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Parents declare princess-free zone for daughter

DEAR READERS: I’ve stepped away from my column for a week while I put the finishing touches on my new book, which will be published in the fall. Please enjoy these “Best Of” columns in my absence. I’ll be back with your fresh questions and answers next week.

DEAR AMY: My son and daughter-in-law will not allow my granddaughter to have Barbie or princess dolls because they believe these dolls would have a negative effect on her body image. Is this a valid concern? I respect the parents’ wishes, but I feel as if my granddaughter is missing out.

Curious Grandmother

DEAR GRANDMOTHER: I’m not sure what princess-themed dolls have to do with negative body image, though they may introduce several other troubling concepts to girls. For instance, everybody knows that your ball gown is always stuck at the dry cleaner when you really need it. And don’t get me started on the whole “one day your prince will come” idea.

Barbie is another story, of course. With her outsized, bizarre and otherwise unwomanly proportions, if Barbie were an actual woman, she would be a 10-foot tall monster whose permanently pointed toes and spindly lower body could never support her ample bosom.

If a little girl didn’t have Barbie in her life, what exactly would she be missing out on? Not much. Dolls give girls and boys the opportunity to engage in imaginative play, but stuffed animals (or other dolls) can (and do) provide the same opportunities.

It is the parents’ right to choose toys for their kids, and thoughtful parents are careful about the messages these toys convey to their children — whether these toys are Barbies or bazookas. In my own family, I chose to explain, educate and occasionally roll my eyes at Barbie, rather than ban her from the house, but I respect parents’ choice to be thoughtful and discriminating about what toys they provide for their children, and you should too. (March 2007)

DEAR AMY: I have been dating my boyfriend for more than a year, and I love him very much. I think that we are a perfect match, and I definitely see marriage in our future. For his birthday last year, I surprised him by flying his best friend in from across the country. Well, his best friend and my best friend met, and are now in love. I’m very happy for them, and we’ve all become good friends. Now it seems that we are playing the adult version of the children’s game “telephone.” For instance, my boyfriend and I will have a typical sort of argument and, as I always have, I go to my best friend for advice, consolation or a swift kick in the rear. Now, when I tell my best friend how annoyed I am over what my boyfriend did, she tells her boyfriend, who then tells my boyfriend. By the time it gets back to me, it hardly resembles what it started out as and has been intensified by my letting others know “our” business. It has gotten to the point where small arguments become recurring fights. I don’t know how to deal with my newfound lack of confidential support. I don’t know whom to go to with problems. Short of cutting off all conversation about our boyfriends and friendships, I’m not sure how to cope with everything I say being twisted, and then thrown back in my face.

Trapped in Virginia

DEAR TRAPPED: Mature people learn to process some of their frustrations privately, thus saving their friends and family for the really big stuff. Mature people also need to have the ability to sift through, do triage and personal problem management — and not tell their romantic partner every single thing that happens to their girlfriends. Mature people don’t then turn around and repeat something to an involved party that they have heard third-hand, and they don’t hear a gripe fourth-hand, then twist it around and pick a fight about it.

One member of your group has to grow up already. I vote for you. If you have asked your girlfriend to keep a confidence and she can’t do it, then it’s time to withdraw your confidence. Some people just seem to repeat everything — they can’t seem to help it. If you value discretion, then save your important confidences for people who can keep them. Moving forward, the person to talk to about your problems with your boyfriend — is your boyfriend. (January 2007)

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