DEAR AMY: Our daughter is a bright, talented 19-year-old who has already gotten four small tattoos, several ear piercings, and a nose ring. You know – the usual. She has now told us about her next piece, an elbow-to-shoulder full-color floral arrangement. She says she is planning to start gauging her ears and was considering a dermal implant near her collarbone.
My husband and I pay for her college tuition and housing, and we give her a generous monthly allowance for food and gas. She also has a part-time minimum-wage job. We told her that we felt that someone who could pay for these body modifications was saying that she had no need for extra funds, so if she proceeded, we would stop the allowance. We would still pay for college and housing.
She expressed her hurt that we would withhold that money in an attempt to control her actions. We expressed our frustration with the permanent changes she was considering at a young age. We are asking her to wait till she’s 21 and working so that this doesn’t affect her ability to get a job. I really do hate threatening to stop the extra money, but I felt it was a natural consequence of making adult decisions.
Are we being too harsh? Where does the parental guidance end and the self-expression begin? Six months ago she wanted us to co-sign for an apartment so she could leave student housing and move in with her boyfriend. We refused that too.
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Only Slightly Old-Fashioned Mom
DEAR MOM: You are not trying to control your daughter’s actions – I hope. You are simply trying to make the best possible investment, as well as introduce her to the concept of natural consequences. You are not docking her pay to punish her. You are saying, “We will pay for this – you can pay for that.” I assume that if your daughter chose to use your subsidy to purchase a video gaming system, you might feel exactly the same way. Imagine how much more meaningful her tat-sleeve will be to her when she has saved up the money for it.
Otherwise, I don’t think you should weigh in at all on her body modification choices. It’s her body.
DEAR AMY: A friend of mine who lives out of state recently came for a visit. While visiting, she asked if she could borrow my old prom dress for her sister. I gladly gave her the dress and told her that her sister could keep it. I had outgrown the dress and it wasn’t doing any good just taking up space in my closet.
Shortly after she returned home, I received a phone call from her telling me that the dress wasn’t going to work for her sister. I told her the dress didn’t fit me anymore and said she could donate it or give it away as she saw fit.
Two weeks later, I was shocked to find the dress in a package on my doorstep. She had made the decision to package it up and mail it back to me. She is now demanding that I reimburse her for the shipping fees. Amy, I really don’t feel like I am obligated to reimburse her for anything. I gave her the dress and told her that I didn’t care to have it back. Who is right here?
Confused in Colorado
DEAR CONFUSED: This prom dress is starting to sound like toxic sludge. Perhaps you should now deal with it by encasing the package in concrete and having it delivered to your friend on the back of a dump truck. Game on!
Otherwise, you should donate the dress locally (do an Internet search using “donate prom dress” and the name of your town). If your friend bugs you to reimburse her for postage, tell her, “You accepted this dress with the clear understanding that I did not want it back. Asking me to reimburse you for the postage is very silly and I don’t intend to do it.”
DEAR AMY: “Upset” heard her English friend use anti-Semitic language.
We Brits are politely blunt, so I suggest she say, “You’ve made that comment a number of times and I am not sure what you mean by it – can you explain?”
Listen to the answer because there are people out there who are completely oblivious to the fact that what they do and say is offensive. She can tell her friend, “You should know that it is very offensive and rude.”
DEAR EX-PAT: Politely blunt. I like it.
Email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.