHO: Your problem is not uncommon. Unless the caller is a close family member or friend, it's presumptuous for someone to assume his or her voice will be recognized.

Some people solve this problem by having caller ID on their phone so they can see a caller's name and/or number when the phone rings. Others handle it this way: "How am I doing? I'm doing great! How are YOU doing?" Once the person starts talking, the chances become greater that you'll know who's on the line. However, if you don't, feel free to add: "Who is this?"

DEAR ABBY: I recently had a child and would like to join a church for the community, moral messages and the music. I grew up going to one and got a lot out of it.

However, exploration throughout my 20s made me realize that I didn't believe what was being taught. I tried hard to accept the doctrines, but truthfully, I doubt I ever will. Would it be dishonest to start attending again? -- NEW MOM IN ARKANSAS

DEAR NEW MOM: Many people consider themselves to be more "spiritual" than "religious." And I'm willing to bet that in many congregations there is a range in the intensity of belief among the attendees.

I encourage you to select a denomination with which you feel most comfortable. Some -- like the Unitarian Universalist faith (� HYPERLINK "" ���) -- have no dogma or creed and support their members in following their own spiritual paths.

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