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My 7-year-old daughter is smart, pretty, and fun. Her father is of Hispanic descent, and he's gorgeous, but he has a lot of thick, black body hair—including a "unibrow," which he's plucked since he was a teenager. Our daughter has inherited his thick, dark hair and my fair skin, and I'm shocked to see that her coarse eyebrows are starting to grow together—downy hairs are appearing across the bridge of her nose. She is beautiful, but her eyebrows bother me. Her 10-year-old cousin has a shockingly thick unibrow, and she came home in tears because her classmates teased her. She took a razor to her face and ended up cutting herself badly. I don't want any of this to happen to my daughter, but I'm disgusted with myself for having such a reaction to a few stray hairs. Showing my daughter pictures of Frida Kahlo and talking to her about inner beauty will be worse than a lie, since I'm obviously bothered by her eyebrows! I've been tempted to look into electrolysis down the road, but what kind of maternal instinct is that?
Of course it's superficial to worry over a few hairs. But humans are very superficial; in this country alone, we spend billions trying to either remove hair or grow it. Given the hirsute dynasties from which my daughter is descended, when I first held my darling in my arms and gazed on her mass of black hair, I whispered to her, "Don't worry, baby girl, I will take care of you when the time comes to get some of your hair removed." When I allowed her to get her eyebrows waxed the first time (she had been begging), it was a bonding experience to hold her hand while the deed was done. But she was a teenager by then, and, as you say, your daughter is only 7 years old. Right now the incipient unibrow is visible only to the close observer, or as T.S. Eliot wrote, "But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!" But the trajectory of her cousin is a warning. If your child has an easily fixed cosmetic problem, it's best to avoid her wanting to take a razor to her face. Fortunately, today a little girl with a brow like Bert the Muppet can have it transformed almost instantly into something more like Brooke Shields. This article describes the growing trend for getting young girls with moustaches and heavy brows zapped with a cosmetic laser. I suggest for now that you stop counting hairs and relax. As the brow fills in, or she starts complaining that other kids comment on it, you can say that she has eyebrows just like Daddy. Explain that he takes some of his out with a tweezer, but you're going to do something better for her that will mean the extra hair is gone for a long time or maybe forever. It's OK, Mom, that you want a clear path for your daughter's inner beauty to shine.
My fiance and I are getting married soon and have been discussing our ceremony. Our idea was to honor our families by having our parents and siblings walk the aisle before we do. I have four siblings, two of whom are married, and he has one sister and a cousin, whom he considers a brother. So I will have eight people walking down the aisle, and he will have four. Lately, he's been making quite a fuss about how things are not "balanced." So he has suggested that I either choose only one brother or not send my sisters-in-law down the aisle—or that he be allowed to add a couple of his friends. I'm flabbergasted. I've tried to explain that choosing between my siblings is not an option and that my sisters-in-law are like my sisters. I don't want to start adding friends because I'd like to keep this a family procession. What am I not seeing here?
—Aisle of Pain
At this point in the wedding preparations, surely an Elvis impersonator at a chapel in Vegas or a bored clerk at City Hall start to look like good alternatives to the wedding of your dreams. I think your fiance is acting like a child having a tantrum because someone else's cookie has more chocolate chips. I'm trying to see it from his perspective—that first his little group comes out, followed by your big one, and it makes his family look meager and pathetic. But then I think, "Nah, he's a kid having a tantrum." Particularly telling is his ludicrous suggestion that you drop one of your brothers. I suppose if every couple who saw an ugly side of their intended emerge during the wedding planning canceled the nuptials, then marriage rates would plummet. I'll accept that you're flabbergasted because this is so out of character for him. So that you don't have to pull the plug on the marriage, pull the plug on the processional. Tell your fiance this whole thing has become so contentious that you want to end it. Say the two of you should stick with the tradition of just having the bride be walked down the aisle to the groom. If that's not OK with him ("Why do you get to have everyone admire you while I just stand there like some dork?"), then you two should have some serious discussions about the need to be able to compromise on issues for the rest of your lives, and why you thought spending the rest of your lives together seemed like such a good idea.
I raised two daughters as a single parent by choice. I see now that children need a mom and dad, but it's too late for that. I worked many jobs to give them everything possible so they would feel equal to their friends who were growing up in two-parent households. I dipped into my retirement account many times to pay for vacations, college, etc. When my daughters were 20 and 13, I met a wonderful guy who had an older child of his own. The two of us continued the ridiculous cycle of giving them everything they wanted, such as new cars, expensive birthday parties, etc. After the economy tumbled, our income was slashed, and we had to sell our house. We are struggling to pay our bills. Our now-grown children are all employed and making decent money. My gripe is that even though they know our situation, they've never offered to help. They don't even take us out to dinner for our birthdays! How do I tell them that I'm hurt about their lack of concern and would like to be treated by them once in a while?
—Tired of Giving
You've learned the painful lesson that when you spend all your time indulging other people, it doesn't make them think about what they can do for you in return; it makes them think, What are you doing for me next? You say it was a mistake to have your daughters on your own because children need two parents. I'm an advocate of two-parent families, but that doesn't mean any individual parent can't do a wonderful job of raising great kids. You make the case yourself that the problem isn't that your girls didn't have a father. They got a stepfather, and you and he continued to spoil them. What would have been better than killing yourself or going broke to pay for cars, vacations, etc., would have been to say, "Girls, I wish we could, but we can't afford it. We can talk about it in the kitchen while you help me make dinner." However, clearly you've both done something right, because you have three self-sufficient children. Unless you're in dire financial straits, table the idea of asking them for money. That can strain even the most robust relationships. What you want to do now is start building a more mature bond with your children, helping them see you as complete people and not just a check book. However, don't start by blaming them for your financial predicament. It was your decision to be profligate. So when the next birthday or family event comes up, you and your husband need to speak directly. Say you two were foolish about not guarding your retirement funds, and you've got to start being frugal now. Tell them the last thing you want is to end up being a burden on them. Explain that you're having hard times, and you hope that since they're all independent, they can take you out or you can all make spaghetti together, because there's nothing that makes you happier than spending time with them.
I'm a bargain-hunter and sometimes find great deals on gift certificates for expensive restaurants in my city. These restaurants are normally out of my price range, but I enjoy romantic dinners there. Is it cheap or tacky to use such gift certificates on a date, especially one of the first few dates?
Whip out the gift certificate on the first date, and she'll think, At least he didn't ask to have the extra rolls wrapped up so he could eat them for breakfast. Boy, is he cheap! Save the gift certificate for when things are progressing nicely and you've gotten to know each other a lot better. Then, if you want to treat her to an expensive restaurant, you can say, "I got a discount card for dinner at Le Fancy Pants. Let's go there Saturday and have a really great meal." That way, she'll think, If this relationship continues, I'll never have to worry about finding myself juggling three mortgages, because he watches his money. He's responsible, and that's reassuring.