Rogue bridesmaid, rude questions, needy sister-in-law, and wild-child mother—Dear Prudence chats live with readers at Washingtonpost.com.

Advice on manners and morals.
May 2 2011 3:27 PM

The Bridesmaid Wore White

Dear Prudence advises a bride whose attendant threatens to upstage her—during a live chat at Washingtonpost.com.

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Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript of this week's chat is below. (Get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Read Prudie's Slate columns here.)

Emily Yoffe: I'm going to assume we won't have any questions about the appropriate way to celebrate the demise of a monster. So let's be happy that Osama Bin Laden is gone, and our lives go on.

Q. My Bridesmaid Wants To Wear White?: Please settle this question for me! I have one bridesmaid for my upcoming wedding. I gave her a budget and told her to select her own dress, which I will pay for, and as long as I didn't hate it I would be happy for her to get a dress she was happy with. She came up with a design which was fine with me. But now that she started the process of getting it made she is insisting that she wants to wear white. I told her she could have any other color, including black, but I do not want my bridesmaid wearing white. Besides, it defies wedding traditions and many of my guests and family would find it odd. We have been arguing over this and she has her heart absolutely set on white. Since Kate Middleton got married with a bridesmaid in white, my friend is even more insistent that this is the way to go. Am I a bridezilla for not wanting my bridesmaid to be in the same color as me?

A: I have the feeling that the gorgeous Pippa Middleton, with her glamorous white bridesmaid dress, is going to launch a million all-white weddings. You are paying for your friend's dress and gave her carte blanche on its design. I officially declare you not a bridezilla. That she would engage in a tussle with you over wearing a white dress makes her a maidzilla. So what to do about it? Try to ratchet down the anger. Say as lovely as the Windsor wedding was, you particularly don't want to look as if you're copying it. Say the entire rainbow is at her disposable, and it would mean a lot to you if she went with another shade. But if she won't, then let it go. No one is going to confuse her for the bride. And it may be that if she's so stubborn and willful, in the future you won't confuse her for your best friend, either.

Dear Prudence: Unwanted Dog Doting

Q. Hair Color: What is the appropriate response to questions about the legitimacy of a lady's hair color/bust line/diamonds? (For what it's worth, all three look real, and two of the three are.) I don't feel this is anyone's business, but any answer other than "yes, it's real" seems to be interpreted as a "no"—including "mind your own business" and "who raised you?"

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A: So, on a regular basis friends, colleagues, and strangers come up to you and say, "Is that peroxide, are those silicone, and is that cubic zirconia?" If you go around looking like a Lady Gaga double, people are going to talk privately about you, but it's utterly bizarre that they bring their speculation to you. You always have the option of giving a quizzical look and walking away. To people you know, you can laugh and say, "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that question."

Q. Husband Bought Expensive Jewelry But Not for Me:  My husband and I have separate accounts, but we know each other's banking details. Our mechanic disputed some payment we were supposed to have made months ago, so I logged into my husband's Internet banking to verify the payment. I saw there he made a $500 purchase from a jewelry store almost a year ago. Christmas, my birthday, and our wedding anniversary have since passed, and I have not seen this mystery jewelry. He's very open with his expenses and tells me even about buying a $20 book, so if he purchased something for his mother or anyone else he'd want me to know about, he would most definitely tell me. I've begun to wonder if he bought this for another woman as I can't think of any other explanation—but I seriously cannot imagine him doing this to me. Could there be another explanation for this?

A: If you have the kind of marriage in which you turn to me to try to figure out who got the $500 piece of jewelry, then you've got more than a problem with hidden credit card charges. So what you do is you say, "While I was going over our financial statements because of the dispute with the mechanic, I saw this charge"—then you show the line item to him. "What was this for, honey?"

Q. Tell Teens the Truth? I am the mother of three wonderful teenagers! Thus far they are good kids who are staying out of trouble and performing well in school and activities. My problem is, I was NOT this kind of teen! To be honest, I raised some hell when I was a kid! Sex, drugs, alcohol ... I partook in it all! Luckily, that phase didn't last long and I came to my senses before I entered college and, thankfully, turned into a productive member of society! I'm not proud of how I behaved back then and have a lot of regrets. So when my kids ask me questions about my teen years (i.e., Mom, how come you didn't run track in high school?) I do not give them the real answer of," I couldn't smoke cigarettes or drink beer while doing that," but instead, I just flat out lie. When my daughter asked me how old I was when I first had sex ... I flat out lied. My feeling is that they don't really need to know what horrible decisions I made as it may seem somehow to be permission for them to travel the wrong roads. My friend says I should tell them the truth and the lessons I learned along the way. I do feel somewhat guilty about lying to them. Who is right?

A: Consider yourself lucky not only that you have three wonderful kids, but that they are so interested in you that they actually ask questions about your own teen years. I am against lying, but just because someone asks a question (see letter above re: breast implants) does not mean you have to answer it—even if it's asked by your own kids. I think it's helpful for kids to know that their parents weren't perfect, that they messed up and learned from their mistakes. So you can be open about some of your own struggles or express gratitude that your kids are taking advantage of the opportunities they have instead of squandering many of them, the way you did. But you also aren't required to give a complete narrative about your dissolute years. There are many truthful ways to answer why you didn't go out for track besides, "I was drunk and smoking too much." It's also the case that you weren't in good enough shape or fast enough to be on the team. As for, "When did you first have sex, Mommy?"—it's up to each individual whether you want to tell how old you were or whether you want to say: "I feel the answer to that specific question is something I want to keep private. But I'm glad you can bring up this topic with me. Tell me why you're asking," then open the discussion. Your daughter is actually probably more interested in her own sexual decisions than yours.

Q. My Widow Sister-in-Law Thinks She's Married to My Husband: My husband's brother passed away and his widow remains unmarried. My sister-in-law "Jane" treats my husband, "Jack," like he's her husband. When she needs handiwork done in the house, when her car breaks down, when she needs to discuss her son's issues, even when she's going to the supermarket or clothes shopping, she calls him. When I try talking to Jack he only says, "Jane is just like that," shrugs, and continues as he always does. I even overheard her telling our mother-in-law she was disappointed when Jack married me because that meant he wouldn't be as readily available for her. She's also said to my face, "I know Jack better than you know him." Last night Jack asked me why I dislike Jane so much and I ended up blowing off steam about her overreliance on him. He responded with, "Well, she doesn't like you either." He insisted that I should treat her kindly because she's family and told me that I'm selfish and unable to compromise. What do I need to do?

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