My mother-in-law is upset with my wife and me for sneaking out of a wedding reception early (before the dinner was served). There was a long delay between the reception and the dinner, and a DJ was playing loud, deafening rock 'n' roll music.

We were seated near a speaker and it was virtually impossible to carry on a conversation. My wife claimed a major headache to the guests seated at our table, and we discreetly left the reception.

My mother-in-law says if you accept the dinner invitation, it is bad manners not to eat the dinner because it cost the hosts money. I say, if the reception has intolerable environmental factors inflicted on the guests, leaving early is acceptable. Were we rude to leave as we did?

- Lost my Appetite

in South Carolina

DEAR LOST MY APPETITE: Let me put it this way - your mother-

in-law has a point. Because the music was so loud that you were uncomfortable, you should have asked your hosts to instruct the DJ to lower the volume somewhat. It would have been preferable to walking out.

DEAR ABBY: I'm the supervisor of a small office. One of my biggest challenges is scheduling time off for the female employees. In my day, you didn't take a day off unless you were very sick or your child was sick. Now they seem to want time off for everything - school events, sporting events, getting their nails done, their faces waxed or tanning appointments. I am amazed at the decline in work ethic.

As I read about the unemployment in our country, I would think people would be grateful to have a well-paying job with benefits, but the recession hasn't slowed any of our female employees down one bit. What has happened to the old-fashioned work ethic that founded this country? (Maybe it went south along with the jobs?) And by the way, Abby, I am a female.

- Takes my Job Seriously

DEAR TAKES: Most companies give employees time off for personal business and vacations, as well as time off for their own illnesses or the illness of family members. If they choose to use the time the way you have described, it is their right to do so. However, if they are taking more than the company offers, that could be a problem. While I understand your point, please try to be less judgmental.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I work and lead busy lives. The dinner table is the only place we can sit together with our son and have a relaxing conversation. My wife, however, goes off and eats by herself, saying she can't wait - even though dinner is almost ready. I have tried telling her I prefer family time, but she brushes me off or becomes angry. Any suggestions?

- Hungry for Conversation

DEAR HUNGRY: Yes. If you want family dinners with your wife, you will have to find out - and resolve - what is eating her. Clear the air and you may find her less hungry for solitude.

A gentle reminder: Families sitting down and sharing meals together is a practice that is happening less and less, and it's a shame. Teachers tell me that students who eat with their parents usually earn better grades than those who eat in front of a television set or on the run.

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