Dear Carolyn:

My girlfriend and I have been invited to the home of one of her relatives for dinner. She explained to the relative a few days in advance that we do not eat meat. The relative told her, however, that the meal had already been selected with the caterers, and that we should get used to the idea of pork. Oink.

This dinner is very important to my girlfriend because this will be my introduction to her family. She has already said she has no problem eating meat this one time so that her relative does not get offended. And she has demanded that I do the same. I have a serious problem with that. I've tried to assure her I could be very tactful in declining the meat. Or I could kind of rake some of it to the side and make it look picked at. Or perhaps I could secretly shove some pork into my pocket. I've even told her that if she'd be so embarrassed, perhaps I shouldn't attend at all. I'm not trying to be self-righteous here, Carolyn. The thought of chewing a pork chop simply makes me queasy. Am I being unreasonable?

Is That Pork in Your Pocket?

If being the only reasonable person involved makes you unreasonable, then, yes, you are unreasonable. And get that pork out of your pocket.

You say you're not trying to be self-righteous, but please, you don't need to summon up nausea just to defend your principles. If you didn't drink, no host would dare ask you to "get used to the idea" of martinis, and I have yet to hear anyone defend force-feeding a BLT to an Orthodox Jew.

You have made no less morally binding a choice. Just because some people refuse to see it as anything but a pose -- or, more self-absorbedly, a menu-planning imposition -- doesn't mean you're under any obligation to appease them.

So stick to your diet as tactfully as you've promised your girlfriend you would. Let the relative see on your own terms what a gracious guest you can be, especially for a tree-hugging freak. And show your girlfriend there are other ways to show respect for her family than to disrespect yourself.

And if you bomb all around, well, better to emerge with your self-respect intact than with a relationship that asks you to swallow it.

Dear Carolyn:

I am in love with a man who flirts excessively with nearly every attractive female who crosses his path. When he does this, he is oblivious to the fact that I even exist. I've confronted him on this issue, told him it bothers me greatly and even broken up with him over it, but he swears he is just being "friendly." When we are alone, he always is very devoted and loving. Am I being unreasonable to hope that he will modify his behavior for my sake?

M.F.

He has already let you know, clearly, that he believes his behavior is fine. This is what's known in the biz as a "screaming neon sign." So, yes, your hope is unreasonable. Learn to love (or at least bear) that he's "friendly," or leave.

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