DEAR ABBY: My husband and I find ourselves in a situation that, in our wildest dreams, we wouldn't have believed could happen. We have four married, happy and successful children.
One son-in-law, "Guy," chooses to work "under the table" jobs and has never had a steady income. Although they have a son, Guy chooses not to provide care for the boy when he's not working. In his words, "taking care of kids is not my thing." For reasons we don't understand and no longer question, our daughter dotes on the man and apparently has no qualms about supporting him. All this time, we have gritted our teeth and let them make their own decisions, believing this is their choice and none of our business.
Guy has now decided that his purpose in life is to be a "skinhead." He has plastered his vehicle with racist slogans. My husband and I are sickened by his actions and have told our daughter we will not allow her husband to display his beliefs on our property. She knows we believe that racism is an abomination, yet she stands by him because she loves him.
We, of course, fear that our grandson will be indoctrinated into his father's beliefs. Also, our extended family embraces various ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs that we now know our son-in-law hates. How should this situation be handled? -- BAFFLED AND DISGUSTED
DEAR BAFFLED AND DISGUSTED: Cross your fingers and count your blessings. Because your son-in-law feels that taking care of kids is "not his thing," his influence on your grandson may be less than you fear. While a child might mimic the behavior of a parent who spends time with him, I'm not sure the same is true of a child whose parent ignores him.
It is clear from your letter that you are very uncomfortable around your son-in-law. The reverse might also be true. Your beliefs are so different from his that he, too, might like to keep contact at a minimum. If that's the case, you're home free. But continue to welcome your daughter and grandson.
If the boy starts spouting any of his father's racist dogma, personalize it for him. Example: "We don't feel like that in this house. Surely you don't feel that way about Uncle John or Aunt Sally or your cousins. They love you, and you know better than that!" It might start your grandson thinking independently or even make him ashamed. And that's the goal.
DEAR ABBY: Six weeks after my wedding, I was asked by my husband's mother and sister to lend my wedding gown to a neighbor friend of theirs, a stranger to me. I feel a wedding gown is a very personal item, and frankly, their request shocked me. I told my in-laws I would need to think about it, but I really do not want to lend the dress. It was very expensive, and I spent a lot of time looking for just the right one.
I feel hurt to have been placed in such an awkward position. I would like to decline, but I don't want to make any waves. My husband understands how I feel and says he'll support me no matter what I decide. Please tell me what to do. -- RELUCTANT NEWLYWED IN OHIO
DEAR RELUCTANT: I agree the request is presumptuous, particularly since you don't even know the woman who would be wearing your wedding gown. You are under no obligation to agree. Simply tell your in-laws that, rather than lending such a sentimental keepsake, you prefer to save it for the daughter you may have one day. You don't owe them a further explanation than that.
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