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THE LORD OF THE RING

Dear Abby: "Deb in Knoxville" asked who should buy the ring if the woman proposes. I think the groom should buy the ring for the bride, and the bride should buy the ring for the groom, no matter who proposes. It should be their gift to each other.

- Joyful in Alpharetta, Ga.

Dear Joyful: My ears are "ringing" from the many comments I've received regarding that letter. Read on:

Dear Abby: Your answer to "Deb in Knoxville" was right on. You advised her that if the man is a gentleman, he should buy it. And if he refuses, she should enter the marriage with her eyes wide open and no illusions about what her future will be.

Even though my husband popped the question to me, he never bought me a ring. It was an indication of what was to come. He is the world's worst cheapskate.

I can count on one hand the number of gifts he has given me over the years. He is equally withholding emotionally. When I was single, I never thought that such things were important in a relationship. I was wrong. It's been a lonely life.

- Lonely in Dixie

Dear Lonely: In your case, the lack of gifts is less important than the absence of what they stand for. You have my sympathy.

Dear Abby: My girlfriend tells me that it is tradition that the man buys the woman a ring, and the woman buys the man a watch. What a great tradition! Have you heard of this?

- Bob in Chicago

Dear Bob: No, so I called Dawn Moore, the West Coast regional director of Chopard Jewelers. She informed me that a wristwatch is the "traditional offering" from the woman to the man at the time of the engagement or the wedding. (What a clever way of ensuring he makes it to the church on time!)

Dear Abby: I proposed to my longtime boyfriend and bought him an engagement ring. I didn't care if I received one or not. He asked if I wanted one as well, and I declined. Because of pressure from family and friends, he finally insisted.

Abby, there is so much old-fashioned peer pressure on the man. When we announced our engagement, I made the mistake of saying that I had been the one to propose. People would gawk at him as though he had been the one holding up the wedding plans, and I had to somehow get the ball rolling by proposing to him. It was like they thought less of him somehow. I think it embarrassed him, which was stupid because he was ready to be married long before I was. (I was divorced and afraid of making another mistake.)

When I felt ready, I decided to surprise him and propose. He was loving and patient with me - and it's unfair that people regard him as someone who had to be poked and prodded into making a commitment.

- Smiling in Canada