Ask Amy

Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 11:44pm

DEAR AMY: I am a man who has just been invited to a bachelorette party. The bride-to-be is a close friend of mine from graduate school. We've known each other for several years.

I plan to attend this bachelorette party, but I have a couple of concerns. I'm not sure if I should ask the host if I can bring my boyfriend along. My boyfriend and I have been together for more than eight years, and he is a friend of the bride's as well.

Though I'm sure she would love to see him, I'm not sure if these parties are usually not meant to include couples.

I'm also not sure what to bring as a gift. My boss, who is female, told me that I cannot go wrong with lingerie, but I neither feel comfortable giving this gift nor do I know what women want in this area.

I, personally, prefer not to give gift certificates. Thank you for your help.

— Her Best Man

DEAR BEST MAN: First of all, my condolences. I can think of no worse way to spend an evening than at a bachelorette party.

I'm sure there is a wide range in terms of what people plan for these parties, but generally they seem to involve lots of squealing and the wearing of novelty wigs, followed by vomiting in the shrubbery.

Bachelorette parties are for the bride-to-be and her friends alone (spouses, partners and boyfriends are not included). You could ask the bride-to-be (or her maid of honor, who might be organizing it) if your boyfriend is included — but you should assume not. If he is not invited, do not ask if you can bring him.

And you can go wrong with lingerie. So, so wrong.

If you can manage to overcome your aversion to gift certificates, a certificate to your friend's favorite spa would be a thoughtful and appropriate gift. Otherwise, a bottle of nice champagne that she can share with her fiance (along with a DVD of the movie "Bridesmaids") would be welcome.

DEAR AMY: My daughter recently told me that two of her female cousins (they have different parents) cut themselves when they get upset. She has seen the cuts.

If it were my daughter who was cutting herself, I would want to know, but I am not sure how their parents will feel if I mention it. I don't want these cousins to feel they can no longer confide in my daughter and have them lose their friendship.

What is the best way to tell them, and is it my business to do so?

— Worried

DEAR WORRIED: I shared your letter with Wendy Lader, a psychologist and president and clinical director of S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES (www.selfinjury.com). She and I agree that you should start this process by reaching out to your nieces.

Part of what you are demonstrating here is that this is serious and that your daughter is worried and did the right thing by speaking with you.

Talk to them in a nonconfrontational way. Are they stressed by something going on at home or school?

Cutting is a form of self-injury that kids will sometimes try as a way to relieve anxiety or stress. Cutting can escalate unless the person finds other ways to manage her stress and emotions. This behavior thrives in secrecy, and being open and calm about it can help.

Ask each girl what her concerns are about disclosing this to her parents, and offer to be there with her when she does. They should not be punished or policed — they should be listened to.

Counseling with a therapist who has expertise in working with teens will help. Selfinjury.com has helpful information and suggestions for how to disclose this — and what to do next.

DEAR AMY: I hate to point out the obvious (not really), but your answer to "Uncertain" left out an important point.

Uncertain's daughter wanted to get married, and these parents wondered if they should continue to pay for their daughter's living expenses (she was in graduate school) after the marriage. The obvious answer is that if this couple can't afford to pay their expenses, they shouldn't get married. Marriage is for grown-ups.

— A Fan

DEAR FAN: You're right. This is the obvious answer. Thank you.

Send questions via email to askamy@tribune.com. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

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