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by Abigail Van Buren

Hosts Struggle to Make Drop in Guests Drop Out

DEAR ABBY: My family attends a local church, and we have made many friends within this congregation. However, there is one family in this congregation who wears out the welcome mat at our home, and I don't know how to handle it without making enemies.

For Memorial Day, we were having a picnic in our back yard with some friends. "Mr. Uninvited" drove by and, seeing that we had guests, "stopped in" and invited himself for dinner after asking, "What do you have for me to drink?" When a beer was offered, he responded, "Oh, this cheap brand -- don't you have anything else?"

It upsets me that he has the nerve to invite himself when it is obvious that we're having company and he was not invited. I would never do that to him. Then, the insults we hear if we're serving only hamburgers and hot dogs and not having surf and turf, really put the icing on the cake. He always comes "empty-handed," which does not improve the situation.

This is a family of four. The father and son are the worst offenders. They are a middle-class family, like us, so it's not a case of "he won't eat tonight if I don't feed him." In addition, they have never once invited us to their home.

I have on several occasions made remarks, trying to drop the hint that they are not welcome to barge into my home on all occasions, but he just doesn't "get it." I don't want to make an enemy, but I cannot tolerate his rudeness anymore. Any suggestions? -- NEEDS HELP WITH THE VISITORS

DEAR NEEDS HELP: I've often said, "If people take advantage of you once, shame on them -- if it happens more than once, shame on YOU."

You are being imposed upon, and it will continue until you take a firm stand. The next time the freeloader drops by when you are entertaining, say: "It's not convenient to have you visit us now. We'll see you another time."

If it costs you a friendship, you haven't lost much.

DEAR ABBY: I was very disappointed in the advice you gave "Brokenhearted in Lake Forest, Ill." You advised her to put a rubber band around her wrist and snap it each time she thought about her ex-boyfriend because the pain inflicted on her wrist would distract her from the pain in her heart.

Abby, I work with a population of people who use this approach to the pain in their lives. They cut on themselves to take away their mental pain. It becomes very addictive and they cannot stop doing it.

A snap of a rubber band to remove the other pain is alarmingly close. It can lead to further self-abuse or mutilation.

Please offer the woman better advice: to take a long walk, deep breaths, hot baths, or to count the many things she has to be thankful for! -- BRENDA HENDERSON, CORVALLIS, ORE., MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION

DEAR BRENDA: Although the rubber band technique is a very old one for behavior modification, the letters I have received from you and several people who identified themselves as "cutters" were eye-openers. While the majority of people are not masochistic, in the future I'll recommend positive, rather than negative, reinforcement.

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