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Should I attend my ex-husband's wedding?

DEAR CAROLYN: My ex is getting married this fall and wants our 4-year-old daughter to be a flower girl. That's very nice. He wants me to attend the wedding to help dress and groom her and get her where she belongs at the right times. That's ... not so nice.

Why can't one of his relatives do it? Because they will be "too busy taking pictures and things like that."

This upsets me in lots of ways. I am sure he would never ever be willing to dedicate an entire day to MY hypothetical wedding. I feel it reduces me to being a supporting player in his life, and also the fact that his fiancee is OK with this sends a weird message that I am soooo not a threat.

In fact, I believe she sees me as an older, frumpier, non-threat, and she herself will look even more beautiful by comparison. I imagine her imagining her guests thinking, "Wow, [groom] really traded up!"

On the other hand, maybe I should just do it to support my daughter, and to make sure she receives adequate attention and care all day. What do you think?

"The Help"

"THE HELP": It's your prerogative to say no if you'd rather not do this.

But I hope you'll reread your question to see how much projecting you've done, and how harshly you're judging yourself. "I am soooo not a threat"? You're "older, frumpier" and there only for "comparison"? Why do this to yourself, when you could take the same request/invitation as proof of mature coexistence and cooperation in your daughter's life?

Again — there's no reason for you to feel obligated to say yes. Agree to it if you're willing, decline if you're unwilling. But either way, please, be kinder to your beautiful self. If this sort of negativity is your default for the way you see yourself, then I hope you'll look into some emotional support in the form of a depression evaluation, a support group or individual therapy, and treat this as a bigger crossroads than just deciding on the flower girl thing.

And if you do say yes to the ceremony, then treat yourself, too, and work with a styling service (store provided, or online) to find something to wear in your price range that helps you feel great.

Plus, you don't have to stay — do the ceremony, an appearance at the reception, then out, since that's about all a 4-year-old can manage anyway.

Readers' suggestions:

— Your daughter will feel overwhelmed, especially if she is not completely comfortable with the idea of her dad marrying someone else. Dad must have some sense of this — why else is he wanting you there except to stabilize her reactions? Perhaps do the ceremony, the photos, and then you take her home.

— Tell him to pay for a babysitter or find a cousin who could be her buddy for the day. It is really too much to insist that the only person who could take on this role is his ex-wife.

— If I were a guest, I would not be comparing you to the bride. It wouldn't even cross my mind. Instead, I'd be thinking how cool it was of you, that you were willing to be there to help out.

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