DEAR ABBY: I have a profound sense of guilt writing this letter, because the friend I describe is a marvelous mother, a devoted grandmother, and a smart, generous and thoroughly delightful woman. The problem? Her appearance and personal grooming are her lowest priorities. When we are together (especially in public), I find myself being silently critical and embarrassed.
She lives out of town and visits me twice a year for two or three weeks. On her last visit, she brought clothes I've seen her wear for 20 years: torn skirts, stained blouses, and scuffed and worn shoes. When she entered my home, she kicked off her shoes. Barefoot, her feet were dirty, including her toenails, and she seemed oblivious to anything but her own comfort.
This has nothing to do with money. She is well-fixed financially, travels extensively, has exquisite jewelry, etc. When I offer to take her shopping, she replies, "What for? I have plenty of everything I need."
I love her dearly and wouldn't hurt her feelings for the world. Abby, have you -- or any of your wise readers -- any suggestions on how to deal with this? Frankly, I don't think she'll ever change, and I question if I can change my discomfort with her appearance. -- UP A TREE DOWN SOUTH
DEAR UP A TREE: If you want the situation to change, hinting isn't going to do it. Your friend needs to be told to clean up her act, buy a few new duds, and get a pedicure before she goes shoeless in public.