DEAR AMY: My stepdaughter is in her late 30s and is getting married. She has been in my life for 20 years. A few years ago, she found her real father via the Internet. Honestly, we thought he was dead. My wife has asked me to pay for half of the cost of the wedding dress. I asked who was walking her down the aisle. The response was her biological dad. He is also going to be sitting at the head table with us. This man ditched his family when my stepdaughter was 2, due to drugs and crime. He never paid child support. He is a complete deadbeat. But to ask me to pay for a dress and not have the right to walk down the aisle is wrong. I said no. I'm thinking of not attending this wedding because I hate uncomfortable situations. My wife feels we should forgive him. My daughter is awestruck, but I am afraid she will get hurt. I am a faithful Christian and am torn. What's your opinion?--Acting Foolish
DEAR FOOLISH: Stepparents have many minefields to scramble across, but they also can be heroes to their families. This is a hero opportunity for you.
The most generous gesture is to join with your wife to help pay for the wedding dress, but I understand that you see this as linked to your participation (but notice that her mother is contributing and the bride hasn't invited her mother to walk her down the aisle, either).
Walking a bride down the aisle is an honor that, in my opinion, is earned rather than conveyed because of biology. Your stepdaughter may feel differently. But it sounds as if you are dodging this uncomfortable situation by conveying your disappointment to your wife, not your stepdaughter.
The adult thing to do is to say to her, "I am hurt that you have not asked me to walk you down the aisle; this is an important moment for a guy. I've been proud to be in your life for 20 years." Then, regardless, attend the wedding and be gracious and generous. Facing this uncomfortable situation boldly and with grace is being a hero.