Dear Annie: My 60-year-old boyfriend has been accused of being a child molester. We were attending a birthday party, and “George” took a couple of pictures of a 14-year-old girl from her shoulders down. The girl was wearing a low-cut shirt that showed her cleavage. She looked around 20. Her parents are outraged. They took the pictures to the police, who stated they could not charge him because the girl was fully clothed.
George claims the pictures were not taken intentionally. I think he was checking her out, not realizing how young she was. His behavior was wrong, but I don’t think he is a child molester. He has no criminal record, nor have I ever had reason to believe he was anything other than a decent and loving person. When he moved in with me, I went through all of his belongings in order to organize stuff and found nothing out of the ordinary. If he were into child porn, wouldn’t I have found some evidence?
— Trusting Girlfriend
Dear Girlfriend: On the assumption that the girl truly looked “around 20” and George didn’t actually touch her, he is technically not a child molester. But how, exactly, do you take that kind of picture unintentionally? Any man who chooses to snap photos of an unknown girl from the shoulders down is behaving like a pervert and ought to be ashamed of himself. He owes everyone an apology — and tell him it better not happen again. (And those parents should pay attention to the way their young daughter is dressing if it attracts dirty old men like George.)
Dear Annie: In order to apply to college, get into certain clubs and receive scholarships, students often need to ask teachers for a letter of recommendation. Most of the time, my teachers give this letter back to me in an unsealed envelope. Am I allowed to read it, or is that like eavesdropping? Also, after receiving a recommendation, I feel I should get the teacher some kind of small gift. My mother says I should wait until the end of the year to do this or it will look like a bribe. But it feels wrong to ask a teacher for multiple recommendations without more than a “thank you.” What is the proper thing to do?
— Curious Girl
Dear Curious: If the letter is unsealed, it means the teacher expects you to open it and you may do so. As for a small gift, it is OK to show gratitude in this way, provided you do it after the recommendation letter has been produced and not before. But frankly, a written thank-you note will mean just as much.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Lonely for Life,” the teenage girl who has few friends and doesn’t know how to make more. May I suggest she investigate the symptoms of Asperger syndrome? It is on the autism spectrum.
People affected with Asperger’s are usually very intelligent but lack social skills. It’s much more prevalent than people realize. As a retired elementary teacher, I can tell you it’s only been diagnosed in the last eight to 10 years, so it’s now being confronted in the middle and high schools. However, much more needs to be done at the community level to support those who most likely have not been diagnosed.
My husband was a gifted attorney, but didn’t have a single friend. This teen says her activities are “the computer, watching TV or pacing in my backyard.” The last really grabs my attention. Does she engage in any other repetitive activities that would hint of autism? Please suggest she look into this.
— Married to Him
Dear Married: Several readers suggested Asperger’s, and we have printed information on this in the past. The fact that “Lonely” has an older sister who is also socially awkward could indicate a genetic predisposition. Thanks for the suggestion.