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Dear Ann Landers: I am a happily married man in my 50s and have recently begun corresponding over the Internet with an old flame. (She and I had an affair 20 years ago.)

"Agatha" and I chat by e-mail every day and talk on the phone once or twice a week. This has been going on for about six months, and we have become quite close. The problem is that Agatha and I are both married to other people, and it isn't easy to find time to talk. If I don't speak to her for several days, I become anxious and think she doesn't care about me anymore. Agatha tells me her real life comes first, and she doesn't have time to chat every day. Her last message was, "Deal with it."

I think Agatha is mighty casual about my feelings. Do you think I should continue to chat with her?

-- Conflicted in Florida
Dear Florida: What is a "happily married man" doing on the Internet, corresponding with an old flame? This sounds like the grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome.

Lucky for you that Agatha has good sense. When she says her "real life comes first," she's letting you know she doesn't consider the cyberspace excitement "real life." Hooray for her. You asked for my advice. I say, "Cool it."

Law career is honorable

Dear Ann Landers: This is for "His Girlfriend Down South," who was very disappointed when her boyfriend announced he would be entering law enforcement after graduation from college. She thought a job as a policeman would be a terrible waste of his college education.

While it is true that many law enforcement agencies will hire officers with only a high school diploma, this is not in keeping with the current trend. The Illinois State Police requires a four-year college degree for entry-level applicants, as do an increasing number of municipal agencies. The requirement of a two-year associate's degree is now quite common. In the early 1970s, federal money was made available to establish criminal justice programs at colleges around the country. Over the last 30 years, these programs have contributed to the increased professionalism exhibited by American law enforcement officers, which enables them to meet the extraordinary demands of their very rewarding jobs. I hope you will let your readers know about this.

-- Kay Henriksen, J.D., Chair, Criminal Justice Dept., MacMurray College, Jacksonville, Ill.
Dear Kay Henriksen: Thank you for promoting the respect for our law enforcement officers that they deserve. These gallant men and women in blue risk their lives every day so OUR lives can be safer. The heroism they exhibited recently in New York and Washington will never be forgotten. The individuals who are married to these courageous professionals also deserve a great deal of credit.

Give them what they want

Dear Ann Landers: My in-laws will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary soon and have hinted they would like a big party. My husband and I would prefer to buy them long-term health care insurance, which would be more practical than a bash that will be over in a few hours. What do you say, Ann? Help us decide.

-- Maryland Quandary
Dear Maryland: Since the folks have indicated that they want a party to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, by all means give them a party. It need not be an expensive, glitzy affair -- a tea or cocktail party would do just fine. Meanwhile, the health care policy is a splendid idea. It would be wonderful if you could cut back on the party and manage both.

Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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