Dear Prudence

Runway Bride

I hate my unfashionable—and nonrefundable—wedding dress.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
I am getting married in March and I was fortunate to have my mother (who lives out of state), maid of honor, and future mother-in-law accompany me to my wedding dress shopping. When I narrowed down the choice to the final two, my guests all agreed that one option was better than the other and I decided to go with their vote. Now, I regret not getting the other dress. When I look at the pictures they took of me wearing the dress I bought, I feel almost physically ill. But the dress is not refundable or returnable and it would be a huge blow to our budget to buy a second dress (at a rush no less) and what would I do with the first one? I’ve been having sleepless nights thinking about how unhappy I am going to be when I look at myself in the mirror on my wedding day and look at the pictures later. I can’t stop thinking that all my guests are going to be whispering behind my back about how dated and frumpy I’ll look. Other than this issue, my wedding planning has been fine so I don’t think I’m being a bridezilla. What should I do?

—Bridal Gown Not to Be

Dear Gown,
You probably know that I have an all-purpose solution to these kinds of wedding dilemmas: Elope. But your plight has touched me. We all know what it’s like to realize your outfit is awful and makes you feel awkward and unattractive. Usually the solution is to get home, get in your bathrobe, and put the offending clothes in the Goodwill bin. But this dress will be photographed from every angle, thus living on in perpetuity. I have seen way too many episodes of my guilty pleasure, Say Yes to the Dress, to think there’s nothing that can be done. (I also know from watching the show that bringing an entourage while dress shopping is often a bad idea.) First of all, go back to the store and ask if some kind of deal can be made to exchange dresses. Sure you will take a financial hit, but silly as I feel saying it, I think it will be worth it for your ability to enjoy the day. This means you must rethink your catering menu, for example (everyone loves PB&J for dinner!), or cut out the hard liquor and only serve wine. If the store won’t cooperate, your situation is what eBay was invented for. Again, there will be a substantial loss, but someone is going to want an unworn wedding gown, so you’ll recoup part of your investment. I assure you, no matter what you wear everyone will think you look lovely. But this is a day you need to feel lovely, so dump the dress that’s ruining your dreams.


Dear Prudie,
Years ago my three siblings and I made a decision to only get Christmas presents for the children. Each year I enjoy picking out nice presents for all my nieces and nephews and I make sure to spend close to the same amount on each of them. The problem is one of my nephews is autistic and no matter what I give him he doesn’t like it. Last year he opened his present from me, looked at it, and threw it on the floor! I asked him what was wrong and with a perfectly straight face he said he didn’t like it. Do I have to keep spending money on expensive presents that he clearly doesn’t like? I’m worried everyone will notice if I spend less money on one child. But I hate spending money on a 10-year-old kid who through no fault of his own will never appreciate anything I give him. 

—Tempted to Be a Scrooge to Only One

Dear Tempted,
Oh, how many of us have been tempted over the years to take the gift out of the box and throw it on the floor and say, “I don’t like it!” Your nephew has a condition that manifests itself in difficult social interactions. So please, do not take what he does personally. Also, he’s only 10 years old. But that fact that he is 10 years old means you’ve had plenty of time to learn about autism and try to understand better how his mind works. The issue here is not money. I doubt your nieces and nephews go looking up the relative worth of their gifts and comparing notes. Kids don’t seek absolute equality; they want fairness. That means the price tag doesn’t matter as long as the gift seems to recognize their uniqueness. Maybe no gift will please your nephew. But maybe there is an area of inquiry that’s of passionate interest to him. If so, get him something appropriate for that, even if it’s a giant box of nuts and bolts. And if even that fails to satisfy him, then acknowledge that when it comes to holidays with your nephew, he’ll never leave you guessing about whether he really liked your gift. 


Dear Prudie,
Two years ago, I was cheating on my boyfriend and left him for another man, who I felt was a better fit. My then-boyfriend, who was completely loyal to me, was blindsided. The new man had more experience with kids and came from the same socioeconomic background that I did. We’ve been dating seriously ever since, but it still gnaws at me that I really hurt someone who cared about me. He was the first person I dated after my divorce, and he helped give me a renewed sense of purpose. Then I hurt him. I’ve tried to reach out to him a few times and gotten no reply. It kills me that I let him down and broke his trust, especially when I knew he was vulnerable. Is it fair to keep reaching out to someone I hurt but still care about? And is it potentially hurtful to my current relationship to have part of my heart tangled up with the past guy? I just want to talk with the old boyfriend one more time to try and make him understand—but I don’t know how to do it. Can you help?

—Tangled Up

Dear Tangled,
You behaved badly and neither he nor I are going to give you the absolution you seek. It would have been painful enough for your former boyfriend if you had honestly realized that after he rescued you from the emotional abyss, he was a good rebound effort, but you were looking for someone spiffier. You know you should have broken it off with him before you road-tested someone you thought would be more suitable. But maybe your pattern is to serially trade up. (If so, your current beau should keep a toothbrush at his own place.) You want to make it right with your ex, while not being unfair to your current love. I can imagine the scene you’d like to play out: you and the ex getting together over coffee that becomes more and diluted with both your tears. To comfort each other, you go back to his place for one, last bittersweet tryst. But your ex isn’t playing along. You trashed him emotionally, and in return you’re getting his stony silence. Respect this, and stop trying to tangle up his life.


Dear Prudie,
My husband and I have been together for six years. We are finally, after years of struggling financially, in a place where we live comfortably. This is our first Christmas in the new apartment, and I want to purchase some (cheap) decorations for the holiday. We are not religious, I just want a small tree and some ornaments to hang from it. I enjoy Christmas because it reminds me of my childhood and my family with whom I am very close. My family is hugely Christmas-centric, some of them having six or seven trees in one house. My husband hates Christmas. When I brought up my desire to get a small, cheap tree, he told me absolutely not, that I was forbidden to put up any Christmas decorations. (He does not have PTSD or anything related to the holiday season, so I don’t get it.) I’ve explained to him how I feel about the holiday, and why I want to do it, but it makes no difference. What do we do?

—Mrs. Scrooge

Dear Mrs.,
I hope your husband, Ebenezer, is delightful company on Columbus Day and Labor Day. You say he doesn’t suffer from any Christmas-related trauma (He saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus?) so his adamant Grinchiness is inexplicable. Maybe he’s afraid that if he allows one little tree, given your family’s proclivities, soon he will be living in a holiday arboretum. But in the absence of a secret pine-needle phobia, he needs to give in. He’s being mean and capricious, and you are entitled to enjoy the festivities of the season in your own home. Tell him his dislike of Christmas does not trump your love of it, and you’re getting that tree. Place some mistletoe overhead and let’s hope that once you two are standing under it, and he has a couple of glasses of grog in him, he gets into the spirit. And if he doesn’t, think of the money you’ll save on his gift.

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