Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My daughter has a group of girlfriends I don't particularly care for, but I try to stay out of it and work with her on values to gently move her away from this group. My problem is that the parents of these friends keep asking me to go out with them. I'm sure they may be trying to be nice, but I have been out with them a couple of times, and I don't enjoy it at all. They are gossipy, listen to only one side of a situation and believe it, are impressed by people who have and wear expensive things and need you to agree with their political views, which they have no problem voicing. I don't want to be a snob, but it feels like high school all over again! Some of the kids in the group seem to be a lot like their parents. Obviously mine is too (or is a follower), which is why I have work to do with her. I keep coming up with excuses not to participate, and I can tell one mother is ticked at me. I want to know what to do until I can get my daughter to move away from these girls and to a more genuine friendship group. If I point-blank tell her she can't hang with them, or if my lack of participation gets her thrown out of the group, I know she will be very upset with me.
Sick of High School
DEAR SICK: You don't say how old your daughter is, but one lesson for you to convey to her is that -- although family members influence one another -- you don't choose her friends. She does. And she needs to choose wisely. But she doesn't choose your friends either.
You obviously have a low opinion of these girls and their parents, but you should do your best to continue to be polite toward people who are making a real effort to get to know you. You are not obligated to spend time with them, however. Be honest with your daughter about your own choices. If this upsets her, talk about it.
If the mean girls retaliate and toss your daughter from the group, then you will both see up close the reality of this sort of high-stakes socializing.
Author Rosalind Wiseman (literally) wrote the book on this dynamic: Read "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World" (2009, Harmony).
DEAR AMY: Recently I remarried my ex-husband (we have known each other 35-plus years). Last December I was verbally assaulted by his younger sister and so I decided to ignore her. Prior to our recent wedding, there have been joint family functions, which she refused to attend. She did come to the wedding; in greeting my guests I did not go to her table -- nor did she approach me. Thanksgiving is at our house this year and I do not know if she will come. What I do know is it is going to be challenging to have her in my home with her negative attitude. I don't want to tell my husband his sister can't come. Do I let her have a piece of my mind and demand that she be cordial in my home, or should I do my best to just ignore her?
DEAR UPSET: You should not have to demand, but should expect cordiality -- and you should extend it to all of your guests. If there is a confrontation you feel needs to happen, you should contact her beforehand. Your focus should be on honoring your remarriage by rebuilding your in-law relationships, but this does not mean you have to tolerate being abused.
DEAR AMY: "Sad Wife" wrote to you about infidelity. A sentence of hers jumped out at me: "We are approaching retirement age, so neither of us has a lot of time to rebuild a life with someone else." I believe this is utter nonsense. There is no expiration date on finding a partner. As long as she thinks this way, she is limiting her options. She needs to change her attitude.
DEAR OPTIMISM: I completely agree.