Dear Annie: My neighbors, “The Smiths,” are new members in the community. Recently, their 8-year-old son went to play at a classmate’s home. The classmate, “Johnny,” closed his bedroom door and then told Mrs. Smith’s son to take his pants off, threatening him if he told anyone. The Smith boy told his parents anyway, and they went to speak to Johnny’s parents, who denied everything and refused to accept that the incident ever happened.
Johnny’s mother is the school mouthpiece and is telling every parent in the class that my neighbor’s son is a pedophile. Now, everyone avoids them. The Smiths love this area, have spent tens of thousands in renovations and just want this woman to stop lying. They have tried to talk to other parents, but apparently, the damage has been done.
I know the Smiths’ son needs counseling, but they seem to be paying a high price for his victimization. How can you convince such a big group of people that someone is lying? Is there anything she can do legally? Please help them. Every day seems to get worse.
— Shocked in Saskatoon
Dear Saskatoon: A certain amount of “experimentation” is normal with children that age, but having an adult label the Smith boy a pedophile is extremely damaging. Suggest to your neighbor that she speak to an attorney about suing Johnny’s mother for defamation. Even if the case never goes to court, a strongly worded letter from a lawyer can make the woman think twice about spreading more lies. Your neighbor also should speak to the principal of the school, as this is a form of bullying, and the school should put a stop to it immediately.
Dear Annie: I have a strong and constant fear that my house will be broken into. It’s so bad that I cannot live alone. I lock all the doors and shut all the windows, but I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in weeks.
When I’m alone, I tend to hear things that don’t exist — like someone breathing or a window breaking. It frightens me so severely that my body becomes incredibly heavy and I cannot move. Why is this happening? Please help.
— Scared To Be Alone
Dear Scared: You seem to have developed a debilitating phobia, which can often be helped through therapy and/or medication. Talk to your doctor about this and ask for a referral. You also can contact the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (adaa.org), 8730 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910, for additional information and assistance.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Don’t Want To Be a Sailor,” who tends to blurt out swear words at the drop of a hat and wanted to stop.
Years ago, I had to have a hot water tank replaced. The work space was very small, and the repairman constantly scraped his knuckles on the plaster. Every time this happened, he spat out the word “sugar.” I asked him why he did that, and he replied that ladies don’t like to hear the four-letter alternative, and “sugar” works just as well. I have discovered that “phooey” and “Christopher Crunch” also do the trick.
— No Sailor Talk Around Me, Please
Dear No Sailor: Substituting another, more acceptable word and using it with regularity can help break the swearing habit. Although one of us rather takes exception to using “sugar,” we think the basic idea is a good one.