Hi Carolyn:

I am 26 and have a major problem with my boyfriend and his parents. He is 28 and an only child whom they depend on for everything. He is also a single father of a 2-year-old. They can't go two hours without calling him. They are great people, however they are people without their own lives.

Every time I attempt to bring up my feelings on how controlling his parents are, he snaps back with some comment about my not liking them. It really isn't that at all. I just want his parents to find something else to occupy some of their time. Am I being irrational? Please help me to find a way to approach this subject without sounding "spiteful."

-- M.

Seems you also have a problem with clues.

Your boyfriend and his parents make a lovely couple. Not only is he perfectly happy with this arrangement, but he clearly believes that if you have a problem with it, it's your own damn fault, now, isn't it? He's given you two choices: Take it, or leave it! Leave it! Leave it!

Your call.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm seeking your input about my 17-year-old daughter. Since I am but an archaic dinosaur and a walking example of "so 20 minutes ago" (my bad), I thought perhaps a more youthful response may make a difference.

She has fallen in with a young man who has seen fit to drive a wedge between her and her family, using lies, deception and slowly diminishing self-worth on her part.

She has chosen to leave home and stay with her (frighteningly) permissive father, who couldn't give a hoot about her comings and goings. I realize I can't change her POV about my lack of understanding, but I'm hoping for some insight on how to tell her to wake up and smell the cafe latte. I fear she is caught up in the rosy insanity of "first physical" and can't seem to realize this bonehead is only after one thing. He is 18, doesn't bother to take her out -- only in, for "inside recreation" -- presents just enough cooing and purring to keep her on the leash, then berates her for having any extracurricular activities with others. What's up??

-- D.

A sad search for Daddy, that's what up.

From the sounds of it, your daughter has a thin excuse for a father. Now she's filling that void with a boyfriend who, surprise surprise, has that control-plus-cuddles combo that makes her feel all little-girly again.

What she can't see, and the remainder of the planet can, is that Boyfriend hardly has Daddy-like concern for her well-being. He's got his own selfish, egotistical and sexual interests in making your daughter as weak as possible -- that way, she'll take whatever he's dishing, gratefully even. And that's on top of the usual risks a sexually active 17-year-old girl faces: pregnancy, disease, emotional chaos.

But wait, there's more.

Wade Horn, a clinical child psychologist and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, says girls without good fathers "are more prone to sexual permissiveness" as teenagers -- part of the seeking-approval-from-men cycle. He believes your daughter left home in part "to get her father to notice her a bit, and perhaps even to set some limits."

We all know how that turned out: another victory for the Velveteen Daddy.

Horn suggests you get the father's attention yourself. If your relationship is frosty, lay out your concerns in a letter. That way, you will allow him time to think about your words instead of reacting to them emotionally. Help the process by resisting the urge to provoke. Don't be "accusatory about his permissiveness," Horn says, just concerned for your daughter's health.

In other words, pretend Daddy isn't negligent, and merely point out the possible consequences if you or he were ever to be negligent, hint hint. Nice Is Good.

That goes for all dealings with your daughter, too -- no more bitter Momasaurus jokes. (Sorry.) And speaking of attitude, I'd like to hear your daughter's take on this. Any chance?


I have a good friend whose wife-to-be wants to throw him a "groom shower." What's up with this? I know he would think it was cheesy and wouldn't go for it, however, it is a surprise so he won't know.

This is a pretty good friend of mine. Should I not go on general principle? Should I show up and not bring a gift? I KNOW this is a ploy to get more gifts; it is obvious from the invitation.

-- S.S.

Oh barf. What you should bring is the truth: He's marrying swine. But that's another surprise he probably won't want, so if you want to protest prenuptial greed, the tactful way is to decline the invite. If I were the groom, though, I'd be quietly indebted to the friend who -- uh-oh! -- blabbed in time to stop the thing.

If you decide to go, though, don't skip the gift -- the last thing this shower needs is more bad taste.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon today on The Post's Web site, www.washingtonpost.com.