Care and Feeding

My Friend’s Daughter Stole a Highly Intimate Possession

Should I confront her about it?

A woman looks conflicted.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have known “Jan” for 10 years. I would say that she is my best friend, and her now teenage daughter “Maggie” is like a niece to me. Lately Maggie has been having a hard time: she became very isolated during the pandemic; she is exploring her gender and sexual identity; and recently she lost her summer job because she stole 15 dollars from the register. She’s now seeing a counselor. We’re a short bus ride from Jan’s house, so in an effort to get Maggie out of the house and give her an opportunity to earn some cash, my husband and I offered to have her check in on our cat and do some light housesitting once a day while we went camping. Maggie agreed and did a great job. Jan was proud of her. However, I later realized she stole one of my sex toys. It was in a basket under the nightstand, not hidden, but she had no reason to enter the bedroom, although we didn’t expressly forbid it.

I’m not a mom, so I don’t know how to deal with this. It was a simple $25 dollar vibrator, easy to replace, and at this point I don’t want it back. Should I just let this go? Jan is a good mom, but she’s a bit uncomfortable about sex, and I imagine if I told her, and she spoke to Maggie about it, it would be painful for Maggie (who, I’m guessing, did not feel comfortable asking her mom if she could get a vibrator!). But I worry that stealing from me is a way of Maggie’s acting out, one that her mom should know about so it can be brought to her counselor’s attention. (Then again, Maggie didn’t steal anything else, and she went above and beyond with caring for our garden.) My husband thinks we should say nothing, so if anyone has to bring this up, it’s going to be me.

—Do I Tell?

Dear DIT,

Please don’t. If Maggie is now a teenager, and you are genuinely close to her (and not only to her mom), and you are absolutely sure you did not misplace it (this last piece is key), you might bring it up with her—not accusatorily but compassionately, to let her know that you noticed it was gone and ask her if she wants to talk. But that’s the most I would do. Maggie would certainly not be comfortable asking her mom to buy her a vibrator (who would?), and I don’t think this is something that needs to be brought to Maggie’s counselor’s attention. I think your husband’s way of dealing with this (or not dealing with it) is fine. But if you want to go above and beyond with your young friend—as she did with your garden—go ahead. With kindness and love and without judgment. (And if you’re worried that stealing is becoming a pattern for her, keep an eye out. You’ll likely have an easier time talking to both her and her mother about it if she steals a jar of your good face cream or a piece of costume jewelry.)

—Michelle

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