Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Are we sisters? My biological father walked out on my mom and me when I was a baby. He gave up his legal rights to me when I was 5. My stepfather adopted me. He is my father as far as I am concerned. My biological father died when I was 15. I didn’t go to the funeral. I didn’t cry or feel much of anything. I am 22 now and have been getting messages from “Susie” over social media. She thinks she is my half-sister and wants me to take a DNA test. Apparently, she is the product of an affair and recently found out the truth. Her mother named my biological father as one of her possible fathers. Susie is pretty desperate. She is alienated from her own family and seems to want to me fill the emotional void left behind. Susie stalked my social media back years trying to find commonalities between us (she referenced my “favorite beer” that I mentioned in one post three years ago). My biological father had no living family besides me. I have no desire to have a sister, or to enter the sticky situation that Susie is in, but I feel sorry for this girl. What exactly do I owe her? I am pretty sure we are related (we look alike), but I don’t need to know the truth. I like my family and my life the way it is.
A: This is really sad, but I agree that you shouldn’t let your compassion for Susie lead you to try to establish a relationship you have no real interest in. I think you should send her a message letting her know, as kindly as possible, that you hope she’s able to find community and support but that you won’t be taking any DNA tests and don’t have any connection to your biological father, and that you won’t be available for any more conversations on the subject. At that point, if she doesn’t leave you alone, I think the kindest thing to do is to start blocking her on social media. Her suffering is real, but you neither caused it nor can you heal it. She will have to find healing somewhere else, not by pressuring you into a sibling relationship.