DEAR HARRIETTE: My family is very candid, and dinners are always hilarious and talkative. My boyfriend's family, however, is more conservative, and I find myself avoiding spending time with them because I am afraid to say something they find inappropriate. I don't want to seem standoffish by not speaking much, but I also want to make sure I do not step on anyone's toes. They tend to talk about sports and politics, neither of which I am particularly interested in. Is there any way to bring my own interests to the table, or should I just brush up on sports and speak when spoken to? -- Fitting In, Laurelton, Maryland
DEAR FITTING IN: Start by boning up on the topics that interest your boyfriend's family. That will show them that you care about their thoughts and are willing to join their conversation. This should begin to create a level of ease in the conversation. If there is something in the news that interests you, introduce the idea and see how it floats. Start out by choosing conversation starters that are not hot-button issues like race, religion or politics. It is good for your boyfriend's family to get to know you and your voice. It is also important for you to appreciate your family's dynamic and accept that it is completely different from his.