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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.

DEAR ABBY: I am trying to find out what "business casual" means. The dress code for men has just changed in my office, and ties and suits are now optional. Most wear dress shirts and khaki pants. Some men are sporting necklaces. Where do you draw the line? -- FASHION-CONFUSED IN L.A.

DEAR FASHION-CONFUSED: You've asked an intelligent question. Everyone would be better served if some guidelines were issued. The problem lies in the hesitance of many employers to issue a specific dress code, which has left many people confused. What is or is not acceptable attire is a line that must be drawn by the employers.

Whether employees wear a suit and tie, slacks and a sport coat, or khakis and a casual shirt, attire in the workplace should always look neat and professional. While some employers feel that casual dress improves productivity, I have received mail from readers telling me just the opposite.

DEAR ABBY: My brother has asked me to be his best man. The problem is, I am not a man -- I am a girl. I am honored to have been asked, but I don't know what to wear. I don't want to wear what the bridesmaids are wearing because I will look like I walked the wrong way or something. Are there tuxedos for women? -- STUCK IN FRANKLIN, TENN.

DEAR STUCK: Yes, there are elegant tuxedos for women -- some with pants and some with skirts. If the wedding isn't formal, a simple, elegant dinner suit would also be appropriate. Ask your brother and future sister-in-law which they would prefer.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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