Dear Carolyn:

A few months ago, my son, "Joe," introduced me to his girlfriend, "Carrie." After the meeting, Joe asked my opinion of Carrie. I told him she dressed too suggestively, that she was standoffish and smug. Joe repeated my remarks to Carrie, who is now his fiancee. Although I put my feelings aside for my son's sake and have welcomed her into the family, Carrie wants nothing to do with me and has excluded me from all the wedding plans and pre-wedding festivities. My son refuses to get involved and I am afraid that if this continues, I will always be persona non grata with my son and his new family. What can I do?

Trying to Make Amends

in Washington State

Too bad your son didn't "refuse" to get involved before he opened his pie hole and betrayed your confidence and turned his girlfriend against you.

Even better, before he invited an opinion he knew was not going to be good.

Better still, before he selected a girl he was certain his mom would dislike.

These are all bygones. But they can be useful ones, if you can accept them without throwing them back in his face. "You said you didn't want to get involved, and I understand that -- I wouldn't either. But you already got involved when you shared my words with your girlfriend, so all I ask is that you stay involved to help me repair the damage."

Will it work? Probably not. A kid (or a sibling or a friend) can't pass along an opinion that damaging without knowing full well the damage it's going to cause. Which, paired with his blithe willingness to watch you get shunned, suggests it was his intent.

Many people harbor anger, legitimate or otherwise, toward their families that they don't have the strength to express on their own. Enter the conveniently inappropriate mate. The angry person (your son) brings home Miss Cleavage USA (Carrie), and you predictably take exception, and he tells Carrie everything, and Carrie predictably takes exception, and he declares Carrie a keeper, and Carrie banishes you from their lives, and your son gets to flip you the bird without ever lifting a finger. If I'm right, I'm sorry; there's only so much you can do. If it wasn't Carrie's first impression, it would be her (or Amber's or Jennifer's) job/family/housekeeping. He's probably not even fully aware himself of what he's done.

If I've guessed wrong, there's still only so much you can do, and -- this is the (sort-of) good news -- it's the same thing, whether he's angry just about this, angry for other good reasons, or angry because he's messed up, misguided or spoiled: If you aren't ready to be cut off from him, you . . .

* Approach your son and Carrie separately;

* Say you were wrong to prejudge;

* Ask for a chance to make amends for this, or to address something else on his mind;

* Express gratitude for whatever crumbs they then throw you. You know. Grovel.

And hang in there, without pressuring them, and hope for the healing graces of time. (Or that they need you to sit for their kids.)

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