Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Sins of Wedding Presents Past Shouldn't Tarnish the Future

DEAR ABBY: I was recently invited to a second cousin's wedding shower and wedding. To be honest with you, if I saw the bride-to-be on the street, I wouldn't recognize her. Although I won't be going to her shower, I am sending a shower gift. I plan on attending the wedding because I don't see this side of the family often.

My question is, what gift should I give the happy couple for their wedding? When I got married, her parents gave me a pair of used vases. How could I tell they were used, you ask? Not only were they not in their original packaging, but they also were dirty. Abby, there were dead flies in them! Being a well-mannered bride, I didn't mention this to my parents, but to this day I still remember. -- WANTS TO DO THE RIGHT THING

DEAR WANTS: Until I saw your signature, I was tempted to suggest you wash and polish the vases, then nicely wrap and send one to your cousin with a note of congratulations, closing with "... more to follow." But knowing you want to do the "right" thing, I'm asking you to please not blame her for the actions of her parents, who may have been financially strapped at the time of your wedding. Then find out where she and her fiance are registered and send them something that's within your budget.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for eight years and are amazed that most of our married friends are unable to separate for even a night.

I was raised in a household where my parents took time for themselves -- whether it was my dad's high school reunion that Mom had no interest in, or my mom's personal growth seminars that Dad was slow to accept. It worked for 48 years until Mom's death.

The wife of one couple we know refused to attend our high school reunion, so her husband didn't go either -- even though many of his close friends would be in attendance. He doesn't make plans for himself because everything has to be run past his wife.

Does our culture create insecurity? Have we lost our independence? -- INDEPENDENT THINKER IN GEORGIA

DEAR INDEPENDENT: No. You have described a man who is passive and prefers to leave the social scheduling to his wife. I don't think it has anything to do with our culture. Many couples operate this way by mutual agreement, and you shouldn't take it personally.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a single, never-married, 50-year-old male. I have no children and was raised with strict, conservative Christian values that I have held onto all these years. I have never had any long-term relationships.

Recently I met a single gal at work, and we enjoy each other's company. Our backgrounds, however, are very different. She has been married twice and has two children. In addition, neither of her children was conceived from either of her marital unions.

My question is, would our diverse backgrounds impede the fostering of a healthy relationship, or is this something worth pursuing? -- RELATIONSHIP-CHALLENGED

DEAR RELATIONSHIP-CHALLENGED: It depends on whether the two of you can have a meeting of the minds as well as a meeting of the hearts, and whether you are flexible enough to accept her just as she is and vice versa.

A NOTE TO PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN: Tonight is the night when wee witches and goblins collect their loot. Please supervise them so they'll be safe. -- ABBY

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.)

** ** **