Dear Margo: I cannot figure something out. My husband has a friend from work who is single, attractive, funny and smart. He has no girlfriend. Whenever we've tried to fix him up, he always has an excuse as to why he can't make it. If he were gay (which I doubt because he's very masculine), wouldn't he just make up a girlfriend? He would be a terrific catch for some woman, and I love to play fixer-upper. — Melanie Down in Dixie
Dear Mel: First, a bulletin: There are gay men who are masculine in affect. You seem to be working off of the old stereotype of the swishy gay guy with a sibilant "s," a lisp and an ascot. My bet is this chap from work is one of nature's bachelors and (correctly) feels he doesn't have to make up a girlfriend to decline your fixer-upper efforts. He could very well have a partner or might even be asexual.
I think a good rule of thumb for you in your matchmaking efforts is that after several turndowns you just cross that person off of your list. Have you thought of volunteering? — Margo, singly
Something Wrong Is Being Ignored
Dear Margo: How do I get my grandparents to get my 9-year-old cousin the psychological help he clearly needs? On several occasions, he has been caught trying to put his privates into another boy's privates. He has been doing this since he was 5. Even when he was a toddler, I could sense something was wrong with him.
Personally, I don't like the kid, but I do want to protect the boys who could be his victims. He has done it to another cousin who is younger, and now his mother refuses to let her two boys play with him because she's afraid he won't be caught next time. She's also mad because nobody is doing anything.
I've told my grandmother on several occasions that he needs help and that they shouldn't be surprised if they see him on the news in handcuffs for sexually molesting another child. She just agrees, but nothing ever happens. His father lives in the house, too, but he's afraid they would put his kid on drugs, and he doesn't want that.
I know he needs help, but nobody is listening. What is it going to take for my grandparents and his father to get him help before he ruins some family's life by molesting their son? — Up Against a Brick Wall
Dear Up: I'm not sure why your grandparents are in charge when the child's father is in the picture. You don't say where the mother is. Any boy who has been acting out sexually since the age of 5 is seriously disturbed and perhaps was the victim of molestation himself. This is often the case; he did not dream up this stuff himself.
I am not pointing fingers, but there are two grown men living in the house with this child. Since no one in your family seems to be making a move, you or your cousin's mother should alert child services, and they may require the little boy to see a therapist. His father's fear of drugs is perhaps an excuse to do nothing; drugs are not the treatment for kids with this problem. Because your pleas to family are falling on deaf ears (I hope not for defensive reasons), you or the cousin's mother must step up to the plate. — Margo, proactively
Time to Accept a Closed Door
Dear Margo: My sister and I, two years apart, have always had a strained relationship. She considers me the favored one because I was the baby in the family. My sister had her first child a year ago this month. I have yet to meet my nephew. When she gave birth, she wanted our mother there, which I totally understand. After a few months, I tried to make arrangements to go see her and her new family, but was told each time they already had plans. She lives four hours away, so it would have to be a weekend excursion.
We were all going to get together at my mother's, but she let it slip that she was just up at my sister's for the christening at church. I was upset that I wasn't invited and figured at that point that she really didn't want me around.
My nephew is turning 1 this month, and I was invited to his birthday party, but I think that was just to keep the peace and she really hopes I won't show up. I'm at a loss about what to do. Should I go and just deal with it, or is this relationship basically done? It's sad, but I do recognize that once my mother passes on, there will be no reason for my sister to ever speak to me again, and I suspect she will do just that. — Wishing It Were Otherwise
Dear Wish: While I recognize your wish to have a relationship with your sister, it sounds like a rocky road. These things happen, which is why God invented friends. I have long thought that being related is an accident of DNA, and sometimes the blood ties bind us, and sometimes they don't. I would go to your nephew's birthday party, being as affable as you can, and see what the result is. If the visit does not feel comfortable or genuine, you will have a good hint about the future of the relationship. — Margo, fatalistically
When the Clan Is Crazy
Dear Margo: I married at 18. Shortly before my wedding, both of my parents died, leaving me with no living relatives. I looked forward to sharing life with my husband's large, close-knit family. But the day after the ceremony, my new mother-in-law started a crusade to divorce me, not only from her son, but from her entire family. Instead of welcoming me, she immediately went to each family member with amazing lies about me. I never got the chance to know them, or them, me. His mother banned me from all family functions and forbid anyone to have contact with me. She insisted we move away to a rural area, isolated from them and everyone else.
On every holiday and on the day of every family event for the past 25 years, I have cried watching my husband drive off for a day of fun and memories with his family, leaving me alone. He says he cannot disobey his mother, especially now that she is terminally ill. After she's gone, I'm hoping things will change and I finally will be allowed to join the clan. My husband feels that things should continue as they are, relishing the role of martyr. I never can discuss this with him, as he has an uncontrolled temper and has resorted to physical violence. Should I simply accept that I never will be able to call anyone family or even friend? Sadly, divorce is out of the question for many reasons. — Alone
Dear A: I must tell you that this may be one of the strangest letters I have ever received. That your husband (abusive, no less) would cave to his crazy mother and move and then go by himself to family functions for 25 years is beyond my comprehension. Was there no clue about this nuttiness before you married? Your apron-string tied husband sounds as bad as Mom, and I don't know why you haven't fled before now. If divorce really is impossible, I would live apart and make friends of your own. You do not have to remain an indentured wife. — Margo, sadly
Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered