A Disturbing Slumber Party

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Social Q’s

My son had a slumber party with a few friends last weekend. They were all in the 9- to 10-year-old range. Most were boys, but a girl was there, too. In the morning, after the other kids had left, my son told me that one of the boys had given all the kids massages to help them go to sleep. I am at a loss. Are massages at boys’ slumber parties a thing? Is this innocent behavior? Should I alert the boy’s mother?


There was a time, I admit, when I would have placed this question in fourth position (a.k.a., the silly one at the end) — maybe with a quip about tipping big to diligent service providers. But having been educated, often by readers of Social Q’s, about the serious prevalence of child sexual abuse, in many cases, by other children, let’s take a breath and chart your best course forward.

Your son is well past the age when you should have begun speaking to him about unwanted touching, including by other kids. This is not a one-time chat; it should be repeated frequently. So, start with your son: Did the massage make him uncomfortable? Where did the young masseur touch him?

Let’s hope this was all in good fun. When I was little, my brothers and I gave each other percussive, karate-chop back massages inspired by the “Three Stooges.” Who knows what behavior this boy is modeling? But I would tell his mother about his party trick. She should remind him to ask permission before touching others (and figure out where these massages are coming from).

You may think I’m alarmist. But when studies suggest that up to 20 percent of our children are sexually abused before 18, a figure that probably underreports the scope of the problem, no parent can afford to be silent — even in the context of the world’s weirdest slumber party.

One Last Gripe About an Ex

My ex-boyfriend of two years lives in a different city, miles away from me. Our relationship faded, and after a year of only occasional phone calls, I asked him to send me clothing that I’d left at his house. He agreed. When no box arrived, I called him. The post office told him the box was lost. It contained never-worn clothing worth $500 and other personal items. He didn’t insure the box. Am I wrong to think that he should assume some financial responsibility for this loss?


I see this as a favor your ex undertook at your request. Did you ask him to insure the box? If not, how would he estimate the value of its contents? It’s also hard to believe that you value them terribly highly, given that you let them languish in a closet for over a year. I’d put this mishap in a category titled: “It sure would have been nice if he’d offered to split the loss, but he didn’t. Oh, well.” Next time, consider collecting your things yourself.

A Guest Lays Down the Law

My husband and I have a two-week time share in a vacation spot. It is a two-bedroom condominium with a sofa that opens into a queen-size bed and a cot for a small child. We invited our son and his wife, their two teenage daughters and young son to join us for a week. Our son cannot come because of work, but the rest of the family accepted. Then our son asked if his older daughter’s 19-year-old boyfriend could take his place. We don’t know the boyfriend well, and we’re not comfortable with the teenagers sleeping together, which they do at home. But my son told us: If the boyfriend can’t come, no one will. What should we do?


Bullies are not confined to playgrounds (or episodes of “13 Reasons Why”). And decisions about whom to invite on your vacation are not your son’s to make. Let’s avoid the Rubik’s Cube of sleeping arrangements — though I offer the possibility of boyfriend-in-sleeping-bag. Consider it, if you want to see your grandchildren. But who wants to go on vacation with an ultimatum?

I Love My Nails, but …

I accidentally gave a large tip to my manicurist. I reached into my purse for a $20 bill, but later realized that I had given her $50. She thanked me profusely for my generosity. This woman has been my manicurist for many years, so I’m fine with my error. I don’t want her to think I want the money back. But I also don’t want her to think the huge tips will continue (almost twice the cost of the manicure). What should I do?


Call me crazy, but I’d be honest. Say: “Doris, I realize I gave you a $50 tip last time. I hadn’t intended to, but I’m delighted I did in light of your many years of excellent manicures.” Otherwise, you will be on pins and needles every time you get your nails done, afraid that your ordinary (but still generous) tip is signifying some unspoken complaint. Clear the air and let the “Jungle Red” roll on in peace.