Dear Prudence

Long-Lost Friend

My best friend died in the second grade. I want to share how special she was before I forget.

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photo by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudence,
When I was in second grade, my best friend died suddenly of a brain tumor. Next year will be 20 years since her death. “Sara” was a wonderful girl: honest, bright, kind, and well-loved by everyone. I was a very shy kid then, and her extending herself to me was very special. We were only 7 when she died, and I didn’t know her family well, but they have an unusual last name and I recently found her older sister on social media. I often feel very alone in remembering Sara and feel the memories slipping away. I’d love to communicate with her family and tell them how special Sara was. I’d love to tell them my memories, even if it’s only silly things like how she’d share her carrots with me, and how she kept the peels on for the nutritional value, and how we dipped them in water to clean them. I’d love to tell them that she was considerate of everyone, including the class “troubled kid” who had a crush on her. I’d love to tell them how we met; I was alone on the jungle gym the first day of kindergarten, and she came and joined me, even though I was so shy that I initially tried to scoot away. But I don’t know if they’d prefer not to talk about her and how much hurt the topic would dredge up. Perhaps in a way, this letter is a way to share the memories of Sara. Do you think, though, there might be another way?

—Old Wounds Healed

Dear Healed,
Your beautiful letter about an extraordinary little girl made me cry. I hope that her family members can now think of this child, who never got to grow into the extraordinary woman she would have been, without crying, but I assure you they haven’t forgotten her. I think you should absolutely reach out to Sara’s sister in a private Facebook message and explain why you’re doing so. You can say Sara has been much on your mind because you know the 20th anniversary of her death is coming up, and that you wanted to share some childhood memories with her family of what a special person she was. You can say that you don’t want to intrude if such memories would be too painful, but that if they’d like to hear, you would like to send a letter telling them about the Sara you remember. If her sister demurs, then you have memorialized this girl here. I hope, however, Sara’s sister will invite your reminiscences and that her family will appreciate knowing more about the child who only had a few years to make such a difference in the lives of so many.


Dear Prudence,
I am a 17-year-old girl living in a stable home with a protective, loving family. I play basketball and have practice or training five days a week. I get one-on-one training from my assistant coach, who is 22 years old. He sends me links to articles and videos about basketball almost daily. These often turn into a conversation that ends up being about something else besides basketball. There’s been nothing sexual at all—he’s a really decent guy who has never made me feel uncomfortable. It’s just friendly conversation with some teasing in there, which is the part I’m a little hesitant about. I really like him, but because he’s my coach I’d never want to pull something with him and get him in trouble. He does treat me differently from the other girls, but just in little ways. Then there’s my mom. I once nonchalantly asked her about having crushes on coaches, and she flipped, not even knowing I was talking about him. If she finds out we are texting, I know she’ll be upset and worried, even though I’d never participate in or initiate inappropriate texting with him. I’m so conflicted because I don’t want to lose the friendship I have with my coach, but at the same time it’s a lot of pressure to be keeping this from my mom, and even friends. What should I do?

—Torn Texter

Dear Torn,
It’s too bad this young coach hasn’t sensed the potential danger here that you obviously do. True, you and coach are only five years apart in age, and if you were 25 and he were 30, the difference wouldn’t matter. But you are in high school, a minor, and he is in a position of authority. You may have a bit of a crush on him; he may have one on you. While it’s a relief that nothing explicitly sexual has been expressed, your letter is drenched in discomfort. Daily teasing texts from your coach are not OK, and it’s also not OK that you feel the need to make excuses for him and manage this situation. We live in a hair-trigger climate about these issues, and I do not want to derail a nascent career. But this young coach needs some serious coaching from a senior coach about the lines he cannot cross if he wants to pursue this profession. School is starting again, and you must take action. I hope you can talk to your parents about what’s going on and that they can listen without flipping out. You need to express that while absolutely nothing sexual has taken place, you are uncomfortable with the attention you are receiving, and you need one-on-one coaching from someone else this season. Then your parents will have a conversation with the head coach and changes will be made. If you really don’t want to bring your parents into this, go to the head coach directly. Again, you need to say there is no “relationship” going on, but you want a change. Yes, you can tell young coach directly to stop the texting and teasing and no more one-on-one. But you would need to be comfortable enough to do that, and it doesn’t sound as if you are. That means that you need intervention from the adults in your life, and he does, too. Maybe he’s just overly enthusiastic about a promising student. But he needs to reverse course fast because the path he’s on is one that sometimes leads to a mug shot.


