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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, our 6-year-old daughter (I'll call her Marcia), and I recently drove to my sister-in-law's, several states away, for a visit. At dinner, I was introduced for the first time to her new boyfriend, "Joe." The man was sloppily dressed and didn't look very clean.

After dinner, Joe and several of the other male guests who had been drinking during dinner went out to continue drinking. Marcia asked to spend the night at my sister-in-law's, but I was reluctant to let her stay in a home where these men would be returning later, no telling how intoxicated.

I was concerned for Marcia's safety and put up a fight. I got pretty ugly in front of her and my husband. Marcia was crying and my husband was yelling. Nobody cared to listen to my reasons for not wanting her to stay.

Abby, I grew up with an alcoholic father. He used to come home drunk and get very mean with my siblings and me. I didn't want the same thing to happen to my little girl.

Marcia ended up staying there for the night, and Joe did come back drunk. He finally passed out on a couch near my daughter's bedroom. The next day, Marcia said Joe and my sister-in-law were talking loudly for hours after he returned, and she didn't get much sleep.

Now my sister-in-law won't speak to me, and my husband and mother-in-law are upset with me for the way I acted. I believe I acted as any mother would who has had experience with drunks.

How can I fix this? -- A MOM WHO TRIED IN FLORIDA

DEAR MOM: Although your motives were noble, you over-reacted. Had you approached the problem calmly and rationally instead of putting up a fight, you might have gained support for your position.

Write your mother-in-law and sister-in-law notes of apology for the unpleasant scene, and apologize to your husband and daughter. In the future, make sure the sleeping arrangements are clear to Marcia BEFORE you visit this household.

DEAR ABBY: I was recently asked to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding. Flattered, I gladly accepted. When I was told that the dress she selected would cost me $240, I was shocked. I told the bride that I couldn't afford to spend that much for a dress, but I would be happy to go shopping with her to find something less expensive. When she informed me that changing the dress was not an option, I told her that I would be unable to participate in the wedding.

She did not protest my decision, or try to come up with an alternate solution such as paying for half of the dress. Instead, she asked another girl to take my place in the wedding.

Abby, this has been bothering me for weeks. I feel like she chose a dress over her friendship with me. Am I overreacting? What do you think? -- OUSTED IN OREGON

DEAR OUSTED: Obviously it was more important for your friend to have the bridesmaid dresses that she preferred than to have you as a bridesmaid.

Are you overreacting? Only if you let this end your friendship. The bride was insensitive to your financial situation, but releasing you from an obligation to be in a wedding you couldn't afford to participate in is not an issue great enough to lose a friendship over.

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