I am a senior in high school and stuck in the midst of prom season. Everywhere I turn, other girls are talking about dresses, and makeup, and dates. My problem is that, unlike most of the other girls, I have no interest in attending prom. It's not that I don't have a date, or a dress for that matter; I just don't get the whole "prom" thing. When other girls hear that I don't intend to attend, it stirs up a flurry of questioning and disbelief; they don't seem to understand why I wouldn't want to go. Do you have any advice for how to deal with these people? Or should I just bite the bullet and go to please everyone else?
—Not a Prom Queen
Dear Not a Prom Queen,
Don't go to please everyone else—go to please your future self. I felt the same way as you (I was really good at being alienated), so I didn't go to my high-school prom. It helped that no one asked me, but still, I shouldn't have let that stop me. I'm sure I would have had a good time. But even if I hadn't, every time I watched a prom scene in a movie or saw kids in stretch limos on their way to the prom, a part of me wouldn't say, "Why was I such a cluck not to go to my own prom? I don't even know what a prom is really like." You don't even sound as alienated as I was, just indifferent to the whole rigmarole. Good—this also means you're the kind of person who won't become hysterical when the cocktail napkins at your wedding reception are the wrong color. You have only one high-school prom. Don't miss it.
I am excited to be graduating from college, but I dread dealing with who attends my graduation. My parents are divorced. My dad cheated on my mom and is now married to the woman he had an affair with. It took me many years to deal with his affair and remarriage, but I am slowly rebuilding a relationship with him and his wife. My mother was devastated by the affair, betrayal, and divorce. She has told me that if my dad's wife shows up to my graduation, she will throw a fit, start a fight, or leave. She says that since I'm her daughter, my graduation is her event, and if my father's wife is there, I am taking this right away from her. I want my mother at my graduation, but I don't feel it is fair that she is dictating who will be able to come to my major life events. What will happen when I get married? Have a child? Am I being insensitive about my mother's feelings toward my father's new wife? What do I do?
You say the divorce was years ago, so it's way past time for your mother to move on. Let your parents sit in different sections, but your mother has to recognize that there will be times she has to be in the same satellite-map quadrant as her ex. She declares your graduation her event, so you're right to assume that this will be her attitude about your wedding, your children, and the rest of your milestones. You might as well start letting her know now that she's got that wrong. Tell your mother you understand that she'll never forgive your father, but he's your father, and you have a separate relationship with him. Say all of you have to accept the fact that he's remarried. (And unless you hate the woman's guts, it might make it easier for you to accept it if you started referring to your father's wife as your stepmother.) Tell your mother you want her at your graduation and you know she'll make the best of it. If she refuses to come, that's painful, but that's her choice. Don't let her blackmail you. Just say, "Mom, it would mean the world to me to have you there, and I will hold a ticket for you." I'm not defending cheating, but your mother's behavior may contain a clue as to why your father wanted out.