DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: My husband and I and another couple are into Halloween costuming and sexual fun with each other, twice each October (once is not enough). At our first group scene this year, it was wonderful with the four of us. But as we were leaving, the man in the other couple announced they had a third couple they want to bring to our Halloween soirées. I was upset by this intrusion -- my husband and I didn't know this couple. But my husband quickly said, "Sure. Why not? Could be fun!" and hustled me out the door. I was shocked. Nobody asked me! I've decided I'm making my decision to go or not right on the 31st. If I still don't want to do it, how do I say no and not have everyone hate me? Please answer on Halloween. -- Possible Back Out, Tuxedo
Dear Possible: Since you have left it to Halloween Day to decide -- and you sound like you will probably back out -- the only graceful way out is to fake illness early in the day and phone in your regrets. The other two couples will likely go ahead without you. And, they might be glad not to have you there anyway, since they were obviously looking for some novelty to pep up the group. Your husband will be upset and unhappy, as it's highly unlikely he'd be invited to make an uneven number. The next day you will need to sit down and confess your true feelings about this situation to your husband, and talk to him about agreeing to new sexual experiences without asking you. You really should have done this earlier, but you wanted to get even, didn't you?
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I'm an embarrassed adult of 37 who's afraid of Halloween masks and costumes. As children, we used to live beside a creepy kid who would pop out of bushes in terrible ghoulish masks and screech during the week leading up to Halloween. He scared my sister and me until one time I wet my pants. He saw what had happened and teased me at school forever, and especially around Halloween time. My mother tried to intervene, but his mother was a drinker, morning to night and no help. So, here I am with kids of my own, age seven and nine, and I have to get their teenage babysitters to buy costumes and dress them up. Then one takes them out and the other answers my door for trick and treaters. I feel ashamed for being such a baby and feel transported back to the days when I was crying on the front lawn with my wet pants. -- Overgrown Baby, East Kildonan
Dear "Baby": This has been a lifelong trauma visited upon you by a bully and not trivial at all. You needn't be ashamed, but you should get counselling. Make an appointment with a psychologist and go for enough sessions to be rid of this problem for life. In adulthood, we need to be free of childhood plagues -- and not pass them on to our kids. Sometimes the only way is to see a professional and put in the "work," as they call it in the business, because some of it is tough slogging. For instance, a shortcut to the past is hypnosis, if you are strong enough to deal with reliving the experience. In the months following your treatment and the next Halloween (when you should do a tune-up session or two) you will be much relieved. You might suggest your sister go for a few sessions as well, since she was troubled by this bullying. She might also remember some of the aspects you have repressed, which will help the psychologist to work with you. If the two of you are close, she can be a good support.