Dear Ann:

I am disturbed about the questionable behavior of my stepgranddaughter. "Caitlin" is 11 years old and dresses like an adult, often provocatively. I realize many preteen girls dress inappropriately these days, but Caitlin flaunts her body like no 11-year-old I have ever seen. Recently, her stepfather opened a catalogue of men's wear and showed her pictures of well-built, well-endowed males in very brief underwear, which left little to the imagination. He shoved the catalogue photos in front of the child and laughingly said, "What do you think of THIS?" She gave him a bored look. Apparently, it was nothing new to her. The girl's reaction, and her stepfather's behavior, disturbed me tremendously.

Caitlin displays her growing sexuality in many ways, including unnatural attention to her younger brother, who is almost 3 years old. My husband sees her as "caring" for her brother. I see other things. I've heard her tell the boy, "Kiss me on the mouth." She then turns his head around and gives him a long kiss. She fondles him, wants to change his pants and bathe him.

Am I crazy to think there is a dangerous trend developing?

-- Eugene, Oregon

This child needs counseling NOW. Do everything you can to see that she gets it. Her highly charged sexuality is distressing, and her stepfather's attitude is downright scary.

Meanwhile, Caitlin should not be left alone with her younger brother. Share this letter with your husband, and ask for his support.

Dear Ann:

I just read the letter from "C.M. in Milpitas, Calif.," who said the Department of Education lost her file and kept billing her for her student loan. After the mess was finally straightened out, she was harassed by bills demanding she pay a balance of $0. That's right -- zero dollars.

This happened to me as well. A financial aid adviser told me that the quickest way to solve this problem was to "pay" the bill, so I sent a check for $0. This is the only way the computer knows to stop sending statement letters. Calling the customer-service centers is useless, because the centers don't always communicate with the billing departments. Since I sent that check, I have not been bothered, but get this, Ann, the billing department actually tried to cash it.

-- Minneapolis

Is the "billing department" another computer, or a live person? If it's the latter, I'd worry.

Dear Ann:

I am now in my sixties, and have been wearing a hearing aid since I was 2 years old. I was made deaf by measles, before we had the vaccine.

Please tell your readers that most people, when they see an individual wearing a hearing aid, immediately raise their voices to the point of yelling. This can be very embarrassing, especially when others are nearby. It has happened to me in restaurants, department stores, supermarkets, gas stations and so on.

Many times, I have told the speaker, "You don't need to yell. My hearing aid allows me to hear you just fine." It makes no difference. They continue to shout anyway. In many instances, it makes me think that I am not the only one with a hearing problem. I hope you print this, Ann. The public needs to be educated.

-- L.G. in Sarasota, Fla.

The inclination to speak louder when one spots a hearing aid is natural. What people SHOULD do is speak more distinctly and, if possible, look directly at the person being spoken to. Individuals with defective hearing often become adept at reading lips.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.

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