DEAR ABBY: At this time of year I have seen letters in your column from couples describing how they met. I hope you will print ours.
During a study break one evening in April 1937, I walked to Bruckner Boulevard Park in the Bronx to sit on a bench and watch the cars drive by. A cyclist whizzed through the center walkway, then stopped and slowly backed up to where I was sitting.
''Hello," he said. I responded. "Who are you?" he asked. "I'm Queen Elizabeth the First," I told him without batting an eye. "Well," he replied, "I'm Sir Walter Raleigh — unfortunately, I don't have a coat to place at your feet." Then he sat down beside me. We talked, we laughed, and he walked me home.
Four years later, Ben and I eloped. That was April 3, 1941.
This year we will celebrate our 71st anniversary and have, in our lifetime together, accumulated three beautiful daughters, nine grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, three great-great-grandchildren and another on the way.
We have shared our tears, our joys, our failures and our successes. We have worked long hours, taken vacations, participated in sports and traveled. We have enjoyed every moment. Now in our 90s, we are financially secure, have a caring family and many beautiful memories. Ben, however, has not as yet placed his coat at my feet. — BELLA IN NEW YORK
DEAR BELLA: No — he took you on a lifetime magic carpet ride instead. May you enjoy many more years of happiness together.
DEAR ABBY: Last weekend I went to a birthday slumber party at a friend's house. We played poker as we often do, then one girl suggested we play strip poker. She was kind of pushy about it. I wasn't comfortable with the idea and chose not to participate. I was the only one. Everybody laughed at me. They called me a prude and told me "all girls look the same."
I don't think I'm a prude. I'm not shy about undressing in front of my sister and friends. I'm just not comfortable about something like this and saw no point to it. I mean, if "we're all the same," then what's the reason for exposing our bodies to each other? Everybody thought it was fun, and those who ended up taking it all off laughed about it.
Is there something wrong with me? Now they're talking about doing it at future slumber parties, so I'm not sure how to handle it. I could just not attend, but this is the group I hang out with, and I don't like to miss out. — NO PRUDE IN SACRAMENTO
DEAR NO PRUDE: Not only is there nothing wrong with you, I applaud you for not giving in to peer pressure and doing something you didn't feel was right. It took maturity to refuse.
Because you're not comfortable playing strip poker, you should make other plans for those nights. This doesn't mean you shouldn't socialize with your friends — but if their idea of a fun time is strip poker, consider cultivating a few more relationships with girls who have broader interests. That way you'll have something to do on nights they are playing — until they grow bored with the game. (And they will.)
TO MY READERS IN ABBYLAND:
I'd like to make my feelings clear,
I love you "Abbdicts" far and near.
Your comments challenge and enlighten,
stimulate and often brighten.
Yes, I know you're sometimes critical,
but you're always analytical.
So on this Happy Valentine's Day
I send a heart full of love your way. — ABBY
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.