DEAR ABBY: I am a single woman in my mid-30s. I am tired of being asked if I am widowed or divorced. People tend to treat widows with more respect - especially the men. If a woman is single because her husband died, people tend to be more sympathetic and have a better opinion of her than they do if she has been divorced. A divorced woman is usually perceived as flawed - or "damaged goods."

I become very hostile when people ask me this question. I find it very demeaning. I would be interested in knowing what other women (and men) think of this. If I refuse to answer that question, they know immediately that I am divorced because being a widow is nothing to be ashamed of. - SEATTLEDEAR SEATTLE: Being divorced is nothing to be ashamed of either. How you perceive yourself is more important than how you think others perceive you. Why think of yourself as "damaged goods"? Women divorce for a number of reasons - they are not necessarily discarded. Also, a single woman may be neither divorced nor widowed - she can be a woman who has chosen to be single for the time being.

Try counseling to build your self-esteem - and possibly to remove that boulder from your shoulder.

DEAR ABBY: The "love story" about those two physically impaired birds, quite frankly, made me want to throw up! Why people find birds so appealing is beyond me.

Take my neighbor (please!) as an example. She has taken it upon herself to rescue every bleepin' bird in town. Every day she feeds them enough bread to supply an orphanage. All day long, the area looks like something out of Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds." And the constant chirping is about to drive me to the booby hatch!

The old biddy and others like her can't seem to get it through their heads that well-fed birds won't go after insects as nature intended for them to do!

There are a lot of misguided bird lovers out there, Abby. Dare you risk ruffling their feathers by printing this? - NO BIRD LOVER IN SUNNY CALIFORNIA

DEAR NO BIRD LOVER: As a longtime friend of all furred and feathered creatures, I'll risk it.

DEAR ABBY: There are many aspects of our judicial system that need changing, which is one of the reasons that the crime rate increases faster than the population. But established procedures are difficult to change unless we all speak out collectively when, in our opinion, something is ineffective. I recall when one prospective juror spoke out with great force as he was being interviewed by a judge to serve on a jury.

"Judge," he said, "I would not be a good juror because I can spot a criminal a mile away. See that man over there at the desk with the blue suit on? He's a confidence man turned politician - and he would steal the gold out of his grandmother's teeth."

"Quiet," the judge said, "he's the district attorney." - HERVEY W. HERRON, EARLIMART, CALIF.

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