Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Parent Against Sports Bras Should Snap Out of Attack

DEAR ABBY: A few nights ago, a girls' soccer team was practicing in a local field. We live in a hot, normally dry climate, but recent weather changes have made our humidity higher than usual, and very uncomfortable. Many of our players -- ages 13 and 14 -- were wearing sports bras. Sports bras are seen as outerwear and are worn by joggers, cyclists and aerobic dancers.

A parent approached some of the girls, called them "sleazy" and shamed them for their choice of apparel. While our organization has no precise rules for practice wear, we allow what our community deems acceptable. The parents of our team are standing behind our players' choices.

Abby, this vocal parent then went on to make phone calls to numerous girls' homes and chastised them over the phone. Your thoughts, please. -- ARIZONA PARENT

DEAR PARENT: The parent you described appears to be slightly unbalanced and quite intolerant. He or she was out of line to scold the girls or call them names. And telephoning them at home is even further beyond acceptable boundaries. The parents of the offended girls would have been within their rights to order the person not to bother their daughters again.

Since all the parents are standing behind their daughters' choices of attire, this "problem" may resolve itself.

If this parent views the other players' attire as harmful to his or her daughter's morals, the child may ultimately be withdrawn from the team.

DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother with a 15-year-old son I'll call "Johnny." I make a decent but modest living, and live in a simple home in keeping with my means. I try to set a good example for my son. My dilemma concerns my brother and his family.

My brother and his wife were very helpful when Johnny was small, keeping him when I had to work overtime. Their son, "Lyle," is the same age as Johnny. In return, I'd take Lyle to the park or on little trips with us so his parents could have time alone.

When the boys were about 7, Lyle started saying he didn't like being at my house because it wasn't clean enough for him. Over the next five years, he'd make nasty comments to Johnny, saying we were "white trash" -- but they had to be nice to us because we were family. He once said, "My parents said I should feel sorry for you." He put Johnny down for just about everything, from the way he tied his shoes to the way he dressed. Lyle often took advantage, and even stole money from him.

I always invited Lyle to Johnny's birthday parties, but Johnny was invited to only one of Lyle's. At that party, none of the other mothers would talk to me. I overheard one say, "That's the sister. I hear she's kind of trashy."

I know that the source of my nephew's comments is his parents. We see each other occasionally at holiday time at our father's house. My brother and his wife are friendly to my face, and I have no idea why they'd put us down in front of Lyle. After the last incident with my nephew, I decided I'd had enough. We live three miles apart, but I haven't called them in three years -- and they haven't called me, either.

Abby, you often say that families should settle their differences. But that's not always possible. These family members obviously don't respect me. Why should I be around people who treat me this way? -- TICKED OFF IN TEXAS

DEAR TICKED OFF: Too bad you didn't confront your brother and sister-in-law about their son's remarks years ago in order to get to the bottom of their resentment before it led to a three-year estrangement. I agree it's not always possible for some individuals to resolve their differences. And if this is the case, there is no reason to subject yourself and your son to more unpleasantness.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600