DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law -- I'll call her "Irene" -- refers to our 3-year-old daughter, "Amber," as "sexy." When she buys clothing for Amber, she will say, "This is sexy." When Amber was younger and would pull up her dress in play, Irene would say, "Are you trying to be sexy?" Luckily, when it has happened, Amber either didn't hear or remember her comments.
I'm afraid if we don't put a stop to it, Irene will continue saying these things. Maybe she thinks it's cute, but I would like to keep my little girl innocent as long as I can. My husband agrees with me, but he's afraid of offending his mother. Why would a grandmother call her young granddaughter "sexy"? Please advise. -- AMBER'S MOMMY IN CLEVELAND
DEAR MOMMY: Your mother-in-law may have a limited vocabulary, or she may be projecting her adult feelings onto Amber -- not realizing that children her granddaughter's age do not experience sexual feelings the way adults do.
Whatever Irene's reasoning, I agree that her comments are inappropriate, and she should be told to cut them out. With marketing, advertising and media the way they are today, your little girl will be bombarded with promotional messages in which sex is a sales tool before she hits kindergarten. She doesn't need to be sexually objectified by her grandmother, too.
DEAR ABBY: "Frustrated in Colorado" (March 1) complained about people attempting to send faxes on her phone line. She should be thankful for a stable, busy job in a thriving business.
Most fax machines today scan documents into memory and put them into an automated "queue" -- the same one that usually tries to transmit three times. I handle it by simply hitting the "transfer" button on my phone, so the call is routed to my fax line. Then I move on to other tasks. If you pass this on to her, it will relieve her frustration.
Tell her I said to "smile, have a nice day, and remember the words of Sgt. Joe Friday: 'It's just the fax, ma'am.'" -- LARRY FROM MARLTON, N.J.
DEAR LARRY: Thank you for the technical advice.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 17-year-old girl. My boyfriend and I are planning for a future together. We are seriously discussing marriage.
My problem is, when I was 14, my older brother molested me. I eventually found the courage to tell my parents. They confronted him, he apologized, and we all got on with our lives. We haven't spoken about it since.
Should I tell my boyfriend about this? It has affected my life. I have trouble trusting people, and I feel this is something he needs to know. However, my brother and I get along well now. I don't want my boyfriend wanting to hurt my brother every time we have a family function. What should I do? -- TROUBLED IN AUSTRALIA
DEAR TROUBLED: Although your brother has apologized and the subject hasn't been spoken about since, it has affected the way you perceive others. And the behavior your brother displayed when he molested you shows that -- at least at that time in his life -- he had a lack of empathy for the feelings of others, namely you.
You could benefit greatly by discussing what happened with a counselor who has expertise in sexual assault, and frankly, so could your brother. However, I see no reason to discuss what happened with your boyfriend until you become formally engaged, particularly because he might react in a volatile manner.
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