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Dear Prudence Presents: The Vanishing

Friends and lovers sometimes disappear. Whether it's the slow fade or something more abrupt, the phone calls and emails stop coming, and the silence gradually stretches into years. I myself have been guilty of this. Guilty, guilty, guilty. In Prudie's first letter, a lady writes in regarding a very dear college friend that up and vanished on her about five years ago. The friend was going to come to her wedding, but was suddenly struck down by pneumonia, and it's been radio silence ever since. Now, the letter writer sees that the former friend is getting married to another college buddy, and she wonders if sending her congratulations would be appropriate. If she could get a satisfactory explanation of what she did wrong and maybe an apology as well, that would be fine too.

Prudie doesn't specifically respond to the wedding congrats part of the question, but her message is that the friendship is ovah, the end, walk away.

Maybe you said something that bothered her—but five years out, you are never going to find out what it is, and if some harmless remark on your part ended a dear friendship without explanation, then she's not much of a friend. Sometimes there's no big reason, but people just decide to move on. So be happy she didn't die of the pneumonia she probably never had, and conclude this is just one of those inexplicable things.


There are some rebuttals from the peanut gallery pointing to depression as often being the cause of long estrangements, and they shared a few stories of friendship reconnects. Prudie responds that in those cases, success depended on the disappeared friend themselves being ready and willing to renew contact, and the letter writer hasn't seen any suggestion of this.

This next one is pretty wacky, and if you're writing in with an opening line like that, then you just KNOW your letter is getting printed.

Should I tell my girlfriend that I had a previous fling with her mother? We did not sleep together (in fact, I'm still a virgin). The fling consisted mainly of hugging, kissing, partially clothed massages, and her riding on the back of my motorcycle. This woman introduced me to her daughter, portraying me as just an acquaintance. What really complicates this is that my now-girlfriend's mother and father are still married, but the marriage is "semi-open" according to the mother. Whether my girlfriend knows this I'm not sure. I'm also not sure whether the father knows specifically about his wife and me. I don't want to tell my girlfriend, but this almost feels like a time bomb. Should I tell her now, wait for a better time, or just hope that she never finds out?

I had some skepticism at first about whether this letter wasn't just the setup to some goofy person's family sex fantasy, but then I decided that such a person probably wouldn't have made a point of their own virginity. Here's Prudie's horrible pun/metaphor/double entendre of the day: "I don't know how deep you are in with your girlfriend (OK, we know that you're physically not that deep), but there is an explosive secret between you two and at any time Mom could pull the pin." Mercy. I've heard stories before about bizarre family dynamics that were justifiably fled from, but maybe this guy ought to go along with the whole insane situation and then come through with an even crazier followup letter.

Then Prudie gets the sort of question that boils down to "I'm pretty sure that this other married person and I could carry on an affair without either of our spouses finding out. Maybe we're justified since we think we'd enjoy the hell out of taking our emotional connection to a sexual one?" The kicker here is that this regards two middle-aged women (met via shared fascination with horses), but otherwise seems pretty standard. Prudie says that they're already halfway down the primrose path of believing that nothing could possibly go wrong or suddenly get super complicated, "But people tend to get sloppy and carried away and spouses tend to notice that something's up. I'm sympathetic to your desire for a sealed off interlude, but I'm not the person to tell you to take the marital bit out of your mouth and go bareback." Aaargh.

I have two friends, let's call them Stacy and Tom. Stacy is a single mom to an 8-year-old girl, Ella, and struggling financially. Tom has recently offered to move in with Stacy, who could really use the rent money. I also know that they have a bit of a past romantically and that Stacy still carries a torch. The problem is that Tom was recently accused of molestation by a girl the same age as Ella. I don't know if it went any further than accusations, but I know Child Protective Services and the police were involved. Tom blames one of his exes and says she put her daughter up to the allegations. Tom has always paid a lot of attention to Ella, tickling, hugging and the like. It seemed innocent enough before but now … I've voiced my concerns to Stacy, who dismisses them out of hand. She trusts Tom. I have no idea what to do next, if anything.


Halfway through that fifth sentence is where my head snapped back and my mouth dropped open. Red flags, alarm bells, danger warnings everywhere. Prudie says that if CPS and the police were involved, then get back in touch with them immediately. Since there's already a paper trail on this guy, alarm bells ought to start ringing over there as well. She says that "People can be falsely accused, but what a chilling coincidence that after such an accusation, Tom is now moving in with another 8-year-old he likes to tickle and hug." Also terrible that Ella's mom is so blasé about putting her daughter in danger. It sucks that she's in a financially vulnerable situation and that she's being manipulated by a straight-up predator, but letting this guy in is not the answer, just no.

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