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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I need your opinion about something that is puzzling my husband and me. When several couples go out for dinner together, is it rude to ask for separate checks?

We have been made to feel very cheap when we ask for separate checks, but there are times when we have paid half the bill when our portion should have been much less.

Please tell me how to handle this without causing embarrassment to anyone. There is also the matter of leaving a tip. Shouldn't each diner pay part of the tip?

We get a lot of dirty looks from servers when we ask for separate checks. Why? -- LONGTIME READER IN MAINE

DEAR READER: There is nothing wrong with asking for separate checks, particularly if there is a great disparity in the drinking habits of the couples. That way, each diner can pay the proper portion of the tip.

You may be getting dirty looks from servers because it is more trouble for them to write separate checks than to make out just one.

DEAR ABBY: I have recently met an accomplished lady with considerable class. We're very compatible except for the fact that her conversation is greatly overloaded with name-dropping and references to the places she has been throughout the world. This is a big turnoff for me.

Is there any way to handle this problem in a non-embarrassing way? -- IRKED IN ANAHEIM, CALIF.

DEAR IRKED: If this woman has been all over the world and is acquainted with important people, don't fault her for mentioning it. Count yourself fortunate that she enjoys your company.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to share the following story that both saddened and inspired me.

My mother died in October of 1995, and it had always been her wish to be cremated so that she could help the soil grow wildflowers. We spread her ashes in the family cemetery. The following winter and spring were extremely dry in Texas. Spring rain was practically nonexistent and we had none of the usual wildflowers that typically paint our fields and highways. Lakes were very low and many crops were ruined.

My parents had been happily married for 49 years and her death was devastating to my father. He visited the cemetery often.

In March, when Dad drove to the cemetery for a visit, he couldn't believe his eyes. The area where we had laid mother's ashes was covered with small blue wildflowers! He wept while gathering some of them. He didn't know what kind of flowers they were, so after returning home, he showed them to a knowledgeable friend who replied, "These are forget-me-nots!" Despite the drought, my mother's last wish had come true, and she certainly chose the appropriate flower to grow. -- HER DAUGHTER, FARMER'S BRANCH, TEXAS

DEAR DAUGHTER: How fitting that your mother got her wish, and how appropriate the symbolism of the flowers that greeted your father when he went to pay his respects to the memory of his beloved wife.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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