Dear Amy:

Some 25 years ago my husband and I took naked photos of each other. We were married for eight years and then divorced. I destroyed my photos of him and I thought he did the same. I was wrong.

That ex-husband has since died.

His widow found these pictures and gave them to my other ex-husband, and now he is trying to get money out of me for the photos. He says that if I don't pay him, he is going to give these pictures to someone and have them distributed all over my home town.

This has me very upset. I can't sleep at night; I can't eat; and I sit and cry all the time. Can you give me any advice on what to do? My boyfriend is very understanding. I explained all of this to him, but I don't want him to think poorly of me because of this.

Me

If your ex hadn't tried to extort money from you, he might have gotten away with whatever little scheme he had in mind.

This is a matter for the police. Extortion is a crime, and I imagine that your local law enforcement would want to pay your ex a visit in order to educate him about this. Give the police a call and ask what they think you should do.

Beyond that, you need to realize that the only thing you can completely control at this point is your reaction to this outrage. Think of yourself as a grown-up Paris Hilton, who survived her naked video scandal and is well on her way to world domination.

If you find that you continue to be distraught over this to the point where it is affecting your eating and sleeping, please find someone you can trust in order to talk this through. A counselor could help you to put this nastiness in perspective. The person who chooses to distribute these photos is the person who should be ashamed of himself -- not you.

Dear Amy:

Recently, my girlfriend and I started talking about having sex. We eventually came to the conclusion that we were both ready.

After we made love, we both felt bad about it because of some circumstances -- including my girlfriend having to lie to a family member who is very close to her. We've talked about it, and we both feel very bad about what has happened, but we don't know what to do.

Things are not awkward between us. We both are just having a hard time dealing with what has happened, and it's hard for us to just let it go.

We aren't sure how to put this behind us and to move on with our relationship.

Wondering

I won't speculate on how long your original sexual experience lasted, but I can assure you that the ramifications tend to outlast the experience itself by many multiples. You've learned this the way most of us learn it -- the hard way.

Sex is one bell that you can't "unring." That's why waiting is always the best idea.

However, I want to give you and your girl credit for doing something many sexually active couples seldom do -- talking about it. Just as you talked your way into this situation, you're going to have to talk your way out of it. Talk to her about the experience and ask her to describe her feelings. Also talk about your feelings, including how guilty you feel.

Once you talk about it, mutually decide to take your relationship not to the "next" level but to the previous level. You're going to have to rewind, just as you would if your relationship were on videotape. Please assure me that your relationship is not on videotape. That would make this process much more difficult.

Dear Amy:

I think your suggestion of giving a bonus as a gift for a housecleaner is great. I have a friend who cleans houses part-time. She was going to take a week off to spend time with family. She told me one of the ladies she cleans for was giving her a paid vacation.

The idea of employee benefits keeps things at a professional level and still shows appreciation and respect.

Linda in Va.

Giving a paid vacation is a great idea too. Thank you for passing it along.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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