DEAR ABBY: Regarding the letter from "Dumbstruck in the East" (April 22), whose 9-year-old daughter has been getting "proposals of marriage" from a church usher in his 70s. An old man at church said things like that to me when I was about her age. He also was always trying to hug me. It made me uncomfortable and I disliked it. My mother never thought twice about him hugging me. Years later, when I was an adult, I learned he was a pedophile.
Her parents should go directly to the minister and let him know what is going on. If the parents decide to tell the usher his comment is not appreciated, they should say it's uncalled for and please stop making that type of remark. While his comment may be harmless, you never know for sure. -- ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR CAUTION: Readers had various reactions to that letter. Some echoed your sentiments, while others felt differently. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am from the same generation as the church usher. I was the little sister who was not as attractive as my older sibling. (Boys either teased or ignored me.) I remember several elderly men complimenting me in a similar fashion, and although I realized I could never date or marry someone so much older, it lifted my self-esteem.
I believe the usher was just being kind. It would be horrible if he were reported to the pastor or embarrassed by a flip remark. If the parents want to stop his comments, they should gently suggest that "in today's world his kindness might be misinterpreted." I don't think we should teach children to be mean-spirited when this man spoke freely in front of the parents. -- JOAN IN KENTUCKY
DEAR ABBY: I had a different reply in mind for "Dumbstruck," whose young daughter is told by an elderly church usher that he is going to "marry" her when she grows up. Her mom could look at him and say, "I didn't realize you were ordained, but how kind of you to offer to officiate!" -- ANONYMOUS IN MICHIGAN
DEAR ABBY: That man needs to be reported immediately. When I was 8, a friend of my dad used to tell me all the time he wanted to marry me. One day, when my parents weren't home, he molested me. That little girl should be kept away from the usher, even if it means not going to that church. -- LYNNE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: Next time the greeter tries the betrothal approach on the 9-year-old, her dad should chime in, "You'll have to get past me first!" It's blunt, but it gets the message across and doesn't insult the old guy. It's just Daddy protecting his baby girl. Done! -- PRACTICAL IN MARYLAND