Abby: Teen’s flannel shirts focus of fight with stepmom

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I am 17 and my sister, “Cheryl,” is 16. She likes wearing flannel shirts, black leggings or jeans everywhere, especially to school, because they are comfortable. Sometimes she even wears sweatpants and a T-shirt.

Our stepmom tells her she looks like a lesbian and that she gets one day out of the school week to dress like a “slob,” and the rest of the days she has to dress nice. By “nice” she means an outfit that looks cute by her standards. It means no “lesbian-looking” flannels and, instead, a lacy blouse or a patterned top.

Cheryl argues she’s just going to school, a lot of other kids dress that way and nobody cares. My stepmom argues she cares, and thinks the way Cheryl looks at school is a reflection on her (my stepmom), which makes her look bad. My dad doesn’t say anything because he’s low-key and agrees with her, but he isn’t as vocal or mean about it.

My sister doesn’t like being called a lesbian, and it makes me really mad, but my stepmom is mean and will find some way to ground me out of spite if I argue with her about it. What do I do?

Don’t Want To Argue

Dear Don’t Want To Argue: Your stepmother appears to be a homophobe. The only way your sister’s attire could reflect on her would be if your sister went to school unwashed and wearing soiled, tattered clothing. Not all lesbians dress in the same; some are very feminine. If Cheryl were a lesbian, it would be nothing to be ashamed of.

Children who are bullied as your stepmother is doing can become depressed to the point of self-harm or risky behavior. Because you’re afraid you’ll be punished for speaking up, find a teacher or counselor at school you can tell what’s going on.

Dear Abby: I’m mentally disabled, have muscular dystrophy, I’m diabetic and take lots of medication. When people ask why I don’t work or “Where do you work?” what should I say? When I say I don’t work and I’m disabled, they don’t believe it. My disabilities aren’t visible.

Wendy in Pennsylvania

Dear Wendy: You are not obligated to disclose your medical history to people you know casually. All you need to say is, “You know, that’s personal. If you’ll forgive me for not answering your question, I’ll forgive you for asking.” Then change the subject.

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.