Ask Amy

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: My 18-year-old daughter is home this summer from college. She is smart, beautiful, funny, and unfortunately came home after gaining the "freshman 15."

She is usually very fashion conscious, but lately she has been wearing clothes that are very unflattering on her frame.

She has a somewhat large chest, and biggish legs, yet seems to love wearing dresses and shorts that are way too short and tight.

Can you help me find a way to gently tell her that she should be wearing clothes more flattering to her shape? She is not overweight, but her clothing choices frankly make her look chunky and inappropriately dressed.

When she does wear an outfit suited to her body, she looks terrific.

I've tried dishing out the compliments when she dresses well, but I hesitate to berate her when she dresses poorly.

I am willing to take her shopping for better fitting clothes, but dread how I will react if she tries on ill-fitting choices.

What is the rule for constructive criticism in this case?

— Frustrated Mother

DEAR FRUSTRATED: My advice is to ignore every single instinct you currently have regarding your daughter's looks. Whatever action you incline toward, you should do the opposite.

When you are compelled to comment on her clothing choices, be silent. Banish the word "chunky" from your vocabulary.

Unless she is headed to a job interview dressed like a streetwalker, you should not intervene.

It sounds as if she could use some new clothes. If you're able, you could point her in a positive direction by setting her up with a personal shopper, who will give the sort of non-biased, non-mom-based feedback that she might actually listen to.

DEAR AMY: I am pregnant, and my sister and mother will be co-hosting a baby shower for me. This has deeply offended my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, who felt that they should be co-hosts of this event.

I tried to brush this off, saying that I really appreciated their offer, but as I had so many nice offers from friends and family, I decided to keep things simple.

A barrage of emails followed, stating that I was not integrating our families and that I should reflect upon this.

I find this absolutely absurd, and somewhat offensive.

My sister-in-law is not married, and I feel that she is in for a surprise when her day comes. Juggling families is not as easy as it may seem.

Is there any polite way to deal with this?

— Exasperated in N.Y.

DEAR EXASPERATED: Your in-laws have a point. Your baby shower does present an opportunity for you to integrate the two sides of your family.

However, they could have offered to throw you a shower and it doesn't sound as if they have. A "barrage" is not an appropriate response to a perceived slight.

You can contact your in-laws and tell them that you have reflected on your actions and find your behavior within the acceptable range. Say, "I'm so sorry this has upset you, but integrating my two families together has obviously proved challenging. I hope you'll bear with me."

Be nice, but don't let anyone push you around.

If you are able to manage these two ideals, then parenting will be a snap.

DEAR AMY: As a woman, engineer and educator, I found "Worried's" comment about women drivers tailgating to be offensive and antiquated.

His statement about women not understanding "the physics, the dynamics or the technologies related to automobile operations" is completely baseless, but perceptions like his continue to discourage young women from pursuing careers in certain areas of science and engineering.

His narrated experience is a phenomenon called confirmation bias, which is selectively collecting or interpreting evidence with bias.

Actuaries have been at this game much longer, and the insurance rates set for drivers are based on much more thorough and robust data than Worried's.

— Christine

DEAR CHRISTINE: I find that "confirmation bias" fuels some of this column's most memorable letters. Thank you for poking holes in "Worried's" theory.

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