DEAR BEVERLY,

I don't know if you've been reading the science sections in the magazines, but it seems they're coming round to that ancient belief that it's all in the genes. Large brown fat cells, rotten tempers and longevity have a lot to do with heredity.

My large brown fat cells come from the maternal side, the rotten temper is paternal, but I've also inherited my Auntie Zora's compulsively early genes. When Zora traveled from Gravelbourg to Winnipeg, she'd sit overnight in the station with her galoshes on, just to keep an eye on the trains. Remember I wrote you that I was going to this Florida fat farm so "wife of" could reduce the size of her large brown fat-cell inheritance? I missed half a day of jumping jacks in the Florida sunshine so I could sit on a plastic chair for three hours at Gate 6 in Fort Lauderdale airport, with full knowledge that my luggage would be last off at National because it was first on at Fort Lauderdale.

Being compulsively early has definite disadvantages in Washington, Beverly, even though a lot of people like to arrive early to parties so they can leave as soon as possible. Popsie Tribble, who is, of course, always fashionably late, chastised me for my vice.

"You're already known as a circler," Popsie said.

"What's that?"

"Don't pretend ignorance. I've seen your car circling around our house because you've arrived before the designated hour on the invitation. I'd ask you in for a drink except that would lead to another hazard that compulsively early birds should worry about at parties."

"What's that?"

"Getting plastered before dinner."

Popsie was right. That cocktail hour is a killer. I've gone the Perrier route, the single glass of white wine route, and the vodka and soda route (a trick drink -- others might think it's plain club soda), and there's noth about any of them. Cocktail time lasts and lasts, and after I've swallowed five glasses of Perrier I'm too waterlogged to talk but am admirably prepped for a sonogram of my kidneys. Nursing a glass of white wine prevents waiters from offering tempting martinis but seems to make me and everyone else dull company. Admittedly vodka adds a brillance to my conversation -- but only for 20 minutes. Then I have to keep mute during the dinner hour because of the slurring problem.

"What you ought to do," Popsie said, "is call up the hostess, ask her when she plans to sit down and arrive just before the moment. Not only will you avoid those nasty cocktail party symptoms, but your large brown fat cells will shrink because you've missed the hors d'oeuvre."

Fatuous advice for a compulsive early bird like me. I'm the first one in for lunch at a restaurant, which again brings on the drink problem. A glass of wine while waiting will calm my temper as I stare angrily at the door for the latecomers. But in Powertown, Beverly, no one drinks at lunch because of all the important meetings everyone has in the afternoon.

"I need a clear head," they say, sipping iced tea.

I once asked a maitre d' if anyone ordered whole bottles of wine at lunch. "Only tourists," he answered, "and the lesser media."

I ensconce myself in the waiting rooms of doctors, long before their arrival. But there's always trouble with the other compulsive early birds in the waiting room. Once I fought over a Soccer Today magazine with a diabetic woman of 70, having finished the other reading material, a pamphlet on the "Irritable Gut."

The odd thing is that I'm married to a man who has inherited the late genes. Gets up late, goes to bed late, goes to parties late and is late for his own parties.

Mr. Ambassador does not appreciate people coming an hour early to our embassy parties, although "wife of" is more understanding. A year ago we gave a dinner in honor of a compatriot who won an American award. The invitation said 8 p.m., and Mr. Ambassador organized, for some odd reason, a business meeting at 7 p.m. in the Residence drawing room.

The business meeting group had already gathered for serious conversation when the doorbell rang and 10 people walked in. Mr. Ambassador, who was late for the business meeting, of course, rushed to the top of the stairs without his dinner jacket and greeted the newcomers with "out, out, out."

"But we were asked for dinner," a lady, who seemed to be their leader, replied.

"Not till an hour from now," he pointed out a little more diplomatically.

"My invitation says 7," the lady bravely fibbed.

"We never invite people for dinner at 7," he shouted down the stairwell. "There's a business meeting going on, so please return at 8."

"I don't want to circle for an hour," the lady protested. "We're from out of town and have no place to go. We're staying right here."

So "wife of" ushered them into the library, which was crowded with tables set for dinner, gave them drinks and closed the doors.

Five minutes later the lady came into the drawing room, where the business meeting was going on and said, "I like it better here."

Mr. Ambassador gave her an ultimatum. "It's the library or circling."

Anyway, Beverly, there were several places missing at dinner. One person did stay on. Her husband.

"You'll have to forgive my wife," he said. "She has compulsively early genes."

Your best friend,

Sondra