Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 23 1999 3:30 AM

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Dear Prudence:


About a month ago, my father informed us--by e-mail!--that he was planning to divorce my mother and had contacted a lawyer. Now he tells us he's coming home for Christmas. At the same time, my mother invited a friend of hers for Christmas dinner because the woman recently discovered her husband's 6-year-long affair and has no one to share the holiday with.

The problem is my mother hasn't told her friend about my father wanting a divorce. Although we all plan to be civilized about it, if my father makes some offhand comment about the situation, it will be awkward to say the least. My sister and I feel our mother should discreetly tell her friend what's going on, but my mother is very proud and prefers to pretend that everything is fine, especially since she's the one who encouraged her friend to dump her husband. Mom's afraid that her friend will encourage her to go along with the divorce--which she doesn't want to do. Should my sister and I quietly tell Mom's friend what's up? Or should we ask our dad to stay away from the topic of the divorce during dinner? We don't know what to do that won't make the problem worse. Christmas dinner is shaping up to be a nightmare. Help!

Can it get any more awkward than this?

Dear Can:

Probably ... but you have a day or two to make your moves. Since the woman guest is your mother's friend, and your mother wishes to keep her marital situation under wraps (strangely, Prudie thinks) you should not be the one to spill the beans. And since your father wants to come to Christmas dinner (strangely, Prudie thinks) the mechanistic thing to do to salvage the night is to quietly tell your dad that your mom hasn't broken the news to her friend ... so could he please pretend things are "normal." Take heart that yours will be just one of countless such dinners around the country where the family dynamics are, shall we say, unusual.

--Prudie, delicately


As a young woman with serious curves on a trim frame, I, myself, have had to deal with the issue of my gazongas and my pretty face in a professional manner. I wear non-push-up bras with thin padding, often marketed as "T-shirt bras," and I only wear tight-fitting sweaters if they are black, long-sleeved, and matte. Tailored shirts work well, too. I find that having Katharine Hepburn as my style icon for work clothes is an ideal solution, even though I've got a Marilyn Monroe body. The difficult part for your perplexed young man who wrote will be requesting, in a tactful fashion, that his girlfriend dress modestly. I recommend the Katharine Hepburn metaphor as a gentle and flattering way to make this request.

Best wishes,



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