Ask Amy

Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 1:00am

DEAR AMY: My prom is coming up. I'm an 11th-grade girl and have been looking forward to this special day for a very long time.

My friends and I have our dresses picked out. We're planning to go as a group, and everyone is really excited about it.

Last night my parents told me that because of various situations, I probably won't be able to go.

My mother was laid off from her job recently, and my parents are worried about their finances. They say the dress, shoes, ticket and limo ride are too expensive. My friends and I were all going to have our hair and nails done too, and that's costly.

I'm so upset I don't know what to do. I'm too embarrassed to tell my friends I won't be able to go — and I don't want to tell them my family is in trouble.

I read your column, and so do my friends. What can you say to me?

— Sad

DEAR SAD: I'd love to help you find a way to get exactly what you want — or at least come close. But first you need to understand that your family is not alone. Many thousands of families are facing similar challenges right now — and some of your friends might be facing similar challenges at home.

Be honest and talk with your friends to see if, as a group, you can come up with ways to economize. (If you approach this as a group, you and your friends can prop each other up and cheer each other on.)

You could get together on prom day to do each other's hair and nails, for instance. The limo is an empty expense that you could all do without.

See if you can pick up some jobs or chores to make money to put toward a dress and your ticket.

My own choice when I'm looking for "formal wear" is to scour consignment shops or the Goodwill or Salvation Army store for previously owned vintage dresses. You'd be surprised what bargains you can find — and vintage is "cool" right now. There are also "gown exchanges" available in some locations.

By the way, for my own high school prom, I wore my older sister's hand-me-down dress and still managed to have a good time. You can too — and I hope you will.

DEAR AMY: I am in my mid-20s and part of a group of about eight friends, male and female, who consider ourselves an "urban family."

We met in college and have been close for a few years. We never miss our weekly "date" for drinks or dinner.

Two friends within this group are a couple, one guy has a long-distance girlfriend, and the rest of us are single. I've recently developed romantic feelings for "Dan," one of the men in this group. I have no idea whether he feels the same. He's very shy and has never been good at approaching women. Most likely, though, he's simply never thought of me in a more-than-platonic context.

Should I tell him? I don't want to miss an opportunity with a great guy -- and I'm practically bursting to tell him when we hang out lately. But I would be very sad if this resulted in making our friendship awkward or ruining our group's dynamic.

Should I risk a rift in the "family"?

— Unsure

DEAR UNSURE: The path to glory is littered with awkward moments — but unless you are willing to be brave you'll never have the glory.

Regret is the only true casualty of love.

There is no need for this to cause a "rift" in the family. You're all adults, and your friendships will survive.

Go for it. Be discreet and expect some awkwardness. For inspiration, watch a few episodes of "Friends" and keep your expectations reasonable.

DEAR AMY: You were right initially about how rude it is to "save" parking spaces, and I am disappointed that you backed down.

It's wrong for people to save parking spaces for cars. First, it is a safety hazard. We don't need people sprinting through already dangerous parking lots.

Second, because cars park in parking spaces, the line should be of cars. A car cannot "cut in line" because it is too big. People should not do it either.

— Civilized in Virginia

DEAR CIVILIZED: Many readers have been disappointed in my "softened" stance on saving parking spaces.

And so I repeat: When it comes to flesh and bone versus cars, the vehicle wins.

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