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DEAR ABBY: My stepson "Ryan" is an active senior in high school. He's a great kid, and I love him. I'm proud and delighted that he says he loves my home-cooked meals, which he doesn't get at his mother's house. They eat a lot of takeout or premade foods. Not everyone likes to cook, so I don't judge.

My concern is Ryan eats his food at an alarming speed, especially if it's something soft, like lasagna or casseroles. His plate is nearly finished before anyone else has more than a couple bites of theirs. I don't want to shame or embarrass him, but it seems unhealthy for his digestion and possibly even dangerous with certain foods. It's also very unpleasant to watch.

Last night, Ryan inhaled an entire enchilada in two or three bites swallowed whole. He didn't chew once. My husband will gently tell Ryan to slow down if I give him a well-timed look. Otherwise, he seems unfazed by it. Ryan frequently eats most of a serving dish of something if we don't point out that others might want seconds, too.

I hesitate to make a big deal out of it because he's a great kid, and my husband is a wonderful father, outside of not teaching his son good eating habits. Ryan was a chubby little boy, but has become tall and lean after a huge growth spurt. I feel bad saying this, but I'm grossed out and worried at the same time. Your guidance is appreciated. — COOKING STEPMOM IN THE WEST

DEAR STEPMOM: It is years late, but please have a serious talk with your husband about the fact that his son never learned basic table manners. From your description, he eats like an animal. He seems to not only be eating too much, but also too fast, which is visually unappealing as well as unhealthy.

Table manners are important. Not having them could have a negative impact on his social life and even his career in the future. Please point this out to your husband and to Ryan, because it's important they both hear it. It may take reinforcement and constant reminding, so be prepared.

DEAR ABBY: My wife's 90th birthday is coming up soon. Our younger daughter is giving her a birthday party at a nice restaurant and inviting only women. When I asked her why I wasn't invited, she said the party will be more fun with only ladies. I don't understand or agree with this. I would enjoy visiting with the ladies. What do you think about her decision? I think it stinks. — NOT INVITED IN TEXAS

DEAR NOT INVITED: I think this decision should have been made by your wife as well as your daughter. At your ages, there's no guarantee how many more birthdays you will have together, and for you to be summarily excluded seems wrong to me. If this is a ladies' luncheon, it's possible the girls will enjoy celebrating without their husbands — if they are lucky enough to still have husbands.

Because this milestone birthday is one you would like to celebrate with your wife, why not take her out for a special dinner — just the two of you — or include your children, grandchildren, great-grandkids, etc., and make it a family affair?

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $16 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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Jeanne Phillips
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