DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I have a 17-year-old niece, "Hillary," who has announced that she is going into the National Guard when she graduates high school. Hillary is not really cut out for college, but I feel as if she thinks the National Guard is her only option. Hillary is not very disciplined, does not respect authority and does not like humidity because it causes her flat-ironed hair to frizz. In short, she does not seem to be cut out for military life either. Am I being too judgmental or am I being realistic? How can I show support for Hillary's choice when my main concern is that it is a very dangerous occupation? Maybe the National Guard is just what she needs to set her on the right path in life, but I am scared. I have a friend who lost her husband in Afghanistan a year ago. How do military families do it?
-- PROUD, PATRIOTIC AND SCARED
DEAR SCARED AUNT: You are being unfair to Hillary. Transferring your fears puts a damper on what may be the very best decision of this young woman's life. She needs your support and encouragement not your negativity. The structure and discipline of basic training will go a long way in helping your niece develop into a strong, confident woman. It may be more dangerous for her self-esteem if she aimlessly mopes around after high school with no better goal than worrying about her hair. Her inner voice is telling her this is what she needs. Don't coddle her. You should pray for her and be very proud of her. The military knows how to train 17-year-olds. Hillary will benefit from serving in the National Guard.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: What is the proper amount of time after a wedding a thank-you note should be sent by the bride and groom? After attending a wedding in the middle of May, and giving a very nice monetary gift, I still have not received any acknowledgement. Is this obsolete now?
Six months prior to the wedding (back in December 2012), I received a "Save the Date" card. Two months before, a wedding invitation arrived along with the RSVP, which I sent quickly. And now I have no idea if the monetary gift was received or what? I think this situation is very rude to the wedding attendees. I placed my name on all gifts.
DEAR PUZZLED: Don't hold your breath. Snail mail is not the problem. Chalk this one up to self-absorbed socially inept procrastinators. These newlyweds are comforting themselves by adhering to the urban myth of a year to send a thank-you note. Three months is the socially accepted maximum time frame for acknowledging wedding gifts. Their note may eventually arrive, and in the interim you may learn of a crisis in the couple's life that makes your criticism of them seem petty.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice. First Published September 17, 2013 4:00 AM