Dear Abby: Happy Birthday, Can I Take Over Your Column?

There is so much to celebrate on July 4: our country's independence, hot dogs without nitrates and Pauline Phillips's 94th birthday! Who? Pauline Phillips is also known as Abigail Van Buren and even more known as the one and only advice guru Dear Abby.

As an Abby myself, I have always had something of a connection to the woman. I cannot tell you how many people have e-mailed me over the years with a taunting "Dear Abby, I'm having issues with my husband.. ha-ha, just kidding, we are rejecting your story submission." As a fifth grader, I had a teacher that found it amusing to call me Ann Landers, who is the sister of Dear Abby, which never made sense to me. It still doesn't.

Whether you are an Abby or not, appreciating the impact that Abigail Van Buren has had on the advice scene is irrefutable. The column began in 1956 and continues to run in syndication in roughly 1400 newspapers worldwide. The column also runs online and is seen by a combined total of 110 million daily readers. According to her publisher's Web site, she still receives over 10 thousand e-mails and letters per week.

Dear Abby is known for her candid yet friendly advice on any topic you can imagine. Van Buren seems to know a lot about a lot. While she is not writing anymore, she handed the pen over to her daughter upon retiring; Dear Abby is still dishing her "uncommon common sense." Amen.

In honor of her birthday, I dug through the columnist's archives for some odd questions that were asked over the past decade and took a stab at answering them myself. For some reason, I do not think I am qualified for this type of work, but you can be the judge of that.

DEAR ABBY: In this period of renewed patriotism, could you please tell me the proper etiquette for listening to our national anthem? I attend many sporting events and have noticed a variety of responses when the anthem begins. Are women supposed to remove their hats, as well as men? Should you place your right hand over your heart as you would when you say the Pledge of Allegiance? Do you face the flag or the singer? -- WANTING TO BE RESPECTFUL

DEAR WANTING: What kind of American are you that you need to ask this question? Let me counter your question with a question of my own: Do you even own a flag lapel pin or any type of commemorative coin? I doubt that you do. Everyone knows that when listening to the anthem, the proper etiquette is to sing along loudly and then sob heavily when the singer reaches the high notes as a sign of respect for your country. Only after you have clapped, hooted and hollered are you allowed to pick your nachos up and resume eating them.

DEAR ABBY: Please help my lady friend and me settle an argument. I gave her a ring. She refuses to wear it on her "ring" finger, i.e., next to the little finger, left hand. She says that finger is for a wedding ring or an engagement ring only. I say any ring can be worn on that finger, including, but not exclusively limited to, a wedding ring. Please help. -- FINGERED IN FLORIDA

Dear FINGERED: You have chosen a very unfortunate name that leaves me incapable of answering your question.

DEAR ABBY: What is wrong with men that they don't have the energy to pick up a phone when they're going to be late and let their wives (or girlfriends) know? After an hour we get anxious; after two, we get worried.

After three hours had passed with no word from my husband, I called the police. They assured me that there had been no accidents in the area. I considered asking them if they would be willing to arrest my husband for causing so much worry and making me look like such a fool for having called them.

We women are equally to blame. As soon as we find out that everything's OK, our hearts melt with relief and we forgive them on the spot. I need to know how to stay angry long enough to let my husband know this is unacceptable behavior. Hello! There are pay phones all over the place. You men can let us know what's going on at any time. -- WORRIED

Dear WORRIED: Did you ever think maybe your husband (boyfriend) was cheating on you? I hate to be Captain Obvious, but what else do you think he was doing for those three hours? That's a long time to be "running late." What did he say when you finally found him? Did he smell like perfume and have lipstick on his collar? I suggest either contacting that show Cheaters or giving him a cell phone.

DEAR ABBY: I am a "tween" who loves to share stories with my mom. When I tell Mom about my crushes and problems with my friends, I always tell her, "Don't tell Dad, please..." She says she won't, but I found out that she tells my father everything. I am really embarrassed. Can I trust her anymore? -- LILLI IN THE CITY

Dear LILLI: Girl, stop telling your mom your business. She doesn't need to know that you let little Billy touch you under the shirt but over the bra. That stuff should be left only to your girlfriends and your diary, which both your parents probably read anyway.

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: Do you remember when it was "cool" to wear patchouli? Do you remember how terrible it smelled? Someone once told me that it was made from goat semen and I believed them because it smelled that bad (apparently it's a plant, as I just learned). The point of the story is that we all put up with it because it was easier than telling someone that the hippy perfume they bought at the same place they bought their hacky sack made them smell like goat semen. And you put up with it because they probably had something you wanted to purchase or maybe they would teach you how to use their devil sticks. Just be a good Christian and deal with it.

DEAR ABBY: When is it proper to use a preprinted mailing label? Over the past year I have received thank-you notes, holiday cards and wedding invitations with mass-produced mailing labels stuck on the envelopes.

Whatever happened to handwritten names and addresses? Am I expecting too much? I feel as if the sender is rushed and ungrateful. -- UNGLUED IN MASSACHUSETTS

Dear UNGLUED: Uhhh...yeah. You have nothing going on in your life.

DEAR ABBY: Our family had a very unpleasant experience last Fourth of July. In the early afternoon, my 20-year-old daughter was gardening in the front yard of her home near the university she attends when she was struck by a bullet.

Not realizing the nature of her injury, my daughter thought she had broken a bone or pulled something in her leg. In the hospital emergency room, the admitting nurse recognized the wound for what it was and called the police. The bullet had entered the back of her leg above the knee, traveled down, and lodged between the bones above her ankle. The doctors decided to leave the bullet where it is.

According to the police, the gun could have been discharged blocks away, and it was probably fired by someone celebrating the holiday. Don't people realize that bullets come down with almost as much force as they go up? Here in Portland, it is against the law to discharge a firearm within city limits.

My precious daughter could have been hit in the head or chest with far more serious consequences.

Abby, please remind your readers about the dangers of discharging firearms into the air. Those bullets have to fall somewhere. -- RICHARD

Dear RICHARD: Is that your real name? Have you ever read my column before? If you had, you would know that people always sign off with catchy phrases like "Hurting in Houston" or "Can't Stop Eating" that basically sum up their issues, giving me the option of just skimming their missive. Either way, in response to your story, that blows as it is both sad and illegal. However, since fireworks are also illegal, how does anyone expect us to properly celebrate the independence of our country without blowing something up? You feel me?

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