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Dear Prudence Presents: Secrets & Lies

How many of you can keep a secret? I'm impressed by some people's ability to absorb some truly shocking information without giving any outward sign, but a façade of unflappable silence isn't always best. Case in point is a vacationer just back from a relaxing, sun-drenched stay at an independently-operated Florida bed & breakfast. During some poolside lounging with their partner, the letter writer spies the front desk clerk letting himself into their room.

Wondering why, I got up to check and found him wrapped up in our bed sheets and smelling a pillow. I got angry, and he started crying and said we were an attractive couple and that he "just wanted to feel alive again." It was awkward and embarrassing, and he said he would never do it again, so I just let it drop and didn't tell my partner or the proprietor about this.


This all went down the day before checkout, so yes, they did spend another night in the Bates Motel with the person sleeping next to them none the wiser. Now they want to know – was their silence a kindness or an error in judgment? Prudie says that maintaining a poker face under those circumstances wouldn't have been an option for her, and that they absolutely should have complained to the owner, if only because their stay definitely would have been comped by way of apology. As for myself, I came back to my hotel room one evening to find a middle-aged man lying in my bed in his T-shirt and underpants. Turned out he was meeting his wife there and the front desk sent him up to the wrong room. He had the worse end of the situation, hopping around all frightened trying to get his pants on while having questions barked at him. I made my big complaint to the management the next morning and got a full refund – saved me like five hundred bucks!

Next, the stepmother of a seven year old writes in with a complex question of paternity. Her husband met and married the boy's mother when she was already pregnant from what she claimed was an act of rape by a stranger. They wound up divorcing, she wound up in prison, and he and his new wife have custody. The kid knows him as his daddy, but they've also explained to him "that his biological father was a bad person who hurt his mommy and is in jail, too." Well, the man in question just materialized bearing "proof of a paternity test," and singing an entirely different song. He says that he and the child's mom were actually married, "she divorced him without telling him she was pregnant, and ran off after depleting his bank account." His appearance now is supposed to have been the result of a tireless, PI-assisted search, initiated upon learning of his child's existence. He wants to meet the kid and catch up on lost time, which will likely be complicated by his current status as rapist bogeyman, but "most of all we are scared he might sue for custody."

First of all, I'm like whoa, whoa, whoa, how does he already have a paternity test for a child he's never even met? What's the timeline for all these people supposedly getting married and divorced? Are these marriages even legal? These and other questions do not occur to Prudie, who believes that a therapist will help the kid "come to understand the bad actor in his life is his mother who told the most awful lies." Now I'm like whoa, whoa, whoa, let's not jump on the exoneration train just yet. The letter writer needs to be looking at everyone's story with a shit ton of suspicion here, because who is and is not a dirtbag is not exactly clear. At least Prudie is correct in her first piece of advice, which is that the lady and her husband need to consult a family law attorney posthaste. Who has what legal rights I can't begin to speculate. Beyond being way too welcoming towards this mystery man/reputed rapist, Prudie heard from the peanut gallery about the logical inconsistency with the paternity test and continued to be clueless in her response. Not her best work at all. :(

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