DEAR AMY: My teenage daughter is on a competitive sports team that practices three times per week. She is in a carpool with three other players to save time and money. The other three girls are very good friends. The team's star player is their social leader too.
The girls are rather rude, especially their ringleader, "the diva." Diva is very annoying to me because her attitude is ugly and toxic, although my daughter seems able to "blow it off." The girls do not say one word to my daughter when we are in the car. They talk or text among themselves. They pass around food or candy without offering anything to my daughter.
If I try to engage in a benign conversation, they respond with disrespectful one-word responses (when the diva is not in the car, the other girls will include my daughter somewhat).
I was 15 minutes late picking them up recently, and she set such a hostile tone in the car that no one spoke. I've tried to approach this topic a couple of times gently with "diva's" parents, but her mother laughed it off.
It would be very inconvenient for me to lose this carpool, and this doesn't seem to bother my daughter. However, it bothers me terribly. I can see the queen bee/bullying behavior and know how destructive it can be. What should I do?
— Annoyed Mom
DEAR ANNOYED: The only surefire way to prevent this dynamic from happening in your car would be to accept the inconvenience of driving your daughter solo.
Ask your daughter what it is like on the basketball court or when she rides in their cars. If she says she can handle it, let her, but make sure she knows you are in her corner.
You could try to mix it up by having "the diva" sit up front in the car with you, but if you don't want to micromanage this dynamic, engage your daughter and ignore the nonsense, unless it is directed toward you or your kid (or they are trashing someone else).
If so, you can say, "Ladies, I expect you to be decent and polite in my car. If you have a problem with this, let me know." Moronic teenage twittiness doesn't count, but truly toxic rudeness shouldn't be sanctioned with silence.
DEAR AMY: My wife decided to let her hair go gray, due to a hair dye allergy that was causing problems. Her baseline insecurity has been magnified by others' remarks.
Most comments are well-intended (for example, suggesting the use of natural color products). However, even these confirm to her how terrible she appears. I happen to think she looks beautiful, but no matter how much I tell her this, she comes home every day in tears. She tries to tell herself that others' perceptions don't matter, but they do matter to her.
I am at a loss. I want your readers to realize that comments about a change in appearance are hurtful, no matter how helpful they think they may be. What can I do to help her through this difficult time?
— Concerned Husband
DEAR CONCERNED: Gray is where it's at, baby, but getting there can be stressful because there aren't especially graceful ways to grow out a dye job. Having a great haircut will help.
But that's beside the point. Angst over aging is common, but extreme low self-esteem and daily tears are signs your wife might be depressed. Exercise will help, but menopause is no joke. If your wife is being hit extra hard, urge her to get a medical checkup and/or professional counseling.
DEAR AMY: "Coughed Out" complained about a colleague who "sniffles, ahems and hacks."
That person could be me. I've got the type of asthma that makes me cough (rather than wheeze), sniffle and clear my throat a lot. It's not allergy-based and hits without warning.
Despite every effort, nothing will totally stop these attacks, because asthma is a chronic condition. So be kind — that person hacking hates it way more than you do.
— Cougher, Hacker, Sniffler
DEAR COUGHER: I can well imagine that hacking through the day is no fun.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.