Dear Ann Landers: The physical education teacher at my son's private elementary school is a very attractive and personable single man in his late 30s. "Coach Jimmy" has taught at this school for 15 years. He spends his summers as a counselor at a boys' overnight camp. During the school year, he supplements his income by baby-sitting male students when their parents are out of town.
I am concerned about Coach Jimmy. He explains his single status by saying he is deeply religious and searching for the perfect woman. However, he never dates, and I have yet to see him with a female. I often see him around town at movie theaters, restaurants and stores with the children he is baby-sitting, but never an adult companion other than his mother. Aren't these the hallmarks of a pedophile?
Recently, my son was invited to spend the night with a school friend. Ordinarily that would have been OK, until I learned that Coach Jimmy would be baby-sitting because the boy's parents were out of town. I would not let my son go. My husband says I am being ridiculous. Another friend brushed off my concerns and said, "Everyone loves Coach Jimmy. What's your problem?" Am I being unduly suspicious?
-- Watching in Florida
Dear Florida: Simply because Coach Jimmy does not date is not reason enough to label him a pedophile. Has your son indicated he is uncomfortable around Coach Jimmy? Have any of his friends?
Jimmy may be deeply religious, as he claims, or more likely is homosexual or asexual, but this is a far cry from being a child molester. Be careful where you put such labels. They can be enormously damaging.
Three in the house
Dear Ann Landers: I recently married a man who had lost his first wife to cancer two years ago. I moved into his house. "Ralph" told me I could do whatever needed to be done so I wouldn't have to live in her shadow. I gave as much as I dared give away to her children. But there are a few things that prevent me from being able to make this our home. There are pictures of his late wife in several rooms, and her personal effects are in small sealed cases for display. I don't feel I have the right to remove them, yet these things make me feel as if she is still present. This is not a comfortable feeling.
Ralph wants to sell the house eventually and build one exactly like it, only smaller. You'd think that might solve the problem, but his wife helped design the blueprints of the house to suit her hobbies and interests, which are different from mine. If we rebuild the same house, it will still be his and hers, not his and mine. Any suggestions?
-- Her House Out West
Dear Out West: Why are you competing with your husband's former wife, who is no longer living? True, her possessions are very much in evidence, and you are wise not to try to remove them, but what you are complaining about comes with the territory when you marry a widower.
In time, you can gradually remove some of the woman's pictures and personal effects and replace them with your own touches. If Ralph decides to build another home using the same blueprints, talk to the builder about making some small design changes that will better reflect your interests. The decorating will, of course, be entirely different.
Meanwhile, it would serve you well not to be too hasty or blatant. The success of your marriage may hinge on your ability to deal with this situation.