DEAR ABBY: I am a 34-year-old woman who recently started dating a 40-year-old man I'll call Vince. We get along great and like each other very much.
The problem is my 83-year-old father. When Mom passed away last year, I was chosen to move back home to look after him. Suddenly I have a curfew -- which I ignore -- and Dad doesn't like me going out with Vince.
If this continues, it will ruin a potential relationship before it has a chance to develop. How can I convince my father I am no longer a child and should be allowed to live my own life while I'm still young enough to have one? -- UNDER HOUSE ARREST IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR UNDER HOUSE ARREST: Your father is well aware that you are not a child. I don't know his mental status, but it appears he does not want to lose a companion and housekeeper he can control.
I don't know who chose you to be your father's primary caregiver, but unless you put your foot down now, you will be taking orders from everyone until your father dies.
Work out a reasonable schedule with your siblings or a caretaking service so that you have enough private time for a life of your own. The alternative is your father being cared for by a full-time professional caregiver, and you moving out on your own.
DEAR ABBY: A co-worker sent me an invitation to a party celebrating her son's graduation from college. The envelope was addressed with a computer mailing label.
The party fell on a day I work, so I didn't even consider attending. I have never met the young man and have no social relationship with his mother. My initial reaction was to ignore the whole thing, but my wife thought I should send a gift of money as a matter of courtesy -- which I did.
Here's the clincher: I received a thank-you note written in my co-worker's handwriting! What do you make of this, Abby? -- PERPLEXED IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR PERPLEXED: It's sad, really, because it shows the extent to which your co-worker has failed as a parent. The man's mother appears to be in complete control of her son's social life -- from who will attend his graduation party to acknowledging his gifts. Expressing gratitude for a gift is something her son should have learned by the age of 10.
DEAR ABBY: "Going Coconuts" complained that she and her fiance are having a Hawaiian-themed wedding and had received an invitation to a pre-wedding potluck luau at the home of her future brother and sister-in-law. She felt hurt and angry because they had "stolen" her theme. You sided with her.
I disagree. Her future in-laws may have been only trying to extend the theme of the wedding. "Coconuts" needs to remember that you don't marry just the man -- you also marry the family. This is no time to start a feud. If she doesn't attend the party, she'll be starting off on the wrong foot with her fiance's family.
I think you -- and "Coconuts" -- took it the wrong way. -- HAPPY INDIANA IN-LAW
DEAR HAPPY IN-LAW: I received a stack of letters from readers echoing your sentiments. I did not consider that the brother and sister-in-law might simply be applying the theme of the wedding rather than co-opting it. It would have been better had I offered the bride-to-be a dose of cool reality rather than a soft shoulder. I hope my advice didn't pour cold water on a hot party. Mea culpa.
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