DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a great guy, "Curtis," for about a year, and I'm happy with everything about our relationship except for one thing. Curtis lives out of town. I live in the same town as his parents. He stays with me many weekends, and when he visits his parents and they ask where he is staying, he lies to them.

I understand that his folks are religious and that they wouldn't approve of his staying over, but Curtis is 25 years old. At this point, shouldn't he be able to choose what he wants to do?

My parents are also traditional in their beliefs, but I have made it clear to Curtis that I was raised to tell the truth, even if it means disappointing someone. His mom and dad have met me. They know this is an enduring relationship. I want him to feel comfortable telling them where he's staying on weekends.

Should I stop worrying about this, or should Curtis be telling his parents the truth? I know he loves me, but I feel like his guilty secret.

"" CANADIAN READER

DEAR CANADIAN READER: While I agree that by age 25 Curtis should be man enough to level with his parents about whose pillow he's hitting on weekends, I don't think this is anything to obsess about. His folks may be religious, but they're probably not naive &

and this may be a "game" they have played for years.

Because they have met you and know you have an ongoing relationship, you are not Curtis' guilty secret. The fact that he is sexually active is Curtis' guilty secret, and I don't think you should push him to reveal it until he feels ready.

DEAR ABBY: I have many out-of-town relatives who come in for the holidays every year. As our families have all grown, the group has gotten larger. I consider this to be a blessing, except for the fact that it makes hosting the holiday meals every year overwhelming. Additionally, over time it seems my visiting sisters do less and less to help me prepare and serve the meal and clean up afterward. And my brothers and brothers-in-law hardly help at all.

Each year I feel like my home is turned into a fast-food diner. Abby, I think they have forgotten how much work it takes to clean and prepare for such a large group. I know they have traveled far and paid for airfare, but they seem to think that entitles them to treat me like the owner of a hotel/restaurant who is here only to serve them.

Can you please remind your readers to show some appreciation to family members who host them year after year? I never get any thanks or flowers or offers of being taken out for dinner for hosting all of these relatives. Even if they can't do that, help with cleaning and doing the dishes would go a long way.

"" POOPED IN ISSAQUAH, WASH.

DEAR POOPED: Have you never heard the saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"? Please do not count on me to get the message out to your relatives &

who, after all these years of being waited on, are probably under the impression that you enjoy "having the privilege."

Before the out-of-towners arrive this year, begin communicating your feelings and enlist their help in shouldering the workload. Assign the chores to various relatives &

including the brothers and brothers-in-law. The alternative will be ordering takeout and using paper plates, and I don't think that's what anybody has in mind.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating "Paul" for two years. I have two children (6 and 4), whom Paul has loved and accepted since day one. His patience and affection for them never cease to amaze me.

Paul has a 5-year-old daughter, "Daisy," from a previous marriage who spends every other weekend with us. I'm having a hard time accepting her place in our lives. I want to be happy and welcome Daisy, but I am growing more angry and resentful by the day. I'm not a mean person. I love children, so why do I resent her so? This may sound terrible, but I just want a life with my kids and the man I love &

no strings attached.

Paul can't exclude Daisy from his life, and I wouldn't dream of asking him to. I hate to end a beautiful relationship, but I don't know what else to do. We've already postponed our wedding. With a huge issue like this hanging over us, we know we can't be married until we figure this out. Help!

"" ALICIA IN ATLANTA

DEAR ALICIA: If you want to marry Paul, you will have to fully accept that they're a package deal. You do not have to "love" his daughter, but you WILL have to respect her feelings. Imagine yourself in her position, coming to visit your household two weekends a month. Wouldn't you want to be welcomed and treated with kindness?

Your inability to accept Daisy may be due to the fact that she's living, breathing proof that Paul was once in love with another woman. (Is it possible she resembles her mother?) Counseling might help you resolve this. Another source I recommend is a Web site, . Please don't wait too long to see what it has to offer.

DEAR ABBY: My 14-year-old daughter's best friend's mother died suddenly. She was 43. I am 44. I know everyone grieves differently, but my question is, why am I crying every time I think about it?

I knew the woman who passed away, but we weren't close friends. I just knew her as my daughter's friend's mom. I could understand it if we had been close. Please help me figure this out.

"" CRYING IN THE EAST

DEAR CRYING: Gladly. First of all, tragedy has hit close to home. You may be crying because the woman died so young. She was a contemporary, and you identify with her.

Also, because your daughters are close, you can see firsthand how much not only the motherless daughter will miss during these important years in her life, but also how much the mother will have missed. And by the way, those are valid reasons to shed tears. Doing so shows that you have a tender, caring heart.

DEAR ABBY: My best friend and I have known each other since we were very young. There's one big difference between us. Her family has a lot of money &

mine doesn't.

Christmas is fast approaching, and I still have no idea what to get her. What do you give the girl who has everything and still stay within a tight budget? Please help me. I hate to once again give a cheap gift to such a close friend.

"" POOR IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR "POOR": A meaningful gift does not have to be something expensive. It's one that was selected with some thought behind it. Because you don't have much to spend, consider making your friend a gift. While it will not be expensive, it will be one of a kind. Or give her something she can "fill" herself, like a picture frame or a diary.

Dear Abby is written by , also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.