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by Abigail Van Buren

Aunt Welcomes Big Family but Not All Their Friends

DEAR ABBY: I am a single woman (no children) who hosts several family parties during the year. I have six brothers and sisters. All are married, and they have a total of 16 children. Everyone in the family is invited to these family get-togethers -- and I used to looking forward to seeing them. The problem is, my brother's five children each bring a boyfriend or girlfriend. I never know when these "extra five" people are coming, and it makes planning a party difficult. (If all the nieces and nephews started bringing their friends, there would be 32 children!)

My brother never tells me that their kids' friends are coming -- and when they do come, they socialize only with each other. When I was a teen-ager, if we did not want to attend a family gathering, we stayed home; we did not invite our friends. Isn't it inconsiderate to bring uninvited guests to someone's home?

My mother tells me not to say anything, just to be happy we all get together and get along. My feeling is if others approve of uninvited guests at their parties, that is their decision. I believe it is my choice who attends a party I host. Do you think I am being old-fashioned? -- IRRITATED AUNT IN OHIO

DEAR IRRITATED: There's nothing old-fashioned about good manners. Inform your siblings you would prefer that your parties be "family only" -- then relax the rule once a year and make it an open house where everyone is invited.

You are fortunate to have a large, loving family. Not everyone is so blessed.