Dear Prudence

Bother of the Bride

My future mother-in-law’s skimpy dress is inappropriate for my big day. How can I tell her?

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Dear Prudence,
My wedding is 59 days away, and I am concerned about my future mother-in-law’s dress. She is a wonderful woman who makes me feel accepted as her son’s choice for a wife. But with only two months left before the wedding, she had finally begun her search for a dress. Last Sunday, my mother-in-law held my bridal shower at her house. My mother told me that while she was there, she saw a photo of the dress my mother-in-law picked out. She described it as “young, low-cut, and flowing.” I wanted to get to the bottom of this, as my mother-in-law had not even informed me that she had purchased anything. So, after the party, I sent her an e-mail, and she sent me a picture of the dress. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My 51-year-old mother-in-law has picked out a dress with a wispy skirt, a V-neck, and spaghetti straps. It’s fit and styled for someone my age—25! And it’s robin’s egg blue—which doesn’t even go with my champagne-colored dress, the bridesmaids’ sage green, the chocolate brown tuxes, and my mother’s pale pink dress. I can’t swallow the fact that she would attempt such a daring wardrobe choice on a day so important to me and her son. This dress has been ordered and is not set to arrive until two weeks before our wedding! I really need advice on how to tell her that I do not feel it is appropriate to wear.

—Frustrated Bride

Dear Frustrated,
The nerve of this 51-year-old woman to decide she’s just going to march off and buy a dress that she finds flattering without asking permission of a 25-year-old. Sure, she has welcomed you into her family and thrown a shower for you. But now she has really shown her true colors—robin’s egg blue, to be exact—by pulling this spaghetti-strap stunt. This V-neck desecration has to be stopped! You simply must tell her the hard truth. Something along the lines of, “Hey, you old hag, no one wants to see your saggy flesh. Your choice of color is an outrage. And, in case you’ve forgotten, in 59 days it’s going to be my day, my day, my day, my day.”


Dear Prudence Video: Secret Romance

Dear Prudie,
I am a 23-year-old recent college graduate paying back loans and barely making ends meet. In August of last year, during a routine physical exam, a lump was discovered in my left breast. Later, I had an ultrasound and biopsy (which, ever so luckily, was benign), leaving me with a $300-plus bill that I could not pay in full. I struck a deal with the medical office and send in $20 a month. Last weekend, I ended up telling my close male friends about the incident (at the time, only my best friend knew). They were shocked I had gone through that procedure and were relieved the results were benign. I made an off-hand comment like, “Yup, and I send them $20 to pay it off.” They made replies along the lines of, “We could each write you a check, and you could pay that off.” The night continued, and it wasn’t brought up again. The next day, two of my friends each handed me checks for over $100. They are engineers, financially well-off, and insisted this was no big deal. Their generosity and show of support nearly brought me to tears. However, I don’t want to take the money because my $20 a month is a satisfactory, although slow, way to pay it off. I have the two checks but really don’t want to cash them. How do I handle my recent (slightly unwanted) donations without offending my dear friends?


Dear Lucky,
Cash the checks. You are lucky to have had good medical news, and to have such generous, caring friends. Because they gave you the checks the next day and not on the spot, they had time to think about it and discuss with each other their desire to make this gesture to ease your financial burden. For you to return the checks would be awkward and embarrassing for all of you. However, what you can do is write them notes expressing your gratitude and letting them know that once your bill is fully paid off, you will make a contribution (it can be small!) to a cancer charity in each of their names.


Dear Prudence,
I’m a 29-year-old woman with a great job, super family, and fantastic boyfriend. “Tom” and I have been dating for a few months now, and things are going very well. As a baby, I was put up for adoption and have recently been reunited with my biological siblings. He and I drove 1,500 miles together to meet them last month. But I have a secret I haven’t told him: When I was 16, I got pregnant and had an abortion. He comes from a religious family, and I’m afraid if I tell him, he’ll think I’m a horrible person for having sinned. Or he’ll think I should have given my baby the chance that I was given and put it up for adoption. I wanted to keep my baby or at least give it a chance at life like I had, but my parents made me get the abortion. I’ve always been very open about the abortion with previous boyfriends, and most of my friends know. I want to know if I should tell him and, if so, how.

—Hiding a Secret

Dear Hiding,
You are not hiding anything from him, because this actually isn’t his business. Falling in love does not obligate you to disclose every deeply private thing that happened in your life prior to your meeting. You were a 16-year-old girl in a terrible situation, so have some compassion for yourself. Even though you have told other people, this is hardly the kind of thing that comes up in conversation. If by some slim chance someone else does mention it, or if Tom asks you directly whether you’ve ever had an abortion, then you can explain the circumstances. If he is the fantastic guy you say he is, he, too, will have empathy for the teenage girl you were. You have known Tom only a short while. As your relationship gets more serious, see if you feel you are holding back something you want him to understand about your past. If so, tell him that because you feel so understood and loved by him, you want him to know about a painful episode from years ago.  


Dear Prudence,
I am about to marry a wonderful man who happens to be a police officer in the town where we live. Several times now, I have found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I recently met a neighbor who, in the middle of a pleasant conversation, said to me, “Your fiance arrested my daughter for drunk driving.” Likewise, acquaintances who ask my fiance’s name have proceeded to tell me my fiance has arrested them. These people don’t seem particularly angry or feel they have been wronged, but it creates a very awkward situation. I can’t fathom why someone would bring up their arrest, and I never know what to say. Any suggestions?

—Not the Police

Dear Not,
That’s quite a town of miscreants you live in. The next time someone mentions how your future husband arrested them or a loved one for their offenses, just smile and say, “He is very good at his job.”