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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 22. My fiance, "David," is 23. We are both busy with our internships, working and finishing our degrees. David and his older brother still live at home, but now that we are planning a wedding and preparing our apartment, he sometimes spends the evening with me -- having dinner, planning, doing homework, etc. Occasionally he stays over. This has caused his mother, "Vonda," to freak out.

Vonda says she's not used to him being away from home. (My apartment is only a mile away.) She makes a big fuss about him not eating dinner with them or not calling to let her know his plans. She constantly tries to make us feel guilty about not spending more time with them. But at 23, neither David nor I think her requests are appropriate.

Two days ago Vonda e-mailed my parents and accused them of allowing me to do whatever I want. It's ridiculous, because I have lived on my own for three years and my parents have no part in this. It's almost like she doesn't take us seriously and that's why we're being treated like children.

The next few months are supposed to be for us to plan our wedding. I don't want to have to deal with this. I don't even want to be in the presence of David's parents now because of their lack of respect and civility. Must I tolerate his mother's behavior? Am I compelled to spend time in his parents' house? -- TURNED OFF IN TOLEDO

DEAR TURNED OFF: David's mother appears to be suffering from acute separation anxiety. Both of her adult sons still live under her roof and eat at her table. She looks at you -- an independent woman -- and sees a worldly rival "who's allowed to do whatever she wants," stealing her boy away.

David is long overdue for a serious talk with his parents. While, in a sense, he will always be "their little boy," he is a man now and will soon be striking out on his own. However, if he's not going to be home for dinner and plans to stay the night at your place, it would be considerate of him to let his parents know so they won't be concerned.

Must you tolerate Vonda's behavior? Yes, for the time being. Are you compelled to spend time with your future in-laws? You will if you're as smart as I think you are. There's much to be gained from strong family ties, if it's possible to maintain them. I have a hunch Vonda feels very isolated right now. A step in the right direction would be for you to ask her for some input on those wedding plans.

DEAR ABBY: When a person is asked what is wrong with him or her, are they obliged under the rules of good manners to give an unambiguous report of their illness, even if their malady is a result of AIDS, TB, VD, mental illness or any of the other diseases to which humankind is subjected?

My question stems from an intensive interrogation. Your response will be deeply appreciated. -- WONDERING IN RANCHO CUCAMONGA

DEAR WONDERING: Although the "interrogation" may have been out of concern for you and well-intentioned, you were under no social obligation to give a specific reply. If it happens again, smile and say, "If that were any of your business, you'd already know the answer."

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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