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Q: I have been asked to be a bridesmaid by a longtime (over fifteen years) and very dear friend. This woman is the sister I never had, and we’re closer to each other than we are to many of our own family members. I happily said yes without realizing that her tastes and budget far, far exceed mine.
She is marrying into a great deal of money, and she’s having a huge, expensive wedding. That’s fine. The problem is that the dresses she selected for her bridesmaids START at $7,000. That’s right—$7,000 is the price of the cheapest of her choices, and that does NOT include alterations, shoes, jewelry, hair, make up, etc. The dress that she favors comes in at $15,000 before alterations.
She did not give us any kind of warning that the dresses she is considering are so expensive. I’m working, but spending $7,000 plus on a dress that I will wear for less than one day (not even) and then never wear it again (it is beautiful, but it is bridal) is an expense I cannot justify. And if she opts for her favorite, at $15,000 before alterations…
I know that being a member of the wedding party is expensive. When she announced her engagement and when she asked me to be a bridesmaid, I immediately started trying to save, but I didn’t think that being part of her wedding would be this expensive. I am also hurt that she didn’t give me a heads-up but waited until we were at the salon and looking at her choices. I pulled her aside and told her that I would have to back out of being a bridesmaid, and I told her WHY (that I cannot afford the dress she chose, nor the shoes, the accessories, alterations, and more). I told her that I would be happy to participate in another way (perhaps do a reading), and if that wasn’t possible, then I would be content to be a guest. She was very, very upset with me, told me that I couldn’t back out, etc. The wedding is still a year from now so I would think there is time for her to ask someone else to be a bridesmaid.
Since then, I’ve called her and emailed her and she hasn’t responded. I finally wrote her a long letter, explaining that I valued her as a person and our friendship, and that I very much wanted to be a part of her wedding, but that unfortunately a $15,000 dress and even a $7,000 dress is completely out of my budget. I have a job but after rent, insurance, loans, and other expenses, I sometimes have to skip meals in order to save even a little for emergencies.
The thing is, she grew up like me—working class poor and didn’t have much. Her fiancé is a great guy and I’m truly happy for her, but I’m hurt that she did not ask me what I could afford to spend on a bridesmaid dress, shoes, and accessories. I have enough debt as it is, and I can’t and won’t spend $20,000 just on the bridesmaid accoutrements. I’d have to borrow to do it.
But now she’s mad at me and sent me a letter in return telling me how hurt she was that I backed out, that obviously I don’t value her or our long friendship because if I did, I would be there for her wedding. She said that none of the other bridesmaids nor the maid of honor backed out (maid of honor is her sister; other bridesmaids are her fiancé’s sisters, and her fiancé’s family is paying for their dresses, etc.) so that tells her that I don’t care about her. She said that I don’t deserve her and she is never talking to me again.
Have you ever heard of anything like this? Are brides now so unreasonable that they don’t take their bridesmaid’s budgets into account when selecting dresses? Should I have told her my limits re: the cost of the dress? She also told me that I was not welcome at her wedding. I am mourning the end of a fifteen-plus-year friendship, and am hurt and bewildered.
—Unhappy ex-bridesmaid and blacklisted ex-friend
A: Dear UEABE,
Most couples honestly don’t ask their bridal party about their budget before picking out dresses or tuxes or whatever else. But most couples don’t pick a $15,000 dress, holy crap.
It’d be awfully nice for her to consider her bridal party’s financial situation (I imagine most of the readers here tried to), but at the end of the day, your budget is your own personal responsibility, not hers. It’s your obligation to keep your finances in check and be vocal if some obligation is stretching you too thin. Which is exactly what you did! You were right, is what I’m saying here. Telling her you couldn’t afford it and stepping down were the entirely right decisions.
Everyone is in a different financial situation. But fifteen grand is… a lot. Even considering the fact that we’re not all coming from the same place financially, that’s a lot of money.
It was your choice to spend that lump of cash or opt out, and it was her choice how to respond to the news. She decided to take it personally, and frankly, I don’t know what you could’ve done to avoid that. It sucks. It’s just not your fault. You couldn’t have foreseen a $15,000 dress, and you couldn’t just dig in the couch to find that money once it was proposed. Her hurt feelings suck, but they’re unfounded and not your responsibility.
