Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I'm a godmother to a wonderful 7-year-old girl. Her mother is my best friend of 20 years. She is an excellent mom. I do not have any children. Recently the three of us and a group of girlfriends celebrated a "ladies weekend getaway." When we got to our destination, I overheard my goddaughter ask her mom if she was going to "get drunk." My heart broke a little. Later I was getting ready to join everybody in the pool, when the child came running to me, hysterically crying that her "mama was taking her clothes off." I peeked out the window and sure enough her mom was topless. Honestly, it's not that big a deal among the adults, and not so much out of character for my best friend, but her daughter was freaked out. I told her that Mom was being silly and that she should talk to her about her worries. She said she couldn't because she would get in trouble. She didn't want to return to the pool and so I stayed inside with her. Her mother came in about 20 minutes later. She told her daughter she was disappointed in her and that nude bodies were nothing to be ashamed of. (What was upsetting to the girl was seeing her mom drunk, removing her swimsuit and behaving foolishly.) I chimed in (bad idea?), saying I couldn't stand seeing this young girl be silenced about something that was bothering her. My best friend said, "I'm trying to teach her that nudity is not shameful. She's very dramatic and freaks out about everything." I replied, "You should have an internal barometer about what's minor and major in regards to her 'freak-outs.' " She basically told me when I have kids of my own and am a perfect mother I should talk to her then. I understand this logic, but I felt like I had a responsibility to my goddaughter. Did I overreact? Did I do the right thing? What do you think?

Godmother

DEAR GODMOTHER: I think you tried to advocate for a young child who, as you say, was put down and silenced by her mother at a time when she was distressed.

Nudity aside, your adult friend's choice to teach her child what it is to be "drunk" shows very poor judgment. A parent who is drunk cannot respond to a child's distress adequately. A child should not be punished for finding something upsetting.

A parent who is drunk in front of her child also cannot lecture another adult on being a "perfect mother." You did the right thing.

DEAR AMY: I am a single senior male, divorced for over 40 years. NO I'm not gay. NO I don't hate women. NO I'm not abusive to anyone or frightening to children and puppies. I am happy and healthy being single. I have many friends, and I am not lonely. When I meet people and the subject of being single for a long time comes up, the usual response is, "I'm so sorry. Don't give up, you will meet someone." My life has been, and is, very fulfilling. I'd like to respond by saying, "I'm so sorry for you. Maybe someday you will be a whole person with a whole life -- rather than half of something." That would be rude, but do you have any answers for a response?

Happy Singleton

DEAR HAPPY: It is never appropriate, or particularly useful, to respond to rudeness by being rude.

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You could, however, respond by saying, "I hope that my single status doesn't make you uncomfortable, but I assure you I'm happy as a clam." Sometimes happy singletons make married people nervous.

DEAR AMY: The letter from "Resentful" prompted me to write. She was bothered because her ex-husband wasn't contributing money to help support her daughter, even though he wasn't the girl's biological father. She should be happy this father figure wants to continue to be in the girl's life. This should be encouraged, not resented.

C

DEAR C: "Resentful" was bothered that her ex got to be the "fun" parent, while she was left holding the bag.