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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a nice, charming, likable young man in my mid-20s. I have almost no friends. I rarely see the ones I do have because they don't live in my province. I can count the number of people I consider friends on one hand. I am close with my family, though none of them live close enough to see regularly. I work from home, so there's no one I come in contact with daily except my husband, whom I love dearly.

I know there are things I could do to meet more people and make friends, but I don't really want to. Maintaining friendships feels like more work than it's worth to me. I don't dislike people and I'm certainly not a snob. But when I have a conversation, it feels like I'm trying to be interesting for their sake and I don't really care about them, and I wonder why they seem to care about me.

I'm not bitter or lonely, but I don't think this is normal. Should I accept that this is who I am, or should I worry? -- LONER IN TORONTO

DEAR LONER: Excuse me, but there are contradictions in your letter. If you weren't concerned that there was something to worry about, you wouldn't have written to me. Now it's time for you to talk to a counselor and take a deeper look at what's really going on. My intuition tells me there may be issues you need to address.

DEAR ABBY: I was in a long-term relationship with a man who died recently. After his death I found out he had other girlfriends while he was with me. It turns out he was a con man who used women. I am stunned, sad, hurt, angry and feel like a fool.

When people who knew us as a couple see me, they ask about him. When I say he died, they respond by offering condolences over "my loss." Should I thank them for their kindness and leave it at that, or should I tell them the truth about him so they won't waste time feeling bad about his demise? -- TRICKED IN RICHMOND, VA.

DEAR TRICKED: If it will make you feel better to vent, do it. However, if rehashing the unhappy details would make you feel worse, keep them to yourself.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dealing with an anxiety disorder I thought I had beaten. I hadn't had an attack in years, until I found myself having one recently at the gym. I ran to the dressing room in tears to battle it out, and was practicing breathing deeply when I spotted something shiny in the far corner of the room. I immediately flashed on the "pennies from heaven" letters I have read in your column and, still crying, went to see what it was. As soon as I saw it was a penny, I felt calmer.

Abby, I haven't lost anyone close who might have sent me a penny, but when I picked it up it had the year of my birth on it. I understood then it was intended for me, and my anxiety dissipated.

I'm confused, though. Is this something our guardian angels share amongst themselves, or did an unknown angel take pity on me? -- JENNIFER IN ONTARIO, CANADA

DEAR JENNIFER: The subject of guardian angels is a spiritual one -- and very personal. I believe that some of us have guardian angels right here on Earth watching over us as well as those from above. And if one of them had a spare moment, it wouldn't be atypical to help out someone in a (penny) pinch.

TO MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS: Happy Easter, everyone!

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)