The Reporter (Vacaville)

Brother should not be a `fixer-upper'

- — Sad Sister in WY Contact Amy Dickinson via email, askamy@ amydickins­

DEAR AMY >> My brother “Bob” has dated his girlfriend “Ainsley” for four years. During this time, she's asked him to get braces, get LASIK surgery instead of wearing glasses, and to change his hair and clothes to match her preference­s.

Before these changes, his overall style was totally normal for a man in his early 20s. He has not asked her to make any changes.

This hasn't caused any kind of drama that I know of, but there are times when we're socializin­g and Ainsley will casually say, “I'm so glad Bob fixed his teeth,” or “I hated those glasses he used to wear,” or “He looks so much better now.”

I love my brother and there was NOTHING wrong with him before. I find these comments hurtful.

The worst part is that he's usually standing right there when she says these things.

What is a tactful way to respond to her when she criticizes what he used to look like? I just want her to know that Bob is — and has always been — a great person, and it's shallow and hurtful to say those kinds of things.

I can only imagine what people would think if the genders were reversed, and he was talking to us about how much better Ainsley looks now, and that she wasn't good enough before he took over.

What should I say?

DEAR SAD SISTER >> Partners can often inspire one another to shine up their personal style, but “Ainsley” seems to have asked “Bob” to make some expensive and fairly radical changes.

You portray her as being both shallow and domineerin­g. You don't say how your brother may feel about the changes he has made at her behest. You should ask him.

Ainsley's critical remarks about how he used to look show a real lack of tact.

Generally, if you want to point out positive changes a person has made, it is kindest to focus on the result of their self-improvemen­t, rather than the alleged faults that necessitat­ed the effort. You don't praise a person's fitness journey by telling them what a mess they were before.

One way to respond is to keep it simple and say, “My brother's great, no matter how he looks. I wish you could see that.”

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