Dear Annie: I would like to know if it is normal that my boyfriend of three years periodically entertains his ex-wife and grown children and does not invite me. To make matters worse, his apartment is directly across the hall from mine. He thinks I am overreacting, but on Christmas Day, he had them over for supper while I sat at home alone.

They all know me, and we get along quite well, but any time there is a special family occasion and the ex-wife is present, I am not included. Sometimes his ex-wife even comes over to his place and cooks dinner for all of them. Is this normal? — Left Out in the Midwest

Dear Left Out: Your boyfriend obviously believes his children benefit from maintaining special occasions as an intact family. If he plans to marry you, he should bring you into the family dynamics, including holidays, and the sooner the better. As a "current girlfriend," however, he considers you to have no particular standing when it comes to his children, and his treatment of you makes that clear. Try telling him how you feel, and see what he says. Meanwhile, make other plans on those days.

Dear Annie: I received a beautifully printed invitation to attend a luncheon in honor of a friend's 50th wedding anniversary. It was tastefully done, but accompanying it was a smaller note that read:

"Dear Friends and Family: In order that we may enjoy the pleasure of as many of you as possible, we are asking that guests purchase their own meal. The luncheon choices are listed below. Please make your selection on the response card and include a check payable to So-and-So for the amount. We look forward to seeing you."

The anniversary couple are retired with fantastic pensions and have three adult children with better-than-average incomes. What do you think of the chutzpah? Please print this. We all read your column in this part of California. — B.L.

Dear B.L.: You already know what we think, but we'll say it again. People should have the party they can afford, even if it means a less fancy meal or a smaller guest list. Asking guests to pay for their own meal is tacky. In all fairness, a lot of people think this is just dandy and don't mind being given a bill. We say, if you're going to fork over cash for the festivities, you also should have a say in the menu and venue, since you apparently have become one of the hosts.

Dear Annie: This is a follow-up to a couple of comments about how to refer to the president. You told one reader that in conversation, one would call the president by his title or "sir." Another reader agreed, but went on to criticize newscasters who, "starting with President Bill Clinton, began the disgusting display of calling the president 'Mr.' along with his last name."

I've been in the broadcast news business more than 50 years, both in radio and television, and have taught broadcast journalism some 40 years. Stylebooks and textbooks uniformly preach that the first reference in a broadcast news story should be "President Bush," and subsequent references in the same story would be "the president" or "Mr. Bush."

Unfortunately, many media, both broadcast and print, have gotten away from that policy. On second and subsequent references, they now refer to the president by his last name only. — Rod Gelatt, professor emeritus of journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia

Dear Professor Gelatt: We hope this latest trend is simply a journalistic shortcut and not an intentional insult. Thank you for the enlightening commentary.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailboxcomcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.