You say your friend had the same financial background as you before meeting this guy, but I’m wondering if she just cannot relate to “not being able to afford it.” Even folks who consider themselves on the same financial page are usually in very different places. In trying very hard (so very hard) to give the benefit of the doubt here, I’m thinking maybe she just cannot fathom how you can’t afford this dress, and assumes that means you’re prioritizing other things above her wedding (which you are—rent and food and electricity). But on the other, wide-eyed judgey hand—this girl has lost her mind. Fifteen thousand dollars for a dress? That’s crazy talk, and her accusatory response was out of line. Maybe after the wedding is over, she’ll find her common sense again. But till then, you’ve done what you can, and I would try not to give it another blessed thought.
P.S. We know, we thought we were being trolled too… but we did some digging, and all we can say, is we give this AAPW a very high chance of being 100% real.
Recently, I showed my friend a picture of my daughter that showed one of the tattoos on her upper arm. My friend said, "Oh, I am so sorry about the tattoo," and proceeded to cover the tattoo with her hand, implying that my daughter would be attractive if it weren't for the body art. I was shocked.
I have always been supportive of my friend's children and have never criticized any of them, even though I haven't agreed with everything they have done. I was so hurt by her comment that I was speechless. I'm not sure I can continue the relationship feeling this way. But I'm hesitant to lose a 30-year friendship over something I might be overblowing. Am I being too sensitive? How do I resolve this? -- COMPLETELY THROWN BY THIS
DEAR THROWN: For a friendship of 30 years to end over one thoughtless comment would be sad for both of you. Sometimes people say things without thinking, and this is an example. Resolve your feelings by talking to her in person and telling her how deeply hurt you were by what she said. It will give her the chance to apologize and make amends.
DEAR ABBY: Yesterday I was in a retail store with my service dog. The clerk asked me what kind of service dog she was and I replied, "She's my service dog." She kept pressing me as to exactly why I have one, so I asked her if she was inquiring about my disability. When she said, "Yes," I politely informed her that federal HIPAA laws protect my right to privacy. She then said -- loud enough for everyone in the store to hear -- "I don't know what the big deal is. I just want to know what the dog does for you."
Please let your readers know how to be around a person and their service animal:
1. You do not have the right to ask about the person's disability. To do so is rude. Most people prefer strangers not know their medical condition. The dog may be for PTSD, a hearing or seeing dog, or to alert the person to a medical emergency.
2. Children (and adults) need to understand that when service animals' jackets go on, the dogs know it's time to go to "work," and they take their job seriously. At that point, they are not pets and should not be treated as such. If a child rushes a service dog, the animal may react badly because it is there to protect its person.
3. You may ask to pet the dog, but don't assume it will be allowed. If given permission, the dog should be scratched under the chin only.
Service animals know their place. It's a shame that most people are not as polite. -- NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS
DEAR N.O.Y.B.: Thank you for sharing this information. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act website (ada.gov): "Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability."
I am an older, sexually conservative woman who got herpes from a man I was dating. He’s a pillar of the community and did not tell me he had herpes. I had a long dry spell before we started dating. My issue is that I have an unlabeled bottle of herpes medication in my desk drawer at work. My administrative assistant asked for some pain relievers, and I opened my desk drawer and shared from a labeled, over-the-counter bottle of acetaminophen. I saw her staring at the unlabeled bottle in the drawer. Later that day I went back to my office, and she and another person had actually opened the unlabeled bottle and were looking at the medicine! I was too stunned to say anything, and they left. I guess they looked at the color and numbers on the pills and looked up the medication. In the few months after that —I kid you not—several people at the office have “casually” mentioned herpes and how disgusting it is. At the company potluck, no one touched my dish. One co-worker asked about a red spot on my hand and said loudly, “Yuck, it looks like herpes!”
One odd thing about this is that I have been extraordinarily financially generous to the admin who peeked and told. I don’t understand why this is happening. I used to like my job, and I make a very high salary. If I leave the company, I fear this issue will follow me. I was not in the least bit promiscuous in my life (truly). I feel so ashamed, though.
