DEAR ABBY: I've been dating "Amanda" for eight months and everything is going great. I've met her parents, and she has met mine. Two days ago, I mentioned that we should plan a dinner with both sets of parents since they have not met yet. Amanda told me that our parents shouldn't meet until we move in together or are engaged. I felt offended. When do you think is the right time for our parents to meet?
— IT'S ONLY DINNER!
DEAR ONLY DINNER: I disagree with your girlfriend. There are no hard and fast rules these days about when the parents of couples should meet. And after eight months, I would think both sets of parents would be interested in meeting each other.
DEAR ABBY: I have a close friend, "Darlene," whom I have known for 30 years. She has never once in all that time invited me into her home. Darlene never has anyone inside except for immediate family. If you go there to take her something, she greets you outside if she knows you're coming. If she doesn't, she won't answer the door.
She goes to other people's homes but never reciprocates. In groups that go from house to house, she will not take her turn. Even when her mother-in-law died she wouldn't receive people in her home. I find Darlene's behavior insulting. It has become a frequent topic of conversation. I don't know what her home life was growing up, but her husband's family had an open-door policy in their home. Please advise me why someone would never welcome anyone into her home.
— SHUT OUT IN CHARLOTTESVILLE
DEAR SHUT OUT: Darlene may be ashamed of the way her house looks inside, or she may be a hoarder. If you really need an explanation, you should be asking her. In light of your 30-year friendship, please stop personalizing this because it appears her hang-up is long-standing and deep-seated. And to gossip about it behind her back seems cruel and won't help the situation.
DEAR ABBY: I try to be positive and considerate of others. I believe if you smile at the world, it will smile back. The exception to that is my mother. Mom is the most negative person I have ever met. Nothing has ever been good enough for her — and now my sister is starting to behave just like her. If misery loves company, they can have each other. My kids dislike being around their grandmother and can see how upset she makes me when we talk on the phone. Abby, I'd like my mom to see her grandkids grow up, and much as I don't want to admit it, I need her support and guidance. How can I get Mom to see the brighter side of things?
— UPBEAT IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR UPBEAT: Forgive me if this seems negative, but you can't change other people — only the way you react to them. You might be able to deflect some of the unpleasantness your mother creates if, instead of letting her upset you when she says something negative, you respond with something positive. Because your children don't like to be around her, limit their exposure if she's being toxic. And do not allow her to minimize their accomplishments or make them feel "less than," because they may begin to believe it. As to needing your mother's support and guidance, I sympathize with your wish, but please understand that she may not be able to give you what you're looking for. And, if that's the case, you may need to find support and guidance elsewhere.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.