DEAR ABBY: I co-own a professional service business with a woman whose appearance has deteriorated significantly over the last three or four years. "Mary" was never a fashion plate, but she used to be presentable for business.
Four years ago, she put on quite a bit of weight. She refuses to buy new clothes until she loses it, but she makes no real attempt to do so.
Mary wears the same three pair of baggy pants to the office day after day. She does have two "good" outfits she will wear to see clients, but even those are threadbare. I dread the idea of a client dropping in and seeing Mary in her normal state, especially since she takes her shoes off at the office because her feet swell.
She has become an embarrassment. How do you think I should handle this? -- IMAGE IS EVERYTHING IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: If clients haven't dropped in during the last four years, they are not likely to start coming in droves. However, your partner should look her best when she calls on clients, and she should not represent the business looking "threadbare." You should handle this by addressing this part of the problem only. Unless you dress for the office looking like a page out of Vogue, let the woman be comfortable.
P.S. I take my shoes off at the office because I see no reason to wear 6-inch stilettos while my feet are under my desk. If someone comes in, I put them back on. That's what your partner should do if the need arises.
DEAR ABBY: I have been estranged from my family for many years. It was a decision I thought long and hard about, and I have no regrets. It was one of the wisest decisions I have ever made, and it helped me to maintain my mental and physical health.
I recently had a baby, and my family has been sending me gifts. In the past, I have returned them all, but I feel torn under these circumstances because the gifts are not for me, but for my child. Normally, I would write thank-you cards for such things, but in this case I don't want to mislead anyone or set a precedent that such things are welcome.
Please tell me how I should delicately handle this. There is no hope for reconciliation, and my child will not be having a relationship with any of these people. I don't want to hurt anyone; I just want to be left alone. -- ETIQUETTE-CHALLENGED
DEAR CHALLENGED: You have already cut your ties with these people. You do not plan to have a relationship with them, nor will your child. You are under no obligation to thank them for unwanted gifts, and your child will not be deprived if you send the gifts back. It appears this is an attempt by them to buy their way back into your life. The gifts should be returned unopened, with no comment.
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