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A colleague recently commented that if a reader gathered all the tidbits about me in these columns, the picture would not be pretty.

A consistent reader knows that I pay too much for haircuts (Sept. 22), that I don't save my toddler's artwork (July 28), and that I'm ambivalent about granting legal status to animals (Aug. 25).

This is the problem with columns: People can get the wrong idea about me in 350 words.

For example, a California woman wrote that my column "Why women pay more for a haircut" was "100 percent sexist." She said the issue should have been the unfairness of paying a barber less than a hairdresser. She makes the point, "Don't stereotype men and women in essays that pretend to be harmless! Think deeper, beyond gender, and ... get your humor from something other than the war between the sexes."

An interesting footnote: Six women called or wrote to ask for my hair stylist's phone number.

The piece "Animal rights: The great debate" brought more than a dozen responses.

One reader from Pittsburgh e-mailed: "If Ms. Austin is including herself in the enlightened, caring, petition-signing crowd, her integrity breaks down ... when she questions whether zoos need to provide for the emotional needs of animals.... Anyone working with animals will tell you that an animal's physical health is tied to its mental and emotional state."

And a parting shot from an Internet wit: "Watching the country turn toward animal-friendly products raised [this] question in my mind: When will sharks be allowed to share profits from movies?"

*Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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