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GIRLFRIEND EXPECTS FIREWORKS WHEN HER PARENTS MEET HIS

DEAR ABBY: I have been with "Tom" for two years, and I suspect that he will be proposing soon. He is 27 and I'm 24. Here's the problem: He wants our parents to meet before he asks.

Abby, I have put this off because I'm sure they will have nothing in common. My parents are small-business owners and conservative. His parents are pot-smoking swingers -- literally.

How do I prepare my parents (and myself) for what I expect to be a tense and uncomfortable meeting? Should I suggest talking points? Should I fill my parents in on what is to come? I want this to go as smoothly as possible. I would appreciate any wisdom you may have. -- NO WORDS ON THE WEST COAST

DEAR NO WORDS: Your dilemma reminds me of the plot from the movie "Meet the Fockers."

I'm sure the one thing your parents will have in common is a desire for you and your boyfriend to be happy together. Building on that, you and Tom should talk to your folks and prepare them for the encounter. Trying to hide or minimize their differences would do no good because they will soon become obvious. Do not waste your time or energy preparing "talking points" for Tom's parents, because if they show up stoned, they probably wouldn't be able to remember them.


DEAR ABBY: Three months ago, my sister "Diane" said she would like to get the family together for some professional family photos. The photographer she chose was available only on one particular day. Unfortunately, my husband couldn't get off from work that day.

Diane then suggested we take the pictures without him. I said it was inappropriate and refused. When I asked if we could use a different photographer at another time, my sister told me to forget the whole thing.

Today I was visiting my parents and I saw the family photos -- taken without me, my husband and our child. I had no idea they had gone ahead and taken the pictures without us. I am angry and hurt. I'm especially mad at my mom because she knew how bothered I was that Diane suggested excluding my husband.

Am I justified in feeling this way? Should they have waited until the whole family was able to get together? Or should I suck it up and not expect everyone to accommodate my husband's work schedule? -- OUT OF THE PICTURE IN HOUSTON

DEAR OUT OF THE PICTURE: Yes, yes and yes.


DEAR ABBY: Until my daughter was 18, we did all the traditional birthday celebrations. On her 18th birthday, she turned the tables saying, although she was born on that day, I had done all the work of giving her life.

Now, at her request, we spend her special day celebrating each other. She takes me to dinner and buys me flowers, and I let her. And now on my special day, I do the same for my own mother.

This has become a tradition, and my grandchildren now follow it. The only gift necessary is the time we give each other. -- APPRECIATED IN IDAHO

DEAR APPRECIATED: I like your daughter's idea very much. It makes perfect sense to me. In my opinion, what makes any holiday special is the time people who care about one another spend celebrating together.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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