Answer: That is absolutely horrifying—both that your administrative assistant would paw through your unlabeled medication and that your co-workers are now mocking you for a confidential medical condition (one that, by the way, is both extremely common and easily managed with medication, and not something you should feel ashamed about or isolated by). What they’re doing, in addition to being cruel and unprofessional, is also a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which prohibits the disclosure of private medical information in the workplace. It’s unbelievably childish to treat a dish you prepared as somehow “contaminated,” doubly so when it’s common knowledge that herpes cannot be transmitted via potluck. The fact that this is your subordinate makes the issue additionally uncomfortable, but you do at least have the authority to correct her. It’s understandable that you felt too flustered and embarrassed to address the issue in the moment, but you should absolutely set up a meeting with her and make it clear that it’s wildly inappropriate for her to go through anyone else’s medication at work—labeled or otherwise—and that it is a potentially fireable offense. If your office has an HR department, you should bring them into the conversation, because (once again!) it’s not appropriate for employees to mock their colleagues for their perceived or actual medical conditions.
Though she keeps her house as clean as possible, the very presence of these pets causes my daughter to sneeze, congest, and sometimes break out in hives. I’ve repeatedly asked Sally to either get rid of them or keep them outside during our visits, but Sally claims that though she loves her niece, she can’t keep her pets outside all weekend because the cats are “indoor only,” the dog is too little to stay outside, and coyotes are a danger. She also told me that I was out of line to ask. Was I? They’re only animals, after all, and her niece is family. When she visits us she boards them or gets a sitter, so I don’t see why she can’t do the same when we visit. She’s also suggested that my daughter take allergy medication, but I find that out of line. Is it? How can we resolve this?
A: The most important thing to do here, I think, is to make sure you don’t let a conversation about reasonable accommodation turn into one about whether your sister’s pets “really count” as family. (I’m on your side in the sense that I think a human child’s health is paramount here, but I just don’t think it will be useful to turn this into a litigation on your respective reproductive choices.)
It’s absolutely fair of you to say that the present situation is dangerous to your daughter’s health. It’s also fair that your sister is anxious about leaving her dog outside for an entire weekend, especially if she lives in a coyote-heavy area. If she were willing and able to hire a pet sitter during your visits, that would be an ideal solution, but since she isn’t, you should advocate for your daughter’s health and stay in a nearby hotel so that she can get a full night’s sleep without having difficulty breathing.
Incidentally, unless your daughter has an issue with allergy medication, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have some at the ready with you, given that she might have a reaction to someone else’s pet at any time. That doesn’t mean she’ll be suddenly able to sleep comfortably in a house with three small furry animals, but there’s nothing wrong with giving someone allergy medicine for an allergy attack.
GENTLE READER: Yes, it really is. Every once in a while, etiquette likes to shock people, and this will do it.
However, as it offends you, you can invest in asparagus tongs. Miss Manners assures you that seeing what look like small silver forceps on the dinner table will produce an equal amount of shock.
I posted this last night, then removed it because I was hoping to shrink the image. I'm having trouble with the photo editing software on my various devices (I'm still getting used to Windows again, and Flickr seems to have removed the option of posting smaller versions of images stored there), so here it is behind a cut.
[Trying once more for a decent-sized photo]
Dear E. Jean: My new husband's family is loaded; mine is solid middle class. He and I took great pride in planning and paying for our own small wedding and saved up for a very budget-minded honeymoon to Rome. On our wedding day his parents gave us a card that said, "A little bird told us you could use some help with your honeymoon." The card contained a check for $10,000! Although we knew we should have saved it, we blew every cent of it on an upgrade at a fancy hotel and swanky dinners and had the time of our lives. When we returned, the first thing I did was call his mother and thank her again for the wonderful gift. Imagine my shock when she said, "You're welcome, dear. Take all the time you need in paying us back." What the?!? It was a gift, not a loan! My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck. I have no idea how to handle this, and my husband doesn't want to confront his parents. Eeeek! —Blushing and Bewildered Bride