Thursday, January 29, 2004

Dear Abby, You Suck

Dear Abby:

This year my in-laws sent me a peek-a-boo nightie with thong panties for my birthday. I've met them only once.

I am shocked that they sent a gift like this to me. They have never sent me a birthday gift before (and I am not complaining). But I do not wear thong underwear.

Obviously, I will thank them for thinking of me. But how? And how can I tactfully suggest that they not send me something like this in the future?

Shocked in North Carolina

Try this: "Dear Folks, thank you for remembering me on my birthday. I admit I didn't expect to be thought of in quite that way by my husband's parents! With love, your blushing daughter-in-law."

That's all she can come up with. I'm not even asking for her to take a shot at some good natured humor, how about some analysis and thought?

How about? Maybe comments from your husband prompted this gift? Has he complained about you not "sexing it up" recently (by the way, not wearing thong underwear is not necessarily a problem in this instance, if you know what I mean). Portends of communications issues, hmm? Are you newlyweds and generally what's the deal- having only met the in-laws once and all. Do you "owe" them some grandkids they want you to get cracking on? So many unexplored options here.

Or how about suggesting she talk to her husband? Or just emailing her in-laws a picture of her in the peek-a-boo... showing that she's making use of it, enjoying their gift and all of that. I guess that might send the wrong message and create unrelated problems.

Dear Abby:

I just got off the phone with my 14-year-old niece, "Megan." What I found disturbing was the fact that she was home alone waiting for the tile man to come to the house. Her parents knew he was coming and had instructed her to stay home to let him in. Megan's dad suggested that she have a friend over while the tile man was working. I feel this situation is potentially too dangerous for a girl Megan's age to handle. Am I right? Concerned in Northbrook, Ill.

Unless Megan's parents had used the tile man before and knew him to be trustworthy, I agree that your niece was placed in a vulnerable position. It shouldn't have happened.

While there may be safety in numbers, the girl's father had no guarantee that a friend would be available. Please share your concerns with Megan's parents if you haven't already done so.

I'm all for being protective of kids and getting them through childhood and adolescence without being "broken," but at some point they have to start acting like they are almost adults. Are you going to allow your kids to stay home alone at a certain age (and by 14 certainly seems like a good age to have started this practice)? While home alone, are they supposed to hide and act like nobody is home if someon should come to the door? Or, are they supposed to start carrying their own weight, pitching in, and all of that.

14 is plenty old enough to handle the task laid out. It's too young to handle or avoid the " danger of a stranger when you're alone," but I don't know that we ever hit that age. The prime question: would a 19 year old, 25 year old, 30 year old, etc be in a better position if things when too far from kosher? Count me skeptical. In other words, we're all placed in vulnerable situations and have to learn to smell them out and a scheduled visit from a home repairman seems a good stepping stone. Overreacter.

Dear Abby:

My husband and I are discussing divorce after only eight months of marriage. Neither of us is happy, and I guess we weren't as ready as we thought we were. I feel terrible about the $20,000 my parents spent on our wedding, not to mention all the beautiful and expensive gifts we received from family and friends.

Should we pay my parents back the money? What should we do about the gifts? Please help us do the right thing. Not Happily Ever After in Texas

I commend you for wanting to do the right thing. Any gifts that have not been used should be offered to the people who gave them. Cash gifts that have not been spent should be returned. Offer to repay your parents for the wedding expenses, but it should not be necessary. The wedding was their gift to you.

Abby at least avoided citing the tacky rule of thumb: If the marriage lasts a year, keeping the gifts is completely fair game. Anything less and returning the returnable is appropriate.

But Abbs (a nickname? who am I, the President?) fails to offer an encouraging word... a lots of couples struggle adapting to married life, a fall back to the standard rejoinder of a counseling recommendation, or calling for a whole evaluation of is it you/ him or other things that are causing your strife.

Most gallingly to me, is the failure to tell Princess (that's what you get when your parents drop a family sedan on your wedding) that not everything in life is going to be peaches and cream. Life lessons that never get taught because Abby isn't terribly interested in doing much of her job. Now, that's sad.


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