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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Perfect Pedigree Is Marred by Table Manners

DEAR ABBY: I've been seeing "Matt," a 31-year-old investment banker, for a couple of months. He's caring, kind, intelligent and successful -- a wonderful person. After prep school, he went to an Ivy League college. All things considered, he is everything I have been looking for in a mate.

Then we went out to dinner and I watched him eat. Abby, Matt has the worst table manners I have ever seen. He holds his fork like a caveman and slurps his food.

My parents and grandparents taught me proper etiquette. I was brought up to believe that the way you conduct yourself, especially at the table, is a reflection of your upbringing.

Call me shallow, but Matt's bad table manners are close to being a deal-breaker for me. I don't know what to do. Frankly, I don't want to be the one to teach him table manners. Should I con him into an etiquette class -- or is that too sneaky? -- DATING A CAVEMAN

DEAR DATING: Con him? Speak up and tell this man exactly what you have told me! You'll be doing him a tremendous favor. People are judged in business -- as they are socially -- by the manners they do (or do not) display. Better he should hear it from you. And if you locate an etiquette class, offer to attend with him. Don't sacrifice an otherwise perfect relationship over a flaw that is fixable.

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 11 years. My father passed away this past December. Because of this, my mother, who lives next door, has been sleeping at our house at night. This is causing my husband to become resentful. He says he no longer has any privacy.

Mother helps out by taking the kids to and from school every day. She would like to start staying at her own house at night again, but it is still difficult for her. What should I do? -- LOST DAD, MAY LOSE HUSBAND

DEAR LOST: Encourage your mother to start sleeping at home. Ease the transition by having your older children sleep at her house for a few weeks. If she's still afraid to sleep alone, suggest she adopt a pet. The sooner she asserts her independence, the better she will feel. You'll be doing both your mother and your husband a favor.

DEAR ABBY: Lately, my aunt, "Brenda," has been overly strict with my cousin, "Emily." She won't let Emily talk on the phone, go to movies -- you get the idea. Once, because Emily lost the padlock for her gym locker, she was grounded for three weeks, lost her phone and computer privileges, and had to take all of her pictures out of her locker.

My family knows this is wrong, but everyone's afraid to say anything. Is there anything I can do to help Emily? -- CONCERNED COUSIN IN WISCONSIN

DEAR CONCERNED COUSIN: The punishment should fit the crime, and it appears that Emily's mother has gone way overboard. The problem with trying to keep a child a virtual prisoner is that most of them will rebel sooner or later. It would be a kindness if you would ask the other adults in your family to speak to your Aunt Brenda. She needs to learn more effective parenting techniques.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY IRISH READERS:

"May the most you wish for be the least you get.

"May the best times you've ever had be the worst you will ever see."

HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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