Ask Amy: It takes a few turkeys to make a real Thanksgiving

DEAR AMY: Thanksgiving is soon upon us and I don’t know how to handle a social situation that has arisen this year.

My family is no longer small. I am a proud aunt and traditionally the hostess for this holiday meal. The little girls in our family have grown into wonderful adults and three of them are in love. They will want to bring their boyfriends, and I am not really ready to accept them at the family table.

They are, after all, boyfriends. They seem like swell fellows but still, they’re just boyfriends. There may be several more boyfriends before the right man comes along.

When they are husbands I will happily invite them. But for right now, I would like to keep the party for just our family. How can I kindly handle this dilemma? -- Agonized Aunt

DEAR AUNT: My insight is affected by the memory of the parade of boyfriends my sisters and I brought to our family’s Thanksgiving celebrations.

My cousins, the gracious hostesses of these dinners, welcomed each and every one of these boyfriends, no matter if they were marriage material or not.

In addition to other advantages, watching the way these prospective partners handled themselves in our family was a great way to assess their long-term prospects. So I would encourage you to welcome these “swell fellows” to your table.

But I am not you. You are the host. You get to set the parameters of this meal.

Just remember that when you convey (however kindly) “no boyfriends until they are husbands,” you are looking at the next several years of family togetherness with the possibility of sharing your table with some grouchy young ladies who would really like to bring their guys into the family fold.

I’d love to hear other perspectives about this.

DEAR AMY: I recently got married. Our wedding was wonderful; it was a very small family- and friends-of-the-family-only affair, due to our tight budget.

Our friends wholeheartedly agreed that it was a smart thing to do, and now we want to hold a casual friends and co-workers reception to celebrate.

The problem with planning this party is that we haven’t decided where or what to do. We have considered a barbecue in a park or a picnic on the beach, but neither of us wants to be stuck at the grill all day and the unpredictable weather is always a factor here.

Would it be tasteless to invite our friends and co-workers for a casual get-together at our favorite sports bar (which is family-friendly at all hours), but to not pay for anyone else’s meals?

I’m sure we’d be agreeable to buying a few different appetizers for our friends to share, but we can’t afford to buy individual dishes for everyone (we know we’d have more than 30 guests at the least). Any thoughts or suggestions? -- Newly Married

DEAR NEWLY: Hosting a reception at your favorite watering hole is a great idea.

You two should spring for a few platters of simple appetizers (ask the manager if you can bring food in). People can pay for their own drinks. Then if groups of people want to stay for dinner, they can push tables together, enjoy one another’s company and split the check.

DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter from “Girlfriend,” who wonders if a 15-year age difference in a relationship is too much.

I was in my 20s when I met a wonderful older man. He is 16 years older. Now I am in my 50s and have a lot of regrets. We got married and had a good time until about eight years ago.

He can no longer dance because of bad knees. He needs to be in bed early. We haven’t been out for dinner in a long time. Lately he seems to want to live in another era. He wants me to stay home, cook and clean.

I am alive and well. And I won’t be retiring for a long time. -- Sad

DEAR SAD: This scenario is exactly what people warn about with extreme age differentials. But, as you know, the heart wants what it wants, and has no respect for calendars.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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