Annie's Mailbox for March 9, 2011: Worries about sexual predators preventing male babysitters

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Dear Annie: Are there any signs to look for to determine whether someone is a sexual predator? I have always heard that when it comes to young children being sexually abused, it is usually a close relative or friend.

I have a 6-month-old daughter who has five uncles. I am scared to leave her with any man other than her father, so I refuse to allow any male to babysit her. Is this irrational? I feel bad, but whenever guys are around her, I am always watching with a close eye. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

How do I explain this politely to my brothers and brothers-in-law when they ask about babysitting her?

— Protective Mom

Dear Mom: We understand your fears, but most men are perfectly responsible with children. There is no specific profile of a pedophile. In fact, many of the same qualities that would make a man an excellent father also describe pedophiles — those who are terrific with children and engage them in fun activities.

Pedophiles are usually friendly and charming. They tend to gravitate toward areas that put them in close contact with children (family, school, church, sports, etc.). Children of single mothers are particularly vulnerable because pedophiles often cozy up to Mom in order to get close to children who need a father figure.

You can get out of baby-sitting offers by saying, "That's sweet of you, but it's too soon. Maybe when she's a little older." The best way to protect your children is to keep a close eye on them, and when they are old enough, help them protect themselves. Teach them that they can talk to you about anything, to come to you when something doesn't seem right, and that no adult with good intentions would ask them to keep secrets from their parents.

Dear Annie: My wife and I were married last summer. Because her family lives in Eastern Europe, we chose to have the ceremony there. Only my immediate family attended.

Despite the fact that her family has next to nothing, all of her relatives gave us generous cash gifts, for which we are grateful. My extended family is relatively well off. Although none of them was able to attend the wedding, they were all aware of the ceremony.

By Christmas, we had only received one gift from any of them. We thought they may have forgotten, so our Christmas cards included several photographs of the wedding along with our regrets that they could not attend. But we have received nothing else.

Annie, I have attended several of my cousins' weddings and know this is not typical. Not only would wedding gifts be extremely helpful to us, but their absence has convinced my wife that my family is full of selfish misers who dislike her. I know this is not the case. Is there anything I can do to avoid a permanent chasm between my wife and my extended family?

— Tom in Trenton

Dear Tom: Were these relatives sent invitations to the wedding? If not, they may feel no obligation to give a gift, and it is poor manners to demand one. If you think something else is going on, ask one of your parents to contact the relatives and find out.

Dear Annie: You printed a letter from "Anonymous or I'd Be in Big Trouble," who didn't know how to talk to his wife about her excess facial hair. I would bet she has no idea.

Last year, my hairdresser asked whether I wanted her to wax my eyebrows. I thought my eyebrows were fine. Tell him to spend $50 on a good, lighted, magnified makeup mirror. I was shocked at not only my eyebrows, but at my mustache, chin and sideburns. I'm 50, and the eyes are the first to go.

— Hairless and Happy

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