Once more, there's love trouble in D.C. . . . .

DEAR BOB: "I am a 36-year-old lawyer in a big firm downtown. My situation is exactly like so many other women in this town. I have spent the last 18 years struggling through college, struggling through law school, struggling to make partner in the firm, that I haven't even begun to think about getting married and having a family.

"But this year, I started to think about it -- hard.

"Whenever I'm in the law library, my mind drifts to Pampers and birthday parties. I find myself tugged emotionally whenever I pass a mother and a baby in the grocery store. Every time I rush off in my nice little suit to another meeting with another client, I wonder if any of this is worth it.

"The trouble has been a husband. Not only didn't I have one, but I didn't have any prospects. I'm no blushing innocent, but, Bob, you know as well as I do that a good, single, sane man is tough to find.

"Last week, I think I found him.

"I was flying back to Washington from Chicago. A man was sitting next to me. I paid no attention to him until he spilled a bloody mary on me at 35,000 feet.

"As I was dabbing it up with a napkin, he asked me out to dinner in Georgetown that night. It was very unlawyerly of me, I know, but on impulse, I decided to say yes.

"Dinner led to drinks. Drinks led to a walk by the Potomac. The walk led to the most incredible affair I've ever had. I even called in sick for three days just so I could be with him. It is so intense that I never want it to end.

"I'm already thinking about marrying this guy. We've already discussed it. The only snag is that he says he doesn't want kids -- and, of course, I do.

"I think I could change his mind, but I'm worried that maybe I couldn't. I thought that, since you're a man who's familiar with Washington men, you could give me some insight into how I could do that.

"(Signed) BLOODY MARY"

DEAR MARY: My insight is tainted by the gold ring on the fourth finger of my left hand, and by the two kids who call me "Daddy." I wanted all of the above very much. Therefore, I'm not sure I can speak with much authority about a guy who may want the ring, but doesn't want the reproduction.

Even so, I do have one strong suggestion for you and your favorite cocktail-spiller:

Relax.

In the first week of a romance, you two should be tickling each other. And telling each other about your dopey cousins. And staying up all night to watch bad movies on Channel 45. You shouldn't be picking names and debating who will take Junior to the day care center on odd-numbered Tuesdays.

It sounds to me as if you're approaching this affair the way you approach an antitrust case, Mary. Too ser-r-r-r-r-ious.

Take a deep breath, and let the relationship take one, too. I have a hunch that Mr. Right is saying no to kids to slow you down a little. If he likes you, and wants to marry you, the kids issue will take care of itself.

DEAR BOB: "I am a married woman who's been married over 20 years. My children are grown and gone. The marriage is boring. The excitement's gone. Nobody's fault.

"Into my life walks a younger man. Over a period of months, we are thrown together on a daily basis. He is divorced. No kids. Handsome with blue eyes. He winks at me whenever I arrive. He confesses that he is an opera fan. He plays the 1812 Overture on his car cassette.

"He cries on my shoulder about how many women have left him in the past. He says he doesn't deserve happiness.

"My heart melts. When he winks, my blood pressure rises, my heart flip-flops, my temperature rises.

"I decide to confront him with my feelings. He panics. He avoids me.

"I pursue him relentlessly. I push him into a rage. I receive a note from him listing my faults in detail. Resigned to his inability to be honest, I transfer to another office. Rejection hurts.

"This man no doubt will go on hurting women. I have no idea why. He no doubt has added me to his sob story of women who have left him.

"Why didn't I see it coming? It will be a long time before I even contemplate romance.

"(Signed) OLDER BUT WISER IN PRINCE GEORGE'S."

DEAR O.B.W.: I can sympathize with your pain, but not with your analysis of what happened.

As I figure it, you were interested in the guy, but the guy wasn't interested in you. Period. How does that make him dishonest? How does that make him a man who "no doubt will go on hurting women?" It merely makes him a man who didn't feel the same titanic tremors for you that you felt for him.

I'm confused about what you wanted from this guy, O.B.W. Did you want to have an affair with him? If so, you must have been aware of the risks. People get fired, sued, disgraced and murdered for bedding people who are married to others. If all of that wasn't enough to give you pause, it may have been enough for your blue-eyed coworker.

I think the situation boils down to you the woman misreading him the man. Sounds to me as if he cast you as a confidant, you cast yourself as a lover and the play never made it out of rehearsals. But that's show biz -- and it doesn't mean anyone is damnable, wicked or pathological.

From The North Carolina Independent:

What do you get when you cross James Dean with Ronald Reagan?

Rebel without a clue. CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

Parents are the backbone of our annual fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's. But for the first time in our 1987-88 drive, we have heard from a parent-to-be.

Kim Davis of Northwest writes that she is about as close to motherhood as close gets. Her first baby is due five days from now. And like all of us who have faced such a wrenching, permanent change in the family, Kim is worrying about "worst cases."

"This is a downpayment of sorts, if anything should ever happen and my children need to go to Children's," says Kim, of the $15 check she sent.

"If they don't, it's worth it to me to help some other child less fortunate."

I hope the situation turns out to be the latter, Kim. But either way, your money will provide what such money has been providing at Children's since 1870 -- good medical care to any kid who needs it.

How about the rest of you parents-in-waiting? Isn't it time you headed for the checkbook, to make an investment in your child's future?

Only seven shopping days till Christmas. But for those of us here in Financial Central, there are really only three-and-a-half.

Since Christmas falls on a Friday this year, next week will be a short week in most offices. By midday Thursday, not a creature will be stirring.

So this is a nudge, to all who labor under the fluorescents, and to all who are serving as Children's collectors. Please don't forget to pass the hat -- or to send me the hat's contents -- before everyone disappears for Christmas. The sooner we get what you've collected, the sooner needy sick kids can make use of it. Many thanks.

TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.