Dear Prudence,
I’m a 40-year-old divorced, working single father of two primary-school-aged children with special needs. My ex-wife lives across the country and comes to visit the kids one weekend a month and for some holidays, and the rest of the time it’s just them and me. I completely adore my kids, and had pretty much written off any idea of having a romantic relationship myself until the kids were older. They require a lot of attention, and between them and my full-time job, my life is pretty full. Recently, however, an old flame who has been “just a friend” for a few years told me she wanted to rekindle our romantic relationship. The feeling is mutual, though we are both single parents with schedules that would line up maybe one night a month for dating. The catch, for me, is that she is very non-monogamous. She is not interested in pursuing an exclusive relationship with one person, but carries on multiple open relationships at once. I, on the other hand, am very monogamous, but my life doesn’t really have space for the kind of relationship building that an exclusive relationship requires. I can’t expect exclusivity when I see her only once a month. Does it make sense for me to pursue a less-than-ideal relationship, given that my situation makes it very unlikely that the exclusive, monogamous relationship I’d prefer will come along? Or am I just inviting in a world of hurt and disappointment that I don’t need?

—Door Half-Open

Dear Door,
If anyone deserves a monthly evening out with an appealing dinner companion that starts with a glass of wine and ends with getting laid, it’s you. Your former flame wants to work you into her rotation, and you still feel fire for her, so I say go for it—but be sure to use protection. You’re right that she sounds like a poor long-term prospect, but knowing that going in will allow you to look at your get-togethers as reprieves from your normal, dutiful life. Even so, seeing someone on such a casual basis should not keep you from pursuing a permanent companion. You’d be surprised at how many women your age would be willing to sign up for a life with such a devoted, caring man. I suggest you try online dating. You’ll also need some reliable baby sitters so that you can get back into the social swim. You shouldn’t have to wait until your kids are grown to find sexual satisfaction and love.

Dear Prudence,
I am a divorced mother of a young daughter. My ex has remarried, and we have joint custody of our daughter. The relationship between me and my ex and his wife is, to say the least, strained. But we keep the adult stuff between the adults. My daughter plays soccer, and our local soccer association recently held a fundraiser. The fundraiser was promoted via an email to all of the parents. Both my ex and I receive the association emails. One of the items I purchased for myself from the fundraiser is a T-shirt that said, “Proud Soccer Mom.” When the order arrived, I was excited to wear it to my daughter’s next game. However, I was shocked to discover that my ex’s wife showed up wearing the same soccer mom T-shirt. Am I crazy for being as hurt as I am over this? Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she supports my daughter. But this feels less like supporting my daughter, and more like an intentional blindside, meant to provoke. I discussed this with my ex, and he completely dismisses this as me being petty. Am I really being the petty one?

—I’m Her Mom

Dear Mom,
I’m assuming there was no T-shirt option that read, “Proud Soccer Stepmom.” Your marriage ended, and your husband has a new wife who is intimately involved in your young daughter’s life. I can understand you chafe at and resent this, but these are the facts and you must accept them for your daughter’s sake. It is wonderful that this stepmother wants to be an involved parent and is fully embracing her role. Think of the awful alternative that too many children grow up experiencing. Your daughter will never have any confusion about who her mother is, but she is lucky to have one more adult who cherishes her. You make no case that this new wife is on a campaign to undermine you. You brought up this episode with your ex, and he told you that you were being petty. Now you’ve asked me, and I concur.


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