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by Abigail Van Buren

Aunt Who Heard Confession Should Keep Vow of Silence

DEAR ABBY: My nephew, "Charles," a minister in his 50s, confided to me that he is unhappy in his marriage and is attracted to someone else. He asked me to keep this confidential, and I have.

Charles' wife and I are together a few hours per week on a regular basis. She is concerned because he seems depressed and spends most of his time at home sleeping. She knows Charles considers me a mother figure now that both his parents are deceased. She is suggesting that perhaps he has shared with me some of the reasons for his depression.

I feel horrible. If this comes out -- and it will -- Charles' wife will feel betrayed on many levels. I don't know what to do. Can you help? -- IN TOO DEEP IN MICHIGAN

DEAR IN TOO DEEP: Your nephew's wife is on a fishing expedition. That's why she's "suggesting" he might have shared confidences with you. Do not betray them. Instead, tell her that if she's concerned about her husband's state of mind, the person she should be asking is HIM. It's the truth. They have a lot that needs talking about.

DEAR ABBY: Before my husband's 30th birthday, I worked hard planning a surprise party for him. Family members came from other states, and I had housing available for all of them. I hid the food and other supplies at friends' homes. Things went well, and my husband was thrilled to see his family and friends.

My milestone birthday was last year, and my husband didn't do anything special. I didn't mind because I had told him I was "done aging." However, I accidentally discovered he's planning something this year.

While on vacation at my in-laws', I saw his mother had reserved the date of the party on her calendar. When I visited his sister, the invitation was open on the dining room table. I was able to see all the details of my "surprise." When I went to our mailbox, I found two invitations to my party that were undeliverable. I pretended I'd forgotten to pick up the mail and asked him to get it.

Should I tell my husband I know about the party or continue to play "dumb"? I have been told in so many ways that it's getting harder not to say anything, but I don't want to ruin this for him, either. I feel guilty for knowing. What should I do? -- NOT SO SURPRISED

DEAR NOT SO SURPRISED: Stop feeling guilty -- you did nothing wrong. Keep your mouth shut and act surprised. Your husband is going to a lot of trouble to give you a special gift, and you should accept it in the spirit in which it is being given.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 31-year-old woman who was taught growing up that if a person older than I doesn't have a seat, to give mine up. I now have a few questions about this practice.

If someone refuses the seat I offer, what do I do? How long should I remain standing, waiting for him or her to sit down? I have experienced this issue with the baby-boomer generation -- people in their 50s and 60s who refuse to take the seat. I feel like an idiot standing with them while a seat is available. Any help you can offer would be great. -- MINDING MY MANNERS IN NEW YORK

DEAR MINDING YOUR MANNERS: (And beautiful manners they are.) You are dealing with the generation who coined the phrase "Don't trust anyone over 30." Most boomers, some of whom are now turning 65, do not consider themselves to be "older." Don't let it be lost on you that there's a very successful store called Forever 21 that doesn't cater just to teenagers. If one of the eternally young refuses your generous offer, the appropriate thing to do is sit back down. No harm, no foul.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)