I quit my "pen pal"--do I need to explain why?
November 11, 2009 11:14 PM   Subscribe

I feel weird about dropping my foreign pen-pal-but not weird enough to want to change anything. Am I too cruel?

A woman in Germany befriended me last year. She saw my very handsome brother's page on an memorial site...and she claimed to "love him". (yeah..I know...what was my first clue that she is troubled). But I didn't see any harm in writing to her and I really enjoyed learning about where she lives, etc. She writes in impeccable English because she is a translator. It was kind of nice to discuss my brother with her...since not too many people cared about him while he was alive. Over the year, however, she made noises about coming here to the US. She is very effusive and "loving". I told her I have absolutely no room for guests (which is true) and she writes back things like "oh, don't worry, I can stay in your yard in a tent!" She is the kind of person who sends hugs and kisses and "cuddles"...she fawns over me. I know that she is very lonely because she is taking care of her elderly Dad and she never goes anywhere. She was writing to me twice a day...really long long emails. I feel almost like a guy who "led someone on"--but I have completely run out of things to talk about with her. I just stopped writing and answering her. A bit abruptly. She loves to send me stuff and I am completely tired of it. I just didn't know how to tell her that I don't want to write anymore...so I have handled it passively agressively by just dropping her.
I know I have not handled this well...but the question is..should I just never write back and call it a day? She isn't writing either now and I know she is "hurt" because she has written my dead brother some messages about it on his tribute page.
Advice gladly accepted.
posted by naplesyellow to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you even know this lady? And does she even know your brother? Sounds bizarre to me.

I would basically take the salient parts of what you just wrote: 'I really enjoyed learning about where you live,' but 'I don't want to write anymore,' because 'I am completely tired of it,' and 'I have completely run out of things to talk about,' and I'm sorry because 'I know you are lonely.'

You just aren't a part of this person's life, no matter how much she wishes that you were. Whatever she's looking for, you can't give it to her - and it's not your job to do so. Be firm, be polite, be honest. If you want to tell her you never want to talk again, then tell her so. If she refuses to accept it, then you might need to warn her that you'll block her or something.

As for her presence on your brother's memorial page... if it's uncomfortable to you that she uses it to complain about you, then can you block her from making these comments? Because that is a pretty fucked up thing to do.
posted by schmichael at 11:35 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

There's no great way to end something like this. Since she has stopped corresponding with you directly it sounds like she's dealing with it in her own weird way. You seem to feel guilty, and that's understandable, but it sounds like she was putting you in an uncomfortable place. And it's hard to be assertive with people that are needy. Sometimes dropping someone is the least worst option.
posted by scatter gather at 11:45 PM on November 11, 2009

I think it was very rude of her to have written something about being "hurt" by you on your brother's tribute page. I say just drop her. You didn't lead her on unless you've written something to her in your correspondences that might have been interpreted that way (i.e. "We should meet sometime!" "Call me if you're ever in this neck of the woods!"). And even if you did, I still think it's pretty strange of her to take your words at face value if you've never even met IRL. She seems to have more invested in this "relationship" than you, but in reality you're just pen pals and nothing more, so you shouldn't have to feel responsible for how she feels when your letters stop coming her way.
posted by misozaki at 11:54 PM on November 11, 2009

You've no responsibility but you know, given the slightly bizarre nature of this communication and any doubts you may have about her stability, I think I'd want to "bring her down slowly" rather than just sever communication abruptly - for my own peace of mind. Explain to her what you've outlined - you enjoyed speaking to her, you've little to talk about now, there is no chance of this migrating into real life - then fling in some lies to soften the blow, you've taken on a new job and it is just impossible to communicate as you once did, etc.
posted by fire&wings at 2:51 AM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: Duck out. Tell her that since the X anniversary approaches/has passed, you're trying to dwell less and move forward, and that while you appreciate all of her support and the connection she feels with your brother, you need to end the constant reminder of this correspondence.

Which is, you know, probably true.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

She wants to camp in your yard? Sounds like a scam artist to me, someone who either just wants money from you or who desperately wants to leave her country (so that she can get money from you). I don't think you even owe her an explanation. Just stop communicating with her, period.
posted by Melismata at 9:07 AM on November 12, 2009

She wants to camp in your yard? Sounds like a scam artist to me, someone who either just wants money from you or who desperately wants to leave her country (so that she can get money from you).
This! Danger, Will Robinson! Just cut off contact, no explanation necessary.
Years ago I had 40-some different pen-pals around the world, and the ones (I had a few) that immediately start signing their letters with love and hugs and keep calling you "dear" or "sister" or "darling" after the second letter are definitely the red-flag type. Then they'll send you little gifts or trinkets, and of course you'll feel obligated to send them something in return. Eventually they'll get around to having always wanted to visit your country, and when you respond that you really have no room for guests and aren't home during the day because you work, so they'd have to stay in a hotel, well, they won't mind one bit sleeping on your floor! I had a pen-pal from Sri Lanka who sent me a batik poncho with her second letter, then started requesting specific gifts she'd love to have from America, and then (when I made it clear there was no way I could host her for any type of visit) I got a letter from the University of Toronto (I live in Detroit) stating that Sri Lanka's brother wanted to enroll and had given me as a reference of some sort. I then received a letter from pen-pal asking me as a favor to tell the UT folks I've known her brother for X amount of years