DEAR ABBY: When my partner and I eat at a restaurant, the server often clears my partner's plate before I am finished. I am not a slow eater, but I generally finish after she does.
When the server removes her plate, I'm left feeling like I have to rush to finish my meal and that our "shared dinner time" is over.
Am I wrong to feel that it's rude to take away the dishes before everyone at the table is done? As a hostess at home, I wait until the entire table is finished eating before I clear. On the other hand, just about every place where we eat out does this, so maybe I should get used to it. What do you think? -- SUE IN GLOUCESTER, MASS.
DEAR SUE: Here in the United States, it is common for servers to take the empty plates from the table. In Europe, diners often linger over a meal, enjoying coffee -- a liqueur, perhaps -- and good conversation.
How does your partner feel about having her plate cleared? If she would prefer that it remain while you finish your dinner, all she needs to do is say to the server, "Please leave it until Sue is done." If she's unwilling to do that, then I think you'll have to get used to it.
DEAR ABBY: My fiance died three years ago of cancer. He was only 27. His diagnosis was a shock, and he was gone from complications of treatment barely a month later.
Prior to this, while planning our life together, I became close with his family. After his death, I don't know what I'd have done if they hadn't been there for me. Although many people sympathized, my almost-in-laws came closest to understanding my devastation and pain. Simply put, we helped each other through it.
We remain close to this day. I spend time with his mom and sisters, am invited to birthday dinners and holidays, and we get together on his birthday and the anniversary of his passing.
Is this OK? Is it normal? When people hear that we're still so close, I have had reactions from, "That's wonderful!" to "You're holding onto the past." Although there are still some tears, there is now more laughter when we share memories. And I have begun dating again.
I don't feel that by preserving our relationship we are stuck in the past. Do you? -- DOUBTING IN WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.
DEAR DOUBTING: There are degrees of involvement. You came very close to being an official member of that family, but fate thought otherwise. Whether your ties remain as tight when you fall in love again remains to be seen. But for now you are all meeting each other's needs -- and as long as it doesn't hold you back, it's all right with me.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I married four years ago. My oldest daughter dates my husband's brother and they're expecting a baby together, although they are not married.
Can you please tell me what this child should call me, my husband and our other children? We're confused about it and don't want the child to be confused about who's who. Any help you can offer on this will be greatly appreciated. -- TAMI IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR TAMI: You are the baby's biological grandmother, and your husband is the baby's biological uncle and step-grandfather. Your children are going to be aunts or uncles. Congratulations to all of you.
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