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DEAR ABBY: I'm slim, blond, well-groomed, take two baths a day, and everyone says I'm pretty. I come from a good, middle-class Protestant family. My mother is a retired tax consultant and my father is an engineer. I play three musical instruments and speak three languages.

Last year, I won a bronze medal in the county triathlon (a long-distance race consisting of swimming, bicycling and running). I don't drink liquor or use recreational drugs, nor do I frequent bars.I am 40 years old, have no children, no health problems, and I own a nice car. I have been formally engaged twice and broke the engagements. Both men were compulsive liars. One had been married seven (yes, seven!) times. His last wife told me he was still married to her when he started dating me! I am not currently dating, deliberately, to avoid another disaster.

Why can't I have a nice, normal relationship with an honest, decent, middle-class guy where I won't be lied to, stolen from or beaten up? I have no preconceived demands such as height, looks, bank account, religion. So, how can I connect with Mr. Nice and Normal? - THOROUGHLY CONFUSED

DEAR CONFUSED: There are con artists everywhere, so one's only protection is to check out their backgrounds with someone who has known them for a very long time.

One of the best ways to meet nice people is through other nice people - put out the word to friends and relatives that you are interested in meeting someone nice. At least that way, you will have the benefit of a little "history" regarding the person.

Also, be very wary of people who seem to have no relatives or friends who have known them from way back.

DEAR ABBY: Here's one for you. My wife and I were married over a year ago. We sent wedding invitations to a number of family members and friends. One of my cousins who lives many miles away called to say that she couldn't attend, and asked whether we would like "a this" or "a that" from a prominent store in her town.

I chose between the two items and thanked her, but now I really can't recall what the items were. It was a very cordial conversation.

Well, here it is, a year later, and neither the "this" nor the "that" has arrived. My concern: Did my cousin forget or decide not to send anything (which is fine), or did the store not send it (which isn't). And, hence, since my cousin may have thought a gift was sent and she hasn't received a "thank-you," she may be miffed.

What is the right thing to do? - PERPLEXED IN PRINCETON

DEAR PERPLEXED: Since your cousin did not attend the wedding, and you received no gift from her, I think it's safe to assume that she sent none. In any case, I would not ask her if she had sent anything. She may get the impression that you are "fishing."

"How to Be Popular" is for everyone who feels left out and wants an improved social life. It's an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)