Don’t sacrifice integrity for peace with family

I don’t have the best relationship with my nephew, “Bob.” He has asked for a number of favors from me in the past and has gotten very nasty when things didn’t go his way.

Dear Annie: I don’t have the best relationship with my nephew, “Bob.” He has asked for a number of favors from me in the past and has gotten very nasty when things didn’t go his way. He has also bragged about abusing people and pets, and he enjoys making people angry, violating laws and bucking authority.

Here’s the problem: Bob was recently arrested for giving attitude to a policeman. He, of course, claims innocence. He has asked me for a character letter for his legal case. I was caught off guard and asked for time to think about it. Predictably, he blew a gasket, hung up on me and sent a bunch of nasty e-mails. He told his mother, lying about things I said, and now she is furious with me.

Everyone on that side of the family says I need to apologize for doing this unforgivable thing. I understand they are trying to protect Bob, but why is this my fault? I didn’t tell him no, only that I wanted to think about it. What do you write in a character letter for somebody you think is a sociopath?

This kid is vicious, mean, obnoxious, rude, lazy, offensive and possibly dangerous. But apparently, my integrity is not as important as family ties. I also believe Bob is planning to sue the police, and if I wrote a letter as a character witness, I could conceivably be called to testify. At which point, I would either have to perjure myself or tell the truth and make things worse for him.

Don’t I have a right to decline? I think this kid needs help, not enabling. Part of my dilemma is that I have business interests with the family and still have to deal with these people. What do I do? — Bob’s Unfortunate Uncle

Dear Uncle: Unless you can find a way to write about Bob’s character without lying, you should decline. But you must accept that your integrity may cost you a certain amount of good will within your family. Explain your reasons, and suggest that Bob get professional help before it’s too late. We hope they listen.

Dear Annie: My neighbor “Tina” has body odor. When I came home from work last week, Tina’s 12-year-old son stopped by. I told him he would have to leave while I took a shower. He asked, “You take a shower every day?” I replied, “Yes.” I just about flipped when he responded, “My mom doesn’t, and she smells.”

My outspoken teenager repeated this to Tina when she came over the next day. I made her apologize, but I was secretly relieved that she brought up the subject. Tina then told me she does indeed shower, but she still has body odor. Is there something she could do? She reads your column every day. — Out of Concern

Dear Concerned: Body odor can come from any number of things. Tina may need to shower more often or use a different deodorant. Her body chemistry may be interacting negatively with her soap, shampoo or laundry detergent. She may need to wear natural fabrics. It is also possible that she has a medical condition and should seek help from her doctor.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Still Cry About It,” who worried how she would react to a knock on the door from the biological child she gave up years ago.

I, too, gave up a child. It was the most difficult decision of my life, but it was the right thing for my son. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder how he is doing, but I am not wishing for a knock at the door. I believe when a child is given up for adoption, ties should be cut forever. — Doing OK Now

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