When I get a letter late at night, I usually just write something like "Read your email! Will sleep on it and email you back in the morning." However, this email was "time-sensitive" and scared the stuffing out of me, as you will see. Thus, there are TWO letters.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I enjoyed reading your book and fantastic blog for the past several months. You’ve given so many girls wonderful and witty advice, and I’m hoping you can provide some insight on my predicament.
I went on vacation in Europe this summer. On the night before I left, I met an extremely charming, handsome British man – let’s call him “John.” We had a great conversation, during which he mentioned that he was planning a month-long cross-country trip to different parts of Canada and the United States. He said he was planning to stop in my city for a week or so. We met again the following morning for coffee, I went off to the airport, and then we emailed and talked often on the phone for the next month.
He arrived this week, and took me to a nice restaurant one evening. We had a great time – but two nights ago, we went to a bar and met up with his friend, who was drinking heavily. The friend – whom I had met very briefly the day before – made extremely vulgar and mortifying remarks at the top of his lungs, embarrassed our entire table, and finished off the evening by making a completely inappropriate pass at me.
Worse yet, during the course of the friend’s drunken ramblings, some unpleasant revelations about John came to light. I was shocked to discover that (1) John planned this trip specifically to see me, not months in advance as he alluded to in our earlier conversations. (2) After four days, he has spent almost his entire budget for a month long trip. He is unemployed, but [made a very expensive and trivial purchase] using his student loan money. (3) He’s spending the entire month here in a hostel and has no plans (or money) to go elsewhere.
Seraphic, I have no idea what to do. He is very nice and I do enjoy talking to him, but knowing that he made this trip specifically to see me, when he can’t afford it, makes me really uncomfortable. We haven’t even kissed yet! I’ve seen him one time since the debacle with his friend, and even though he apologized for his friend’s behavior, our conversation was still a little awkward. I’m no longer sure if I want to date him – and now that I’ve spent more time with him, I don’t think things would work out in the long run (though I do wonder if my sudden change of heart is just because I’ve never had a boyfriend before – I’m 23 – and I’m just feeling nervous).
In any case, he’s here for three more weeks! I feel incredibly guilty, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I think it would be best if we just remained friends for the time being. I’m also trying to balance a demanding full time job with a full load of graduate courses, so I don’t want to see him more than a couple of times a week – and in friendship mode at that. He wants to cook me dinner at my apartment tomorrow, and I worry that I’m leading him on.
The entire situation is stressing me out. I would be extremely appreciative of any advice you have to offer, because I have no idea how to get myself out of this situation.
The Guilty Traveller
Dear INNOCENT Traveller,
Usually when I read new letters this close to midnight, I say "It's late, my brain is fried, but I got your letter, and I'll email you in the morning."
I think I should say that again because this is a very tricky situation, and I need fresh brains. However, I will say tonight that YOU ARE NOT LEADING HIM ON.
NONE of this is your fault. First of all, it looks like Mr British lied to you. He said he had planned this trip, but actually he made it up on the spot. Second, he has a really lousy friend that he inflicted on you, too. Why is this awful guy the British guy's friend, I wonder, and what kind of guy makes a drunken pass at the girl his friend came from Britain to see? Third, this guy sound incredibly impractical and imprudent, considering his sending habits and financial predicament. He's a walking accident. He was before he met you, and he is now. For heaven's sake, DO NOT think you have any responsibility to rescue him. You don't. In fact, given your age and lack of experience, you must not.
I don't think it is a good idea for him to be in your apartment. Hurriedly arrange something with family or a female friend, and tell him you have to cancel dinner. (Then go out to your family or friend, or have them over to do whatever.) Meanwhile, if you have a good relationship with your dad or with an older brother, I want you to call him ASAP and tell him EVERYTHING you told me. You may need serious, old-fashioned back-up to get out of this situation.
But you never have to see "John" again if you don't want to. Honestly. And you certainly don't have to see him more than once or twice a week if you DO decide you want to keep the friendship going. (Why you would, since he is a totally irresponsible-sounding, unemployed British guy, is a question that springs to my mind.)
I'll write more in the morning. Bottom line: call father (if applicable), brother or best male friend and tell him about this guy. See what he says. If you lack any male relations or friends, call up your mother and tell her. Tell her how uncomfortable you feel. Honey, I really do think you need back-up. This is a weird situation, totally not of your own making, and you need to establish some serious boundaries, if not brick walls.
This is not a cute, boy-girl, 1950s-style dating situation. This is an unemployed liar from a foreign country (one which is a lot different from the tourist brochures, believe me) on a holiday he can't afford, and he is clearly not rooted in reality. Be careful and canny.
Grace and peace,
Dear Innocent Traveller,
It's morning and my brain is both rested and buzzing with caffeine. I stick with what I said yesterday, and in fact I am even more adamant that you not let this young man into your apartment. Even if you just text or email him to say "Can't do dinner tonight. Won't be home", that is enough. This is a man with proven poor judgement, who is proven to be irresponsible. If I were your mother, I'd be on my way. I don't think you should be alone with him in your apartment.
There are so many alarm bells ringing from your email! "Charming" and "handsome" (and "British") mean absolutely nothing when the man in question lies to you, subjects you to the bad behaviour of a friend, HAS friends like that in the first place, behaves so irresponsibly with money, and makes you feel uncomfortable.
The problem with a guy--a near-stranger--coming to your place to make you dinner is that (A) now you are alone with him behind closed doors, (B) you could easily be made to feel "indebted" to him because he has done this "nice thing", (C) it is a typical seduction ploy.
You mentioned being 23, and the problem with being 23 is that a 23 year old has less confidence than a 33 year old in telling Mr Wrong to beat it. (Your feelings of nervousness are not immaturity but darned good sense.) This is why I have suggested you tell family and friends (especially male) about this situation. If you were 33, you would not feel guilty. You would feel outraged.
Please let me know what happens and how you are because I am actually worried. I bounced the story off my British husband for a "British guy's eye view," and he said, "He sounds crazy!"
And, once again, I repeat: This is not your fault. He told you a lie. He made the decision to come to your town. He chose to spend his money foolishly. He chooses to stay in a hostel. Hopefully when his money runs out, he will go straight back to Britain. This is the best case scenario, so for heaven's sake do not give him any money or other material support. Do not even see him if you do not want to see him.
I hope this is helpful.
Grace and peace,
Result: The Innocent Traveller cancelled dinner and then called up her aunt and a male friend, who reacted as I did. She felt a great weight of guilt fall from her shoulders. Thank heaven!
By the way, this girl really did not do anything wrong. She had some hopes for the relationship which were dashed: that's it. As soon as there was evidence this man was not who she was led to believe he was, she didn't ignore it. She worried about it and then asked for help. Thus, I am full of admiration. The truly guilty traveller is not rooted in reality, but my reader is. Good!