Dear Annie: Every year, my husband and I have immediate family and some friends over for Halloween. We make food, have beverages and take turns giving out candy. A niece of ours and her family always show up uninvited, even when we said one year we just wanted our kids and grandkids. They stay the whole time and never bring anything. They also have horrible personal hygiene, and our niece is especially outspoken and obnoxious. How do I tell her in a civil way they are not welcome? -- Not-a-Fan Auntie
Dear Not-a-Fan Auntie: Time for these ghouls to go haunt somewhere else. Tell them in terms that are polite but leave no room for ambiguity: "This is important quality time with the grandkids, and we're going to keep it to just us and the kids next year."
Too many jokes
Dear Annie: My wife and I enjoy getting together with another couple we met a few years ago, usually dinner and drinks at a local restaurant. After some small talk and ordering drinks, the husband finds a way to tell a new joke. It's usually funny, and we all laugh. The problem is that by the time we're all ready to go home, he will have told about 10 jokes. Again, they are usually funny, but at the same time, by the end of the evening, we feel as if we've been to a comedy club to watch a stand-up comedian's show. What can we say or do to get him to limit his act without upsetting him? -- Too Many Jokes in Venice, Fla.
Dear Too Many Jokes: Usually, clowns and comedians are on a mission to make people laugh and enjoy life -- and appreciate their wit and talent. As a result, they may not be aware of how many jokes they are telling or when to stop. You could either prep yourself for a comedy show when you go to dinner with them (you did mention that the jokes are funny) or try to steer the conversation into a topic that you would like to talk about over dinner and drinks. If absolutely necessary, you could tell him that though he's very funny, you would like him to limit his jokes so you can have a conversation.
Dear Annie: It's that time of year again. Would you please reprint the letter reminding your readers that not every child is fortunate enough to have a costume and that some children are very mature-looking for their age? It would mean so much to so many kids. -- Heather
Dear Heather: I'm happy to reprint the call for compassion. Thank you for reminding me of it.
Dear Annie: I'm writing in reply to "Halloweary," who complained about trick-or-treaters being too old, not in costume or out after 8 p.m. I grew up in the inner city, where parents worked multiple jobs and took multiple buses to get home. The understanding was that Halloween doorbell ringing ended at 9 p.m.
Some kids are too poor for costumes. Some have parents who don't care or aren't really around for them because of addiction.
As for the age aspect, I have known kids who looked like adults at age 9. My brother had a friend who had to have an adult desk in kindergarten because he didn't fit in the type that the other kids had.
Any child learns soon enough that he has to give up being a child. Let children remain children as long as possible, and take pity on those who are less fortunate. Your kindness may be their fondest childhood memory.