Dear Abby: My sister and I have always been close. My niece was popular, blond, petite and a high school cheerleader who dated the quarterback. My daughter, "Amber," was studious, wore thick glasses and no makeup, but was happy and well-liked. We accepted and celebrated their differences.
My niece stayed in town, working part time in an office and taking a few classes at junior college while waiting until her boyfriend finished college, became a professional athlete and they rode off into the sunset. As fate would have it, he returned home -- with a new cheerleader.
Amber went off to an Ivy League school on a scholarship. When she returned home 10 pounds lighter, with long, highlighted hair and contact lenses, we didn't recognize her. She's a knockout!
My sister and my niece have now cooled toward us and make cutting remarks about Amber. They have started acting strangely, bad-mouthing the ex-boyfriend and his family, even at church functions. I want to talk to my sister, but I'm at a loss on how to start or what to say. Any ideas?
-- Lost in Long Beach
Dear Lost: You are describing two very unhappy women, for whom things haven't turned out as planned. Your daughter, the "ugly duckling," has transitioned into a swan. Congratulations! She is now considered to be "competition." Now please try to be gracious. Pick up the phone and call your sister. Tell her you're concerned about her because she seems to have become "withdrawn" lately -- and see if you can draw her out. It appears she and her daughter are going through a bad time right now.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.