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Don't lie for ex-boyfriend

Dear Carolyn: Almost 20 years ago, I was part of a large circle of friends in high school. One of the guys and I dated a couple of times in high school and then 10 years later when we were both in the same town. When I say "dated," that's all I mean, nothing more.

Fast forward to today, and this old high school guy sent a "friend" request and a message saying the usual, "So how's your life these days?" I didn't accept the request, but messaged back that life was great, happily married, children, rewarding work and volunteer stuff, etc.

He responded that he would appreciate it if I never told anybody, especially his wife, that we'd dated ever! He elaborated that he doesn't want her to know the type of guy he used to be before they married, which to me means I was "that type of girl," which is not true. She was part of this large circle and was herself dating somebody else.

Our reunion is coming up. His messages keep getting more insistent that I do not acknowledge them at the reunion. While I have no intention of bringing up the past, I do resent being told that I must lie to keep peace between him and his wife. Any ideas?

-- What's Really Bothering Me?

A: If I had to guess, I'd say "what's really bothering" you is what you ably spelled out in your letter -- the implication that you're somebody's sketchy past. And that you've been asked to lie, which puts you on the spot.

I also suspect that, 10 years ago, he was seeing both of you at the same time, though that's hardly the only reason he or she might see you as a threat.

But I don't have to guess or suspect, and you don't have to worry there's something more complicated going on. That's because the only thing that matters is what you believe is the right thing to do.

You obviously don't feel it's right to cover for him, so don't, and reply to his latest message with those intentions: "I won't put 'Roger's Ex' on my name tag, but I won't lie, either, if somebody else brings it up."

I hope he takes your polite refusal as a cue to bring more honesty to his marriage (hey -- no guffawing), but hope is as far as I'll go; that part of the problem is neither mine nor yours to solve.

> Mind your own business

Dear Carolyn: Earlier in the year, my brother was pursuing a divorce from his awful wife (she has psychological problems), and the whole family really took it as a relief. During that time, he got a strange "tip" from his lawyer suggesting that one of his children may not be his own, but he never pursued it, and shortly after, he decided to go back to his wife. None of us was happy about that, but no one protested.

Fast-forward to now, I am dying to know if this child is truly my niece. I don't think she is; she looks nothing like my brother or her siblings, and I honestly believe my sister-in-law would do something like that.

I will be around all of them soon for a few days. I want to get her paternity tested. I don't even know what I would do with that information. I probably wouldn't even tell my brother or my parents; I just want to know for me.

Is that totally crazy? If so, is there any way I could do this and not have to tell them? Who needs to be tested and how?

-- Anonymous

A: Totally crazy, yes, and out of line, and wrong.

Your brother has eyes, he can see what his daughter looks like. He got the lawyer's tip.

That he chose not to pursue it is a strong statement: He is accepting this child as his own. And why shouldn't he -- he's raising her, and loves her.

For you to undermine that not only takes you well out of the bounds of your own business, and not only shows disrespect for your brother's choice, but also sets your niece up to lose her family. If you think this information can be gathered and then safely contained -- just look at how well you're resisting the allure of its power so far -- and if you think it won't hurt your niece's standing with the only family she knows, then you're being naive.

Sometimes the only response to having an itch is to sit there and itch. Adults do it all the time when the good of a child is at stake.