DEAR ABBY: Some time ago, you advised a loving couple who had been living together for several years in a committed relationship to get married, since a baby was on the way. (They didn't think "a piece of paper" was important.)

Our late daughter also insisted that living together was just as good as marriage and she didn't need a piece of paper either. She and her "significant other" (I'll call him Paul) had a beautiful 5-year-old daughter. But when Paul died suddenly of a heart attack just 10 days before the birth of their son, how she wished that she had had that piece of paper!She was able to secure Social Security payments for her two children, but none for herself. When Paul's ashes were interred, she told us that when she died, she wanted her ashes to be buried next to Paul's. When we tried to respect her wishes, we were advised by the cemetery officials that only married couples were accorded that privilege.

Abby, please print this for others who regard marriage as "just a piece of paper." - OLD-FASHIONED IN OREGON

DEAR OLD-FASHIONED: The "it's just a piece of paper" routine has been worn paper-thin.

A passport is "just a piece of paper." So is a birth certificate, a driver's license, a last will and testament, a promissory note, an honorable discharge, a winning lottery ticket, etc. I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point.

Sometimes a piece of paper is essential for peace of mind.

DEAR ABBY: This is for "Had Enough in Wisconsin" whose husband of 40 years introduced her with, "Meet my wife - but please don't laugh."

My husband and I have also been married for 40 years, and when we were first married, he would tell everyone we met that he grew a mustache so he would look older than his wife! Everyone laughed. (We are the same age.) Although I laughed along with the others, I was really hurt. One evening at a party, my husband made that remark, and a woman came over to me and said, "Why do you allow your husband to put you down that way?"

I then realized that by remaining silent I was giving him permission to insult me, so the next time he announced that he had grown a mustache to look older than his wife, I said, "That's not why he grew a mustache - he grew it to break up the monotony of his face."

Well, I got a bigger laugh than he got, and I never heard that mustache crack again. - ALSO HAD ENOUGH

DEAR ALSO: I don't recommend fighting fire with fire - it only makes for a bigger fire that could get out of control.

Married couples should speak frankly to each other. What's wrong with saying: "When you put me down, you hurt me, and you diminish yourself as well. Please do both of us a favor and retire the Henny Youngman routine."

1990 Universal Press Syndicate