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You might negotiate symbolic gift

Kathy Mitchell & Marcy Sugar Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: My 30-year-old son is engaged to be married to a young lady from Kenya. They have known each other a year, and he is head over heels in love. She claims to love our son, but she also honors the way of her culture, which we think is fine – to a point.

Her family insists that we pay a dowry. In Kenya, that is their way. However, this is the United States, and since she becomes a U.S. citizen when she marries, I feel that is dowry enough. We have spoken to her family, but they won’t budge.

If our son’s fiancee doesn’t marry him within the year, she will be deported. We love our son and want what’s best for him, but giving money for a bride rubs us the wrong way. We don’t want to offend anyone, but what do you think?

Can you see if this is really still a custom, and should we pay? – Worried Mom

Dear Mom: A Kenyan man recently offered 40 goats and 20 cows for Chelsea Clinton, so yes, the practice is alive and well.

Marcy is going to let her son’s girlfriend, Naomi, help with this answer, since she has spent a great deal of time in Kenya. Here is what Naomi says:

While some brides’ families demand a great deal of cattle, you can negotiate something more symbolic – as a sign of respect for their culture and to let them know that you find your new daughter-in-law a valuable addition to your family.

Dear Annie: My husband and I are at our wits’ end. When my cousin married “Sue,” our relationship with them was good, although not great. Over the last year or so, things have become progressively worse.

We see our family and extended family (aunts, uncles and cousins) on a weekly basis at my parents’ house. The trouble started with the cold shoulder routine from Sue. Then came snide comments directed at my husband. At Christmas, Sue was given money by another relative to purchase a gift for me (to avoid shipping costs), and I still don’t have it. I doubt the relative knows what happened.

The final straw was last weekend. Sue became verbally and physically abusive to my husband. She did it in front of other people, leaving them shocked at her behavior. My husband did not say anything, but we left early, ruining the day for me and my daughter, and vowed never to return again.

We are not sure what to do. I have kept my mouth shut about Sue’s behavior for almost a year, but I’m ready to explode and say something I will regret, not to mention the problems it would cause in the family. My parents will not get involved, even though it is their house. My husband and I have agreed not to attend any more family events until we can find a resolution. Any ideas? – Not-So-Kissing Cousins

Dear Cousin: Is Sue jealous of you? Does she have a secret crush on your husband? Are you somehow provoking her? Her escalating animosity is otherwise inexplicable, and a sign of immense immaturity or possibly mental illness.

It’s shameful that your parents have allowed Sue to hijack the family gatherings. Visit your family members away from these get-togethers, and suggest to your cousin that his wife get professional help.

Dear Annie: Last October, my youngest brother died in a car accident at the age of 18. People sometimes ask how many siblings are in my family, and I always hesitate with my response. It feels like a lie to say there are five, when there are now only four. But if I say “four,” it feels as if I am not acknowledging my brother. Please help. – One of Five in Klamath Falls, Ore.

Dear One: If you don’t mind giving the information, it might be simpler to reply, “There were five of us, but my youngest brother recently died in an accident.” Our condolences.

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