While I'm away, readers give the advice.

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On people who accept invitations but don't extend them

Where did we get the idea that we're only supposed to give if we have the expectation of getting the same back? I enjoy entertaining and invite people to my home. I give what I am comfortable giving and I expect the same in return - not the same that I gave; I expect what my friends are comfortable giving. Just as some people have more money than others, some people have more time, more energy, more compassion, more thoughtfulness. You never know where relationships will find balance. If you are looking for a quid pro quo, sign a contract stating your expectations. If you want a friendship, be a friend.

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On bodies subject to scorn (it isn't just big girls)

The counterpart to plus-size women is men who are smaller than average. I come from a whole family of wonderful men who fit that description. Society has come to see the error in discriminating against larger people - there are plus-sized clothes and fashion models, even - but small men get the short (I know, bad pun) end of the stick. Look at their hiring/earning stats, the tendency of women to dismiss them, and the "joking" remarks they endure - all of this regardless of their intelligence, kindness, wit, athleticism, and capabilities.

What a great world it will be when we get beyond the superficial. Thank goodness for the parents in your column who nurtured their large daughter's self-image. Here's hoping they are equally understanding when she brings home a short fiance.

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On becoming a stepparent (stepmother, in this case)

I've been there, had the panicky thoughts, and, worse, a false confidence following thereafter, but I lived through it. I would say these things:

1. You may be charmed to watch your man acting as a parent; it is a side you wouldn't otherwise see, even with visiting privileges.

2. Depending on the ages of the kids, expect them to blame you for a while - their world came apart and you are their "change"; the kids I inherited had never been taught what I consider the basic courtesies, were not doing well in school, etc. You can help out but still be kind. You can pleasantly widen their horizons, not force them into a brand- new world.

3. No matter what has to pass between you and their mother (and it shouldn't be much, she should have to speak to their father), be courteous and let her make an ass out of herself if that's going to be in the program. The kids will draw their own conclusions as long as you don't lose it in front of her or them. When nobody's watching any longer, you can go out and kick one of your car tires.

4. Do not try to be their mother; they already have one. Try to be a good friend and mentor, and raise them to be pleasant people themselves as much as can be, and all will be well. While they are teenagers, you will have grave doubts, but, believe it or not, it is indeed a fulfilling thing to do.