Dear Abby: I have been divorced for almost 15 years. In that time, my ex-husband has been self-employed and works out of his home. He rarely leaves his house, and I think he suffers from depression.
At a school honors event for our daughter for which most of the attendees dressed for the occasion, he arrived in dirty shorts and a T-shirt. I sat next to him to be polite, until I realized he also smelled awful. When I tried to excuse myself saying I needed a “better seat for my camera,” he got up, too! It was an unpleasant two hours.
I felt bad for the others in our vicinity. I have tried to suggest that he may suffer from depression in the past, but he denies it. Is there anything I can say that won’t be resented (with him possibly showing up even more disheveled the next time just out of spite)?
– Unpleasant Situation, Gettysburg, Pa.
Dear Unpleasant Situation: While you may have ended your marriage 15 years ago, it doesn’t appear you have truly divorced yourself from your ex. Rather than having pussyfooted around the reason you wanted to change your seat, you should have told him it was because he smelled like a goat and showed he lacked enough respect for those around him and his daughter to shower and put on clean clothes.
He may – or may not – suffer from depression. Because he denies it, there is no way you can force him into treatment.
You are no longer responsible for his attire or his welfare. Because you’re concerned that he may show up looking more disheveled “out of spite,” you have my permission to distance yourself if it happens. And if your daughter is embarrassed by his attire, she has every right to talk to her father about it.
Dear Abby: Since my mother passed away, I feel awkward when my parents’ anniversary comes up. I don’t want to ignore this important date for my father (we are very close), but I don’t feel saying “Happy Anniversary” is appropriate either. What do you suggest?
– Remembering in Orange County, Calif.
Dear Remembering: Your father already knows what the date means. Pick up the phone, say, “Dad, I’m thinking about you and I love you,” and if he lives close by, invite him to dinner if he doesn’t have plans.
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, CA 60069.