DEAR AMY: My stepdaughter is in her late 30s and is getting married next year.
She has been in my life for the past 20 years. A few years ago she found her real father through the Internet. Honestly, we thought he was dead.
My wife has asked me to pay for half of the cost of the wedding dress. I asked who was walking her down the aisle. The response was her biological dad. He is also going to be sitting at the head table with us. This man ditched his family when my stepdaughter was 2 years old, due to drugs and crime. He never paid a cent of child support.
He is a complete deadbeat who still has no money to offer. But to ask me to pay for a dress and not have the right to walk down the aisle does not sit well with me. I believe it is wrong, and I said no.
I am also thinking of not attending this wedding because I hate uncomfortable situations. My wife feels we should forgive him, and the daughter is awe-struck by him.
I am afraid she will get hurt down the road. I am a faithful Christian and am torn. What's your opinion on this matter? — Acting Foolish
DEAR FOOLISH: Stepparents have many minefields to scramble across, but they can also be heroes to their families. This is a hero opportunity for you.
The most generous and unselfish gesture is to join with your wife as a family to help pay for the wedding dress, but I understand that you see this as linked to your participation (but notice that her mother is contributing and the bride hasn't invited her mother to walk her down the aisle either).
Walking a bride down the aisle is an honor that in my opinion is earned rather than conveyed because of biology. Your stepdaughter may feel differently (many people do). But it sounds as if you are dodging this uncomfortable situation by sulking and conveying your disappointment to your wife, not your stepdaughter.
The adult thing to do is to say to her, "I am hurt that you have not asked me to walk you down the aisle; this is an important moment for a guy. I have been very proud to be in your life for 20 years."
And then, regardless, attend the wedding and be gracious and generous. Facing this uncomfortable situation boldly and with grace is being a hero.
DEAR AMY: It's typically hard for me to make friends owing to my social shyness, awkwardness and introverted interests.
Recently, I have begun to feel even more alone after moving back home from college. I have tried reconnecting with old friends but it has been difficult because we have simply grown apart and developed into different people. I would love to meet people with similar interests but have no idea how to do so. — Mary
DEAR MARY: The transition from college into the rest of your life is challenging for everyone — especially if a person is a little shy or introverted.
With that said, though, the most obvious place to make new friends and connections is through work. Working alongside other people gives you a shared task and things (and people) in common to talk about. It is also easier, practically speaking, for someone who is shy to get to know someone in a structured environment.
If you don't have a job yet, volunteering is a great way to keep yourself busy, to be helpful and to meet new people. You may not meet your new friends for life, but staying active will be good for you in every way.
DEAR AMY: "Bent Relative" strenuously objected to relatives who continue to "pop in" to her country home on weekends without warning, often staying for hours.
If it were me, I'd grab my car keys as they pulled in, telling them, "I wish you had called. I'm just on my way out." After a couple of times, they should get the message. — Been There
DEAR BEEN THERE: Many readers suggested that technique. I have a feeling these relatives would respond by saying, "You go ahead — we'll make ourselves at home while you're gone."
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamytribune.com. You can also follow her on Twitter askingamy or "like" her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson's memoir, "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them" (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.)
By Amy Dickinson
Tribune Media Services