DEAR ABBY: This letter is in response to "Shocked," who was surprised when her husband's parents sent her lingerie for her birthday. Many men feel that lingerie is the ultimate turn-on. Her in-laws may have intended to add a little extra romance and provide a pleasant surprise for their son -- a wish he himself may have conveyed.
I speak from experience. My mother-in-law gave me some lingerie for my bridal shower, saying, "I was married once, too, and trust me -- this will make him happy." And it has, three years later. -- SARA IN TEXAS
DEAR SARA: That letter certainly struck a familiar chord with a lot of wives. Let me share some of the comments I received:
DEAR ABBY: For the shocked daughter-in-law who wasn't happy about the peek-a-boo nightie -- that's nothing! I received the same kind of outfit from my mother-in-law at a couples' shower that was held at our Baptist Sunday school teacher's house, in front of a group of young Navy pilots.
And the family wonders why the relationship has always been tense. -- BEEN THERE AND WORSE
DEAR BEEN THERE: Why not make it "past tense" and forgive her the lapse in judgment? The gift may have been well-intended, but her timing was off. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I can do her one better. When my mother died years ago, her prayer circle presented me with a gift of underpants. I've never been able to figure that one out. -- MARY IN ASHEVILLE, N.C.
DEAR MARY: It makes one wonder what they were praying for.
DEAR ABBY: You missed a glaring point in the letter from "Shocked," the woman who wasn't sure how to react when her in-laws sent her a sexy negligee and a thong for her birthday (she was embarrassed): They had never sent her a birthday gift before!
Maybe the nightie wasn't a gift but a message. Perhaps the in-laws had heard something that caused them concern, and their gift was an attempt to inject some excitement into a flat relationship. "Shocked" should pause and consider the state of her marriage. After several years of marriage -- especially with children -- it's easy for a husband and wife to take each other for granted and grow apart.
If "Shocked" thinks her love life with her husband is lackluster, she might consider putting that gift to good use. -- KAREN IN FORT WALTON BEACH, FLA.
DEAR KAREN: It's worth considering. However, it did not occur to me that instead of a birthday gift, her in-laws had given her a veiled warning.
DEAR ABBY: That letter brought back such memories for me. When my husband and I were married 40 years ago, my mother-in-law would buy me sexy nighties every year for Christmas and birthdays.
When our first son was born four years later, I began receiving flannel nightgowns from her. Maybe "Shocked's" in-laws are trying to tell her they're ready for grandchildren. -- RITA IN SPRINGFIELD, MO.
DEAR RITA: If they are, they're making a mistake. Besides being inappropriate, that kind of meddling often puts daughters-in-law on the defensive.