Dear Ann: My husband and I moved into our dream home about four years ago. We love our house and the neighborhood, and we don't want to move. The problem is our next-door neighbors. They have a 12-year-old daughter, "Tiffany," who became friends with our daughter who is the same age. Sound lovely? Not really. It turns out that Tiffany is stealing from us.
The first incident was when Tiffany took my daughter's shoes. When I called the girl's mother, she said Tiffany was only "borrowing" the shoes. I was told it was no big deal and Tiffany would bring the shoes back. The mother said Tiffany has so much stuff, she has no idea where a lot of it comes from. Then, Tiffany's mother showed up at a neighborhood party wearing my expensive leather sandals, which had been missing for three months. When I asked where she bought them, she said, "Oh, these are Tiffany's. She bought them at the mall." When I told her they belonged to me, she changed her story and said Tiffany had received them as a gift from a relative.
Every time I catch Tiffany with one of my things, her mother makes some lame excuse. I finally had enough and told her off. She has yet to have her daughter apologize for taking my stuff, nor has she repaid me for the shoes Tiffany stole. Who knows how many other items this girl has taken from my house.
I am furious at the mother's lack of concern. Tiffany may well grow up to be a major criminal if someone doesn't set her straight. I want this child punished so she will learn a lesson. Any suggestions? Turmoil in Middle America
Dear Middle America: You are angry, and I don't blame you. Unless this girl is set on the right road soon, she could find herself in serious trouble. Sit down with Tiffany's parents, and explain that this girl needs professional help and soon. They are doing their daughter no favors when they cover for her. I see danger ahead.
Dear Ann: My jaw dropped when I read the letter from "Upset By a Copycat Friend," who was mad at her friend "Nadia." She said Nadia became pregnant to copy her, and she was furious that they are both due at the same time. This, apparently, was more competition than she could stand. I had a similar situation with my friend, "Barb."
I had been friends with Barb for 10 years. I thought we were quite close and had a lot in common. Well, Barb recently sent a letter informing me that she was tired of me copying her all the time. Her list of "crimes" included using the same contractor, buying the same houseplants and having my hair styled to look like hers. She said I was obsessed with her and considered my behavior to be stalking, and that if I contacted her again, she would have me arrested.
I guess she forgot about the time she joined my dance class, went to my manicurist and bought a snowmobile after my husband and I did. I should be flattered that I was such an imposing figure in Barb's life, but frankly, I'm concerned about these unfounded accusations. Any ideas? Unfair Target in Wisconsin
Dear Wisconsin Target: If Barb wants you to keep your distance, consider yourself lucky. The woman sounds like she suffers from more than competitiveness she may be paranoid. At any rate, the "friendship" seems to have soured, so go in another direction, and don't look back.
Gem of the Day (credit the "Blonde Bombshell in Perrysburg, Ohio"): If you have a lot of troubles you want to forget for several hours, simply wear a pair of brand new, tight shoes to a reception where there are no chairs.