DEAR ABBY: Not long ago, I attended a birthday party for a 5-year-old boy. After the cake was brought out and the birthday song had been sung, the child’s face was shoved into his beautiful birthday cake. The boy cried piteously amidst the roaring laughter of the children and the adults in the crowd.

I, and a few of the other adults, displayed shock, disgust and sympathy for the birthday boy. As if that wasn’t enough, his 3-year-old brother was also smeared with the cake and frosting. He, too, burst into tears.

I have seen the same scenario at a 90-year-old’s birthday party. Please give me your thoughts on this. There are other children’s birthday parties I will be attending. – DISMAYED GRANDMOTHER, LAREDO, TEXAS

DEAR DISMAYED: I’m glad to oblige. I have never found humor at the expense of others to be funny. I consider it to be cruel, hostile, and a form of bullying. That a parent would tolerate, much less participate in, the humiliation of his or her child is an appalling breach of trust. If you truly believe that you will be seeing a repeat performance at another child’s birthday party, I wouldn’t blame you for not attending – and clearly stating the reason why.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating “Neil” for two years. It has been an emotional roller-coaster, mostly because we live 500 miles apart and can’t afford to visit each other regularly.

My problem is Neil is still in possession of the bridal gown that belonged to his former fiancee. They broke up more than five years ago. She has since married and gone on with her life.

Last March, I finally felt I had a right to ask him to dispose of it, but he still has it. He tells me he is “trying” to get rid of it, but I have seen no real effort. (He said he has offered it for sale, but has had no takers.)

I just want it gone! Neil feels I’m overreacting. He insists he wants the money back that he spent on it. I say no one will pay what he originally paid, and he should cut his losses. I even offered to buy it and donate it to charity. All I got was a smile and, “I’ll think about it.”

Abby, I feel Neil is holding on to a past that’s not there. I know he loves me and not her. But I’d feel better if that “reminder” was gone already. Am I wrong? – DESPERATE GIRLFRIEND

DEAR DESPERATE: If I were you, I’d drop the subject for now because you are needlessly turning this into a power struggle. You might succeed in bullying him into getting rid of this sad memento, but what I think you really resent is the emotional investment it represents. Please believe me when I tell you that the more you nag, the further you’ll drive him away – and I don’t mean geographically. If and when the romance moves to the next level – a formal engagement or marriage – ask him to “store” the dress elsewhere if it means too much to get rid of.

DEAR ABBY: My question concerns wedding etiquette. If my co-workers give me a wedding shower at work, am I obligated to invite them to my wedding? – ANOTHER CONFUSED BRIDE IN MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

DEAR CONFUSED BRIDE: If someone hosts or attends a shower for you, in my opinion, good manners dictate that the person be invited to your wedding.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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