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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a divorcee and happy with my life. I'm healthy, have a great job, wonderful grown children, many good friends and several hobbies I enjoy. I'm busy and every day is full.

My issue is the way some people treat the fact that I'm "solo." When they see me, they ask whether I have a man in my life yet, and when I say I don't, they look downcast and offer me their sympathy.

Please tell your readers that for a woman to be solo isn't a tragedy. Certainly, I hope one day to meet someone wonderful to share my life with, but until then I'm happy to be on my own. I'm doing great and I don't like people treating me as if my being single is some sort of failure. -- PARTY OF ONE IN WISCONSIN

DEAR PARTY OF ONE: If I had to wager, I would bet the people you've described are older. For people in their generation there was social and economic pressure to couple up and be married. With more women completing their education and earning enough to live well on their own, there is less of that pressure today.

I'm passing your message along, but try to remember that the folks you're encountering mean well -- even if their way of expressing it is outdated and clumsy.

DEAR ABBY: A new church member joined our group. She's the nicest, most generous, genuinely kind person, and she is loved and appreciated by all.

The problem is, she reeks with an awful body odor. She breeds dogs, and the smell is ingrained in her clothing, hair, car, etc. She always volunteers to work in the kitchen, and yesterday she did -- in spite of my having politely told her we had enough volunteers. Many of the people didn't want what she touched, including me. How should we approach telling her about her body odor without offending or hurting her? -- CONFUSED CHRISTIAN IN DETROIT

DEAR CONFUSED CHRISTIAN: The woman's strong body odor may be because of poor hygiene or her profession, but it could also be a symptom of illness. Someone should talk to her about it. To do so would be doing her a favor and not hurtful. The person I'm nominating for that job would be your minister.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a man I'll call Eugene for many years. We have both been married before and we both have children. We're engaged, but if I marry him, I know I will never be No. 1 in his life. His children and family will always come first.

I don't know what his former wife did to him, but shouldn't your spouse rank somewhere at the top? I have a lot of time invested in this relationship. His children have no connection with me at all. This doesn't bother Eugene. It bothers me greatly. Can these types of issues be worked out? -- FRIEND WITHOUT BENEFITS

DEAR FRIEND: Yes, if you and Eugene are willing to admit there are issues that need to be worked out and are willing to get premarital counseling. While Eugene's children -- and yours -- might always come first, if you are going to have a successful marriage you should rank right up there with them. While you may never have an emotional tie with his children, you deserve to be treated with the same kindness and respect that you give them. And if that's not happening, Eugene should insist upon it.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

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.)