DEAR ABBY: I am a 42-year-old woman who has been acting like a catty teen-age girl. My daughter "Erica" has been best friends with "Alexa" since preschool. Both girls are now in high school. Alexa has blossomed into a beautiful girl, while my Erica is a rather plain Jane. Alexa always has a boyfriend. Erica has never had one. When Alexa is around, Erica is invisible to boys. They call her only to ask about Alexa.
Alexa's boyfriend wanted to make her jealous, so he broke up with her and began flirting with Erica. I knew what was going on, but I allowed it to happen. Just once, I thought, maybe a boy will notice Erica and see how special she is. Maybe this time she will get the boy.
Well, his plan failed. He couldn't get Alexa back, so he began spreading vicious rumors about her. (You know, the kind of rumors boys like to spread about girls.) Since we had been close for so long, people came to me to ask if the rumors were true. By not denying them, I implied that the rumors were true. I helped him to tarnish her reputation.
I guess I thought if Alexa looked bad, Erica would look better. He soon tired of his game and moved on, leaving Erica without a boyfriend and also without a best friend. Alexa eventually moved on to new friends.
I am so ashamed of what I did. I would do anything to fix it. What should I do? -- ASHAMED IN PITTSBURGH
DEAR ASHAMED: There's an old saying, "The authenticity of a painting is like a lady's virtue. Once questioned, it is never quite the same again." Short of admitting what a terrible thing you did to an innocent young girl, there isn't much you can do to repair the damage you allowed to happen. By failing to help your daughter see that she is special in her own way, and that her chance for popularity will come when young men begin to appreciate qualities that are more than skin-deep, you let both girls down.
Alexa has gone on and made new friends who accept her for who she really is. I'm particularly sorry for Erica, who has lost her best friend. I advise you to schedule some sessions with your spiritual adviser for yourself, and a psychologist who can suggest some healthy ways to build your daughter's self-esteem.