DEAR ABBY: There’s plenty to chew on after dinner with in-laws

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DEAR ABBY: I once hosted a holiday dinner for which I had made a ham and a turkey with all the sides and three different pies. I even made a special mince pie for one of the guests. The guests — my brothers-in-law, my brother and his family of four and his mother-in-law — all showed up carrying empty Tupperware. At the end of the day, all I had left was dirty dishes.

The same family then invited me and my husband for a holiday dinner. My husband wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go. When I asked my sister-in-law if I could take a plate home for him, she said, “Nope! If he doesn’t want to come to the house, he can’t have any of the food.” Yes, Abby, she was serious.

My sister-in-law cooks the meat she received as a gift from her employer, and the rest of the guests prepare the sides and desserts. I never go empty-handed. At the end of the meal, she transfers any leftovers to their own Tupperware and gives us back the cleaned bowls. If I ask for a little of something to take home, she protects her leftovers like they were her children.

What’s your take on leftovers? Is asking for a little fruit salad off limits? Is relieving your host of the burden of storing all of their leftovers out of line? Are there rules of etiquette here? — HOPING FOR A SANDWICH LATER

DEAR HOPING: If you would like the living, breathing definition of presumptuous guests and ungracious hosts, look no further than your in-laws’ contact file. The fault, however, may not lie solely with them. If this has happened more than once and you cannot summon the courage to tell these greedy folks to put away their Tupperware and help with the dishes, you can’t blame them for assuming you don’t mind being imposed upon in this way. As to the sister-in-law who refused to allow you to bring any of her food to your sick husband, I wouldn’t blame you if you chose not to grace her table again after telling her the reason why.

DEAR ABBY: I am an adopted 17-year-old high school senior, and I live with four people who all have a disability. I want to move out when I’m 18 if I am able to. I have several older brothers and sisters, but they each have a family to take care of. My oldest brother is in his 60s, and my youngest in his 40s.

I don’t want to seem selfish for wanting to live independently, but I don’t know how to tell them. I don’t know how to tell them anything because, in the past, they haven’t listened to me. If you have any advice on how to tell them, I would be very grateful. — NERVOUS GIRL IN NEW YORK

DEAR NERVOUS GIRL: I wish you had mentioned when you will be turning 18, because at that point you will be legally entitled to live wherever you wish, and your parents and siblings will have to “listen to you.” Because you are determined to move, it is crucial that you start preparing now. You will need to find a job so you can afford a security deposit and pay for rent, food, etc. You may also have to find roommates until you can afford a place that is all your own. A counselor at school may be able to guide you, particularly if you plan to continue your education.

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