DEAR ABBY: I have an answer for a question from "Excluded in the East" you printed on Sept. 24: "Why do married couples exclude single people?"
As a single mother with three children for 15 years, I made the conscious decision to conduct myself as I always had when I was part of a couple. I hosted backyard parties and holiday dinners and invited my married friends. I initiated invitations for dinner and a movie.
At restaurants, I made sure to pick up my own tab. If a couple insisted on paying for my meal, I insisted on paying the tip and was prepared with cash. Why? Because I was mindful that some men felt uncomfortable about taking money from a single woman.
If I wanted company for the evening, I drove to their house. Sometimes I volunteered to be the designated safe driver. Most important, I never complained about my ex or vented about the difficulties of coping as a single mom.
Needless to say, there was no flirting or inappropriate comments. I also avoided lengthy side conversations with one spouse. In short, I worked hard to make sure my married friends enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs, and it worked! -- LAURA IN NEW YORK
DEAR LAURA: I'm glad it worked for you. After I asked for readers' input on the topic, I received many interesting responses. Read on for a sample:
DEAR ABBY: I suspect that married couples are afraid divorce is contagious. It could have something to do with the fact that some married people are no longer happily married and they fear if they include a divorcee, it might trigger a divorce. -- HAPPILY UNCOUPLED IN OHIO
DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 10 years. A lot of couples exclude singles because they don't want them to feel like third wheels. I remember when I was single feeling that way in some groups, and it was depressing. Marrieds also have a different mindset than singles, which can lead to awkwardness. It can work, but it has to be the right group. -- MARRIED IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR ABBY: We're a gay male married couple. We have many friends -- singles and couples, gay and straight -- with whom we socialize, usually at restaurants. We often dine with single friends one at a time, because splitting the tab is simply a matter of two credit cards. If we're with another couple, that's two credit cards. Three couples, it's three cards, etc. But with five or seven people at the table, paying for the meal turns into an exercise in high finance. -- KEEPING IT SIMPLE IN PALM SPRINGS
DEAR ABBY: I'm in my early 60s and still single. I actually prefer to be left out of invitations to eat in restaurants, go on trips, etc. with my many coupled friends. It makes me somewhat depressed to be with those who have found their mates. "Excluded's" friends may be sensitive about this, too. I'm very comfortable at home with my menagerie, and I often invite people over -- married couples included. -- DOG LADY IN BIRMINGHAM, ALA.
DEAR ABBY: Couples who tend to exclude their single friends, for whatever reason, need to remember that one day they, too, may be single and overlooked. My dear mom was left out a lot after her divorce, and I remember how sad it made her feel. -- ANDREA IN DENVER
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)