DEAR ABBY: We have been having a problem with a young neighbor couple in our rural area. They drop in to visit us about five evenings a week. They're nice people and good neighbors, so we don't want to offend them, but what would be a diplomatic way to tell them we don't want company that often?
The husband gets home from work at 4:30 p.m. every day and his wife always has dinner on the table when he walks in the door. My husband is 62. He works hard 10 to 12 hours a day and returns home anywhere between 5 and 7 p.m. So it's not possible for me to have dinner ready and waiting. Our idea of a pleasant evening is eating dinner, watching an hour or two of TV, and going to bed about 9 p.m.
My husband has to drive by these neighbors' house on his way home, so they know when he gets here -- and they usually arrive shortly thereafter. I feel very uncomfortable cooking a meal and eating with non-eating company in my kitchen, so I always put dinner preparation aside and visit with them for an hour or two. It's not unusual for us to wind up having dinner at 9 p.m. Sometimes they stay so long my husband and I are too tired to even bother.
We have about had it. How can we regain our privacy but remain friends? -- MISSING DINNER IN MISSOURI
DEAR MISSING DINNER: You and your husband have been such good neighbors that you have made yourselves prisoners in your own home. The next time the couple arrives at your door at dinnertime, in a pleasant tone, say, "John just got home from work and he's tired and hungry. Please excuse us while we have dinner. We plan to retire early. And in the future, don't just drop by -- please wait until we call you."