Dear Annie: I have four grown children. However, I am not entirely certain that my second daughter is my biological child. Around the time she was conceived, my wife had an affair with my brother-in-law.
Before my wife passed away, she swore that daughter was mine, but I can see no trace of myself in her or in any of her offspring. My other three children bear a strong physical resemblance to me, and so do their children.
I realize it is not her fault if she is not my child, and I would not treat her or her children any differently. But before I die, I would like to know the truth. Is there any way I could secretly obtain a DNA specimen from her to do a test? No matter which way it turns out, I would share the results with no one. – Tennessee
Dear Tennessee: There are ways to get specimens, but we are asking you not to do this. It will only bring you peace of mind if you discover she is indeed your biological child. Regardless of your promise, if you find out she is not yours, you may not be able to treat her the same. Keeping the secret will create stress and could undermine the relationship you now have. The only valid reason for doing a DNA test is to provide your daughter with an accurate medical history, but if you don’t plan to inform her, this doesn’t apply.
We urge you to convince yourself she is yours and believe it with all your heart, because in the most important sense, it is true.
Dear Annie: My cousin likes the same guy I like. She actually liked him first, but I’ve really fallen hard for him. I’ve known “Justin” for two years, and he has told me that he really likes me, too. We enjoy being together, but my cousin insists they’re “meant for each other.”
I’ve tried to tell her that Justin and I are happy with each other, but she always starts crying. Justin said he’s flattered by her attention, but he doesn’t feel the same way about her. He says I’m his “future girlfriend.”
I’m afraid to bring it up with my cousin and tell her about my feelings because she has a bad habit of spreading rumors when she’s upset. I don’t want to go down that road again. Should I just come out and tell her? – Justin’s Girl
Dear Justin’s Girl: There’s no reason for you to bring it up at all. Your cousin has a crush on Justin. It’s up to him to let her know whether he’s interested or not.
If you become overly involved explaining things, your cousin will hold you responsible for whatever happens. It would help if she could focus her romantic interests on someone else, and maybe you could gently push her in another direction.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Uncomfortable Stepmom,” whose 40-something stepson has the nervous habit of touching his crotch in public.
When I was in elementary school, I once went to the bathroom and walked back into class with my zipper down. For days, other students made fun of me and ridiculed me.
I am now 44 years old and have a great life, but to this day, I often check repeatedly to make sure my zipper is up — even in public.
My girlfriend mentions it to me when I do it, but the fear of it being unzipped is still there. Perhaps the same thing happened to the stepson and he is just double-checking his zipper. – Making Sure Zipper Is Up
Dear Making Sure: Your letter is proof that childhood teasing can last a lifetime. But please, try to double (or triple) check your zipper before you leave the men’s room instead of groping yourself in public.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.