Dear Margo: I am dating a 57-year-old man who is quite wonderful in some ways, but he sometimes says disturbing things. Today, he reported that he walked down to the beach and studied "40 or 50 teenagers" to see what they were wearing. He wanted to tell me all about the current state of teen fashion at the beach. I told him I did not want to hear it. Conversation over dinner was awkward because I could not get this strange conversational overture out of my head, and he seemed not to be able to think of anything else to talk about.
He has not shown any particular interest in fashion until now. I know that many older men check out teenage girls, but isn't it kind of a creepy activity, and one you wouldn't tell your girlfriend about? I'm wondering whether he has inappropriate proclivities. He also asked me once if it was odd for him to check out his daughter's boyfriend's female friends on Facebook. I said yes. He responded by defending his decision to do so ... and then did so.
He also told me his wife (now deceased) slept with their daughter until she was 10. About a year after the daughter got her own bedroom, she stopped speaking to him for seven years. He has no explanation for any of this. — Greatly Confused
Dear Great: Unless your 50-plus fella works for Women's Wear Daily or a garment manufacturer, his interest in teenagers' beach attire — with a sample size of 40 to 50 — is a signal that there is some psycho-sexual screw loose. And the fact that the subject was of no interest to you and he was stuck for conversation confirms my "diagnosis." This man sounds like he's come from a strange place with secrets and dysfunction. I would head for the hills and look for a man who is wonderful in other ways. — Margo, honestly
Dear Margo: Three weeks ago, I moved to rural Mississippi with my family: wife, three kids all under 9, and my mother. We decided to send our kids to public school instead of private school, as we had before the move. This decision was based on our kids' wish for "more kids to play with" and my wife's idea that this will be a good way for us to acculturate the children.
Despite our thorough research of the school system, we are uncovering many unsavory surprises. Even with a zero-tolerance bullying policy, our oldest son has come home crying multiple times. Our middle child, a girl, says her teachers are mean and never listen to her. Our youngest seems fine, but then again, he was never much of a complainer. So now my wife and I are debating switching back to private school. Our hesitations come from our hope that if we wait out the rocky beginning, our kids will get stronger and more able to cope, but we hate to see them unhappy. What do you think we should do? — Undecided Dad
Dear Un: First, three weeks is not a very long time for kids to fit in anywhere, let alone with children who have most likely been in school together from kindergarten. And when you say you're considering private school again, is there even one in a rural area? (And, of course, private schools are not bully-free zones.)
I would wait until the end of the year before making any decisions. In the meantime, you and your wife might go to school and talk with the teachers. Explain that the kids seem to be having trouble, and see what information you get back. Between giving your kids more time to get acclimated and taking a measure of the teachers, I think the answer you are looking for will become clear. — Margo, patiently
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.