DEAR ABBY: What percentage of women's problems do you think could be avoided if, for the first year after beginning to date someone, they were to use birth control and not marry? Many of the women who write to you seem to be shocked that the men they're with do not have sterling characters. But I have never dated anyone who could hide his true colors longer than six months. I'm sure the same is true of women, too.
Much of your advice to these ladies entails seeking counseling or an attorney, but to the millions of women who haven't yet made this mistake, how about a shout-out for prevention? The heart is ungovernable, but people do have absolute power to use birth control and avoid rushing into marriage. -- SUSAN IN ARIZONA
DEAR SUSAN: Sometimes people marry before they really know themselves, let alone their partner. But I'm all for giving that shout-out for prevention of unplanned pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 49 percent of the 6.7 million pregnancies each year fall into this category. While some result from carelessness or mistakes in using birth control, others stem from lack of assertiveness on the part of women because they are economically dependent or lack the self-esteem to insist their partner use a condom.
Your comment about rushing into marriage until you really know someone reminds me of the saying, "Act in haste, repent at leisure." Perhaps it should be amended to, "Act in haste, repent, repent, repent."
DEAR ABBY: I once read in your column a list of physical activities and how many calories are burned while performing each one. You included sexual relations. Would you please list those activities and the calories burned for each? Thanks! -- LOOKING TO LOSE
DEAR LOOKING: You didn't see it in my column, but here is the estimated number of calories burned per hour for several types of measured physical activity: slow walking, 115 to 200; dancing, 275 to 350; skating or swimming, 300 to 600; tennis, 350 to 700; gardening, 250 to 300; golfing (18 holes), 150 to 225.
There are no reliable figures on the number of calories burned during sex because the amount of exertion varies with the individual.
DEAR ABBY: With the holidays coming, I'd like to suggest something your readers can do with all the free address labels they will be receiving from charities.
Many of my elderly relatives have poor handwriting that has led to undeliverable mail from them to me. So I started taking those labels and giving them out to my relatives. They now use them to address letters to me.
At the time I told them I was sending the labels because they showed my "official address," the one the post office is most likely to recognize. I haven't had any undelivered mail since, and my relatives like it so much that several have started sending me their labels, too.
This obviously doesn't solve the problem of getting the labels in the first place, but it does provide a way to put them to use instead of throwing them out. -- E.B. IN HERNDON, VA.
DEAR E.B.: For anyone who corresponds with a relative who has fading vision or a tremor, that's a good suggestion. Thank you for offering it.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)