DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have thrown a barbecue for all our friends every summer since we were first married. Over the last couple of years, our little party has morphed into a family-friendly event. Our problem is one of our good friends is now the mother of an insufferable 3-year-old boy.
"Fenton's" behavior has been awful for two years. At the last party, he managed to throw our iPod, slam our stereo to the ground, pick up and throw another child and terrorize a gentle dog. He barged in on a nursing mother and refused to leave when asked. We also suspect he was the one who tore our baby gate off its hinges.
The mom is preoccupied with a new baby and deals with the situation by making idle threats. The dad makes jokes about how "it sucks to be a parent" and tells his kid to stop annoying him.
We're pretty sure if Fenton returns for this year's party, many of our other guests won't. We want to remain friends with the mom, so not inviting her isn't an option. Would it be out of line to ask her to leave her husband and the little terror at home? -- SMOKIN' MAD IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR SMOKIN' MAD: Which would be worse -- to have the woman miffed or to be driven mad by her undisciplined child and the parents' unwillingness to take control? Because the kid causes stress in addition to property damage, leave them off the guest list this year. If she asks why, point out her son was so disruptive you were afraid your other guests would refuse to attend if he was there. Soften the "blow" by assuring her you'd love to see her and her husband for some adult time.
Fenton appears to be a little boy who feels upstaged by the new baby and may be acting up in a desperate bid for attention. It would be a kindness to suggest this to his parents, who appear to be clueless.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a single woman who works two jobs and I am constantly on my feet. Because of this I gravitate toward flat-soled shoes. I can't imagine attempting all of the stairs I must climb each day while tottering on a high pair of heels or practically falling off platforms.
I am friendly with two men (casually dating one of them) and each one has reacted negatively to my shoes. One of them said that I obviously don't want to snag a guy because of my footwear, and the other repeated an old joke that, "A lesbian is a woman in comfortable shoes."
I am a straight female who happens to feel more comfortable in flats. High heels might look nice, but they would cause me discomfort and problems during my long workdays. I have explained this to them, but they give me funny looks.
Do flat-soled shoes make you less of a woman or somehow suspect in terms of being "straight"? Does our society view women in comfortable shoes as being possibly lesbian? I find the idea ridiculous, but two different men have come to the same conclusion. I'm confused about their attitudes and would appreciate your ideas. -- STEPPING OUT IN MISSOURI
DEAR STEPPING OUT: While it may have been said that "clothes make the man" and "a lesbian is a woman in comfortable shoes," neither statement has much bearing on the truth. Women who are on their feet all day -- or night, depending upon their profession -- should not wear shoes with very high heels. Ask any podiatrist.
P.S. I suspect the two men you mentioned have a shoe fetish. Please wear what is comfortable and don't apologize for it.
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