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I've been dating this incredible guy. He was with his ex for a number of years, and his family adores her. I am not at all concerned that there's anything between them. He broke up with her. Plus, she's married and expecting. Still, I'm uncomfortable that she and her husband are frequently invited to his family get-togethers. I feel intimidated that she knows his whole family so well while I'm just getting to know them. I've been invited three times when she was, but I pretended "something came up" each time. Should I confront my boyfriend? I really care for him, but I would like to respect ALL parties involved, including myself.--Crowded

Don't hold back. No, why not tell everybody what's really on your mind? As the lady customs agent is searching your bag: "With a mustache like yours, shouldn't depilatories be an essential part of your daily beauty routine?" While in line at 7-Eleven behind two Hell's Angels: "Something tells me you two have matching "I'm With Stupid' T-shirts!" When your boss shows you pictures of his kid: "How can you be so sure he's yours?"

Sure, you might end up unemployed, penniless, beaten beyond recognition and exiled, but at least you can stand tall (once the broken bones heal) knowing your integrity's still intact. Perhaps intact integrity will be all the company you'll need after taking steps to have your boyfriend's ex burned off the family invite list like a suspicious mole.

Come on. You can ask a guy to open a jar, but don't ask him to open negotiations with his mother over who she can and cannot invite to dinner. If you think this girl's a big deal now, wait until word gets out that you're angling to have her nixed from family functions. This is not a power struggle you are going to win. It's one thing to prefer that the ex wasn't around. Sadly, life frequently fails to meet one's princessly demands; i.e., proctology happens, deal with it.

It helps if you don't confuse self-respect with unbridled self-expression. In social situations, honesty is only "the best policy" when you can honestly say something terribly flattering about somebody. The rest of the time, discretion is the better part of social suicide prevention.

Forget the notion that being "intimate" with somebody means opening the garage door to your brain and dumping its entire contents on them. T.M.I! -- Too Much Information! This is not love; it's mental littering. If you must spew -- well, that's what your mother, psychiatrists, your dog and lonely nursing home patients are for.

This doesn't mean you can't get what you want. You just shouldn't approach it like you're Clint Eastwood standing your ground against a bunch of bad guys with brown teeth: "Come on pregnant lady, make my day!" Instead, tell your boyfriend you'd like to have his parents over for a home-cooked dinner -- unless this poses a substantial health risk, in which case, express a desire to get to know them better over restaurant-cooked food. Problem solved, parents flattered. Add or interchange relatives and repeat.

Regarding their family gatherings, if you'd like people to like you, showing up would be step one. Once there, all you can do is be you -- while smiling and being congenial, even to the ex. In moments of insecurity, remind yourself that he dumped her, he chose you, and "success is the best revenge." For backup, there's always the second best revenge -- parading around in a slinky dress when the competition probably hasn't seen her ankles for six months.

Reinventing The Squeal

On a business trip, I slept with a longtime friend and coworker. We agreed to keep it between us, but I betrayed her trust and told someone. When she found out, she was understandably hurt. She asked me to go back to the person and claim the whole thing was a joke I'd made up. Although I regret what I did and feel terrible about losing a friend, isn't it wrong to compound the situation by lying?--Honest Mistake

What's wrong is your delay in running naked through the office shouting, "I said "swept together,' not "slept together!'" -- if that's what your ex-friend wants. Aren't you a little late in clawing your way to moral high ground? That said, on a believability note, guys don't usually strut around bragging, "Guess who I didn't have sex with all night long!" You could try to persuade her that telling the unstory is likely to make this even more of a story. Still, as the guy who swore he wouldn't let the alley cat out of the bag, the burden's on you to try to cram it back in however she sees fit. In the future, if you can't keep your yap from flapping, glue your zipper into the upright and locked position.

Copyright 2004, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com)

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