Dear Annie: I’m a 54-year-old single woman and a part-time college professor. I have three grown, successful children. At the time I met my boyfriend, “Joe,” I was living in a nice boardinghouse in an affluent area. Joe, 63, was divorced and for five years had been living with two of his sisters in the old family home in a working-class neighborhood. Joe had a great job as a contractor.
After a year, my friends and I finally convinced Joe to move out of the family house, and we got an apartment together. Life was great until I found out he was giving the rent money to his youngest son, 24. My income alone wouldn’t cover the rent, and we were evicted. Joe moved back to the family nest. I was not invited and was left homeless.
After six months, I got back on my feet. Joe wanted to repair our relationship and got an apartment in the city. Meanwhile, his eldest son and his daughter (along with her baby) moved into the family house, although they both have good jobs. After a year in his apartment, Joe lost his job and moved back in with his sisters.
I begged him to find a place where we could live together, but he made excuses about the money. I think the problem is that the familial need to live together is permanently instilled. I love him, and he says he loves me. What should I do?
— From a Boardinghouse
Dear Boarding: When Joe found his own apartment, it was a step in the right direction. But whenever the chips are down, he goes right back to his family. This is not unusual, but if it’s a long-term pattern, it could prevent him from making any commitment to you. Until Joe is ready to become independent, the two of you don’t have much of a future. But you also seem overly focused on affluent vs. working class. If you want someone more ambitious, look elsewhere.
Dear Annie: Would you please settle an etiquette question? When one hosts a party and guests bring a dish to share, do they take home whatever is left over, or do the hosts get to keep it?
I was taught that what one brings to a party is left with the hosts. Now we wonder whether this is correct, because we recently moved, and all of our new friends pack up whatever remains and take it home with them.
— Wondering in Maine
Dear Maine: If all the guests are asked to bring a dish because the dinner is potluck, they may take their leftovers home. Guests who bring a dish or a bottle of wine as a hostess gift, shared or not, should definitely leave it. The only exception is when the hosts do not want the leftovers and ask that people please take food home with them. That said, however, if the custom within your group of friends is that everyone brings a dish and they each take their leftovers home, it’s best to cooperate.
Dear Annie: This letter is in response to “Grateful Mama of Little One,” who wanted to know the proper way to ask that no toys be given at her 1-year-old’s birthday party.
Although I agree that birthday invitations should not come with “wish lists,” saying “no toys, please” is a courtesy. As someone who spends a great deal of time selecting the perfect gift, I would feel miffed if I discovered the child’s mother had marched the gift right back to the store. There is no harm in putting “no toys” on the invitation. Everyone may be grateful.
— Grand Island, Neb.
Dear Grand: A gift is just that and should not be dictated. But we do like the idea of parents creating a “theme party,” where guests are asked to bring a book or another item to be donated.
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