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Dear Ann Landers: I am 23 and the oldest of five children. My parents have been married 25 years, although I'm not at all sure their marriage is a good one. I have witnessed some of their bitter battles about money. In addition to that problem, there is always the issue of my mother's weight. She has tried several diets, but none have proven successful.

Here's the current problem. My father has been spending a lot of time online. Nearly every night he is on the computer for several hours. He also tries to hide whatever he is looking at if someone walks into the room. Twice, I have accidentally stumbled upon him looking at pornographic material.

I am worried that my father may be considering an affair, or at the very least, his constant, secret viewing of this junk will give him an unhealthy perspective of what sex should be like. Should I confront him? If not, should I alert my mother? I'm sure she has no idea. Please give me some advice.

-- Daughter in Long Island
Dear Long Island: If your father is accessing pornographic junk on the Internet, you are not going to get him to clean up his act by chastising him. As for alerting your mother, I suspect she already knows.

If you want to help your parents, suggest they contact a marriage counselor. There are several issues that need to be looked into if they are going to have a decent relationship in the future. Your mother's weight problems, for example, may have more to do with her marriage than with overeating. The two of them need professional help. Please see that they get it.

Just say no

Dear Ann Landers: I am at my wits' end. Every year I host a "Ladies Only" party at my home, and every year I go through the same aggravation. I invite 20 women, and have live music and a fine caterer. A wonderful time is had by all.

When I mail out the invitations and receive the response cards, there are invariably several people who want to bring a sister, a cousin or a friend. If these extra guests were my friends or relatives, I would have invited them, but it is never anyone I know. They are all strangers.

I feel ill at ease having people in my house that I am not close to. I plan my parties for the maximum number of guests I can comfortably accommodate. The group of women I invite all get along great. Why do they need to bring other friends? Am I missing something?

When I am invited out, if the invitation doesn't say "and guest," I would never dream of asking if I can bring someone. Please, Ann, tell me how to turn down these requests tactfully.

-- Perplexed in North New Jersey
Dear Perplexed in N.J.: These people are behaving boorishly. If they send back a response card saying they are bringing extra people, phone immediately and say, "So sorry, but I simply do not have room for one extra person."

Do not concern yourself with tact when dealing with clods who don't know what the word means. When a hostess has a huge party (I refer to them as "cattle calls"), it doesn't matter if a few others are included, but mailed invitations with response cards for a party of 20 are not affairs at which seating for extra guests should be requested.

Gem of the day

The best advice I can give to individuals who want to be considered brilliant conversationalists is simply this: Learn to listen.

-- Christopher Morley
Problems? Dump on Ann. Write her at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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