DEAR ABBY: I'm in my early 20s and have worked for this company for a few years. One of my co-workers is my age and has always been very sweet. We talk occasionally about casual events in our lives, but I have never socialized with her outside of work and don't consider her more than a "work friend."
When she became engaged, I told her I was happy for her and admired her ring. Out of the blue she asked me to be a bridesmaid! I was taken by surprise, but she looked so hopeful that I agreed. I realize now it was a huge mistake.
She is a nice girl, but we talk only at work, maybe three times a month. She has also asked two other girls from work to be a bridesmaid and maid of honor. They are in the same boat as I am, and both were also shocked to have been asked.
The wedding is a year and a half away. I am worried that it will cost me money. Don't bridesmaids have to buy their own dresses? I would never want someone in my wedding who didn't want to be there and who honestly didn't consider herself my friend. Is there an appropriate way to get out of this and not hurt her feelings? -- DISTRESSED IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR DISTRESSED: It is not necessary to tell your co-worker that you do not consider her a friend. But do tell her that, while you are flattered that she asked you to be a bridesmaid, you responded impulsively without thinking it through and that it would create a financial hardship for you -- which is why you must decline. Obviously, this young woman has no close friends, so do her a favor by not making this a topic of conversation at the office.
P.S. You are correct that it is the responsibility of the bridesmaid to pay for her own outfit.
DEAR ABBY: I am the middle child in a family of seven children. Somewhere along the way I was assigned the role of peacemaker. I have always been the person everyone goes to for help -- mostly financial -- but also for other reasons. This has caused a strain on my relationship with my significant other, "Jake."
Jake's family is not close, and he did not have a pleasant childhood. My family is sometimes too close, and we depend on each other too much. Jake accuses me of "always jumping on my white horse and riding off to save the world" and says I neglect him. He wants me to have nothing to do with my family and complains that they call too often. I do not neglect him. He is the one turning this into a big issue.
I am always there for Jake, but he is very controlling and I feel caught in the middle all the time, trying to keep him happy and not hurt my family's feelings. How can I stay true to who I am and what I believe is right and still maintain this relationship, which I have been in for more than 17 years? -- CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE
DEAR CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: You and Jake need to reach a compromise. It is unrealistic of him to expect you to have nothing to do with your family. As caring as you are, however, you need to accept that you were not born to continually bail your siblings out of their financial difficulties.
My advice to you is to "be there" for your family when mediation is necessary, but tighten your purse strings. If you do, I'll bet there will be fewer phone calls, less rescuing and more peace in your household.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)