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by Abigail Van Buren

Many Are Counting Pennies With Economy in the Doldrums

DEAR ABBY: I would like to make the public aware of something that is the result of the poor economy.

When someone who is hurting financially is invited out to a restaurant, bar, movie, etc., and the person declines your invitation, please don't take it personally. He or she may be watching every penny. Every cent matters if it's needed for food, shelter, bills, etc. A person in this situation simply cannot afford to "splurge" on these kinds of activities.

Believe me, I know what I'm talking about. I have been invited to participate in various social events, and I can't afford to go. This is not something that I want to broadcast either. Some of us may be keeping quiet about it.

Let's face it -- it's an awful situation to be in, but one we hope will not last forever. -- IN THAT BOAT IN ILLINOIS

DEAR IN THAT BOAT: I'm sorry you're experiencing tough sailing, and I hope you will be out of rough waters soon.

Folks, this person is giving you a timely heads-up. If someone suddenly starts declining social invitations, it does not necessarily indicate that he or she has become antisocial. It may mean the person is financially unable to do so.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Fred," sees absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that he did not take a day off from work to attend my 94-year-old mother's funeral. He stopped by the ceremony for the graveside service, then left immediately and returned to work.

Fred is an independent traveling salesman who never works more than half a day, so it wasn't like he needed to hurry back to an office or place of business. He didn't even have enough love or respect for me or my mother's family to spend the day with us.

Do you agree with me this was unkind? Fred thinks I'm the one who is being unreasonable. -- WOUNDED WIFE IN COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR WOUNDED: Of course his behavior was unkind. It was also insensitive. Regardless of your mother's age, losing a parent is painful and his place was by your side offering emotional support.

It appears you married someone who is usually centered on his own needs, and I'm willing to bet this incident isn't the only example. Please accept my sympathy on two counts: First for the loss of your mother, and second, for marrying someone who would be willfully absent when you needed him the most. Whatta guy.

DEAR ABBY: Cooking is my hobby. I enjoy hosting luncheons for my friends. I choose healthy, fresh ingredients, plan creative menus and presentation is important to me. However, it seems that someone at the table always pipes up with, "I don't eat THAT!"

I think it is rude and guests should just place an unwanted item on the side of their plate. Am I right? I don't know how to respond to people who do that. -- ANNOYED HOSTESS IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR ANNOYED: Here's how. Smile and say, "If you don't like that, don't eat it!" Then pass the relish tray and say, "Would you like some crudites? Nuts?"

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)