Dear Prudence

The Accused

A young neighbor’s unfounded claims put my family in danger. Should we allow the girl back into our lives?

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Dear Prudie,
My husband and I live next door to a nice man who is a single father of two: a 6-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. We have a boy and a girl around the same ages. We get along well with the neighbor, and our children all played together until recently. My children alerted me about a month ago that Child Protective Services came and talked to them at school. Following that, we got a call from CPS explaining that the little girl next door told her therapist that she and my daughter willingly participated in inappropriate sexual behavior with each other. Thankfully, the CPS investigation found no evidence to support the allegation. Now that the case is closed, my neighbor wants things to go back to how they were, except more closely monitoring his daughter when she plays with our children. Recently I discovered the neighbor was aware of the allegation before we were, and he never had the courtesy to come and talk to us about it. I’m furious, hurt, and concerned about my children’s reputation. I don’t want either of my children to be around this little girl. My husband wants me to “drop it” and “put it behind us,” but I can’t. What should I do?

—Wish I Wasn’t Your Neighbor

Dear Wish,
There are so many things that could have prompted the little girl’s accusation. She could have  recently received a lecture about “inappropriate touching” then misinterpreted a tickling session between herself and your daughter. She could have a therapist who sees everyone as a potential molester. She could have someone in her life who is doing sexual things to her, and in fear and confusion she deflected her accusation onto your daughter. The problem is that now she is the grenade next door—you don’t know whether she’ll go off again or what the consequences will be if she does. Last year, I ran a letter from a man who was haunted by making a false accusation against a stranger in a public bathroom. In his 6-year-old mind, he was trying to save himself from his abusive father. In response, I got a harrowing letter from a woman whose family was destroyed when she was a girl and a 6-year-old friend of hers, known for making up stories, accused the letter writer’s father of touching her. That girl may have been trying to send a signal saying, “Help me,” but it resulted in ruining the father’s life.

You are very lucky that CPS found nothing to support the charges. But having faced this once, you should be on red alert about the possibility that there could be a next time. This girl could escalate and make an accusation against your husband. Even Sigmund Freud flip-flopped about whether the stories of childhood sexual abuse he heard from his adult patients were truth or fantasy. You don’t want to have to rely on a second CPS investigation clearing your family. Your goal should not be to ostracize these children, but I would be wary of letting them over your house or your children over theirs. Playing together should probably be limited to an open front yard so they’re always on public view. It’s understandable that your neighbor didn’t alert you when he thought something bad might have happened to his daughter at your home. It’s also understandable that he wants her supervised if she plays there now. He needs to understand that given the gravity of what you’ve just been through, you think it best if the children take a hiatus from play dates for the time being.


Dear Prudence: Halitosis Hell

Dear Prudence,
My great-aunt, with whom I am very close, is dying. She is in good hands at our local hospice and she is one of the rare people who isn’t afraid to go. I find this comforting. My problem comes with her funeral request. She doesn’t want everyone moping around and crying and wearing black. She wants to put the fun in funeral! She wants me and a few other members of the family to hand out party hats to everyone and to instruct people to wear bright clothes. During the burial she would like us to throw confetti into the open grave. After she is buried, she wants us to have a big bonfire or barbecue and celebrate her life and passing. However, certain family members find this absolutely horrifying. A few older ones have even threatened to not attend the funeral (as we affectionately call it). I basically told them it’s their loss. Is it so wrong to celebrate the end of a life this way?

—Un-Real Funeral Girl

Dear Girl,
Auntie may mean well, but I can’t imagine anything that would take the jollity out of her event faster than forcing a bunch of old, sad people sitting in pews to wear party hats (please don’t throw in noise-makers to add to the enjoyment). What you need to do is keep to the spirit of what your aunt envisions, without quite following her suggestions to the letter. After all, it’s one thing to be ready to go and to know how you’d like your funeral to be. It’s another, once you’ve gone, to make many of the people who loved you feel miserable by being forced to honor your wishes. You can put the word out that if people desire, festive colors would be appropriate for this funeral. The eulogies can emphasize the joyful parts of a long life well-lived. At the cemetery, you can have a box of confetti and say that, for those who would like to, Auntie requested some be strewn in her grave. For more conventional strewers, have a backup box of flower petals. Then at the gathering afterward, you can model it somewhat on Day Two of an Irish wake. After the tears have been shed, the booze comes out, along with the stories and the laughter. But again, it won’t be sullying your aunt’s memory if the gaiety is tempered enough so that those who want to talk quietly and contemplate their loss have a place to do so without feeling like killjoys.


Dear Prudence,
Last year an intense five-year relationship with my live-in boyfriend came to an end when I learned that he was living a double life with a second girlfriend who wasn’t aware I existed. About a year after our very unhappy breakup, I have largely forgiven him for his terrible actions, and we have developed a platonic friendship that I cherish dearly. I understand the factors that contributed to his actions, and I see that he is contrite and wants to become a better person. However, sometimes the pain and betrayal hits me like a ton of bricks and I find myself as distraught as I was when I first learned of his infidelity. When this happens, I react in various ways. I’ll call him up and berate him, refuse to speak to him, or just want to cry in his arms. When I take these steps backward, he is usually dismayed and confused, and irritated that I am bringing up something he thought we had moved beyond. Is my behavior unreasonable? How can I explain to him that grief is fluid and I will never be truly past these feelings of betrayal?

—Still Hurt

Dear Still,
I’m trying to imagine what the understandable “factors that contributed to his actions” were. Perhaps he was raised by polygamists. Possibly he was a supporter of the presidential campaign of John Edwards. Whatever led to him having a romance with another woman while living with you should be of no concern to you anymore. That is because this louse should be out of your life and your mind. It’s undeniably painful to have to accept that a long relationship is over, but you are just continuing to slowly rip off the bandage by moving him from lover to “cherished” platonic friend. Having done so allows you to run through an incessant, apparently addictive, panoply of emotions. No wonder he’s confused: He thought you caught him cheating and dumped him. Instead you keep coming back with the full Sarah Bernhardt. Guess what, he’s not your friend, he’s your ex. Ending contact with him will be a healthy first step toward moving beyond these feelings of betrayal.


Dear Prudence,
I recently submitted my résumé for a new job. However, I mistakenly wrote a date as 2010, instead of 2011! Though most likely this will go unnoticed, I can’t help but wonder about the gaffe. In an otherwise carefully crafted résumé, how much does a mistake like this matter? And what is the best way to correct this sort of situation—resend the résumé to human resources or ignore it and laugh off the mistake?

—Looking Four (Ha!) Advice

Dear Looking,
You’re taking too big a risk in hoping the incorrect date will be overlooked. The best you can do is try to turn your error into a virtue. Send a new version of the résumé and a cover letter. Explain in the letter that as much as you’d like to guarantee you will never make a mistake, you know no one can promise perfection. But you can assure them that in the rare instances you do make one, you will notice it, own up to it, and fix it. Explain you had a typo in a date on your original résumé, and you hope they will use the attached, corrected copy. Let’s hope your honesty about the need to change a 0 to a 1 will win you the job


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