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DEAR ABBY: What is your take on these two similar situations? We were recently invited to attend a surprise birthday party for a man in his late 40s. We were all to meet at a lovely restaurant. Somehow he found out the day before and called each guest, saying he had "other plans and the party is off." (A blatant excuse.)

How about another grown man, my neighbor? I had invited his family over for a small, casual dinner at my home on his birthday. Immediately upon entering, he saw the cake, said, "I don't celebrate my birthday!" slammed the door and left. He didn't even say "thanks anyway."

Is this considered normal behavior? I was trying to show his daughter -- my goddaughter -- that you "receive by giving," but it sure backfired. I wasn't trying to embarrass him, just show him that we love him.

I will keep my opinions about these men to myself. Let's just say, I'm still shaking my head. -- NEVER AGAIN IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR NEVER AGAIN: A birthday party is not a command performance. You have described two individuals who have "birthday party issues." They probably have good reasons for them, and they are entitled to their feelings.

The first man called the party off in enough time so that he did not inconvenience any of the guests. As to your neighbor, his response was both immature and ungracious. One would think that his daughter or his wife would have warned you about how strongly he felt about birthday celebrations. For them to have allowed the situation to go as far as it did was wrong.

Please do not take what happened too personally. And in the future, if you plan a birthday celebration, try to discreetly find out if one would be welcomed.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I relocated 1,200 miles away from my family because of my husband's work. I haven't seen my mother since last September. My brother is having his 40th birthday, and Mother called my husband and begged him to let me come. Because I don't work, I don't like to ask my husband for vacation money for myself alone. He told her I could go.

My daughters, however, are having a hard time dealing with the fact that I'm taking a trip without them. They are 16 and 10, and have their father and grandmother to look after them while I'm gone. Of course, my husband's mother didn't like the fact that I'd be gone for a week. She's afraid she'll have to do something for one of them in my absence. (She does nothing all week but shop.)

My girls can take care of themselves, and my 10-year-old will be supervised by my 16-year-old and her father. I am just upset that I'm getting flak about going to see my mother. It has been almost a year! What can I say to my children to make them feel better about Mom taking a trip without them? -- FEELING GUILTY IN VIRGINIA

DEAR FEELING GUILTY: For heaven's sake, stop allowing them to make you feel guilty! It will only lessen your enjoyment of the family reunion. Tell your daughters goodbye, you'll see them in one week, and when you do, you'll bring them back a nice present.

Children tend to be self-centered creatures, so stop expecting them to think more about you than themselves right now. They will survive, trust me. And the respite will be good for all of you.

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 $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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