Dear Annie: My outgoing, popular and smart daughter, "Lizzy," graduated from high school last June. During the school year, there was an investigation into rumors of inappropriate conduct between a male teacher and my daughter. Lizzy assured me nothing was going on. A few days later, the principal informed me that the rumors were not true and Lizzy was in the clear.

The teacher eventually resigned because of the rumors, and I thought that was the end of it. But over the summer, the mother of one of Lizzy's best friends informed me that my daughter was spending time with this teacher and they had bought a dog together. He also gave her a cell phone so I wouldn't know about his calls, and she was staying at his house until late at night. Lizzy admitted everything, but said there was no sex involved. I was devastated.

Annie, this has tainted my whole image of my daughter. The teacher is old enough to be her father. My husband and I contacted this teacher, telling him we think he's an awful person for taking advantage of one of his students and that he must never see her again. But I don't trust my daughter. I fear her infatuation with this pervert will cloud her judgment. Can I take any legal action against this teacher or the school? Teachers like this should not be in the classroom. — Teaching Her To Lie

Dear Teaching: The school investigated when it became aware of the rumors and could find nothing incriminating. If Lizzy was 18 and out of school before there was evidence that they were involved, there may not be much you can do, especially if they weren't intimate.

However, you should inform the school that there was inappropriate contact during her senior year and ask if anything can be done from their end. You, however, need to talk to Lizzy calmly and let her know how much you love her and want her to be in a healthy relationship.

Explain that it can be manipulative for a teacher to become involved with a student because, intentionally or not, he is taking advantage of his position of authority. Don't alienate her by attacking him. She will only feel obligated to rush to his defense.

Dear Annie: I am 45 years old and have chosen to go gray naturally. My mother and grandmother both have beautiful gray hair. The problem is, when people see my hair, they immediately think I am much older. I've been mistaken for my husband's mother, my son's grandmother and my girlfriend's mother. I don't know how to respond to these people without embarrassing them. Any comebacks for me? — Going Gray and Loving It

Dear Going Gray: The nice response is to smile while gently correcting them and add, "It's OK. I get that a lot." But we're certain our readers will come up with more clever comebacks, which you are welcome to use when you feel less charitable.

Dear Annie: You made my day. I read the letter from "Dirty Debbie," who has a very serious cat bowl problem. Wow, this couple has a rough life. One of the cats prefers to get up early, and the other two sleep in, as does her husband. How sweet is that?

Her husband, being retired, should volunteer somewhere and maybe take the cats with him. Thanks for the distraction from the real world. — Carol in Oklahoma

Dear Carol: Dirty cat bowls may not be a world catastrophe, but it is a genuine annoyance for the couple involved and deserves the same consideration from us as any other problem. We're glad, however, that it cheered you up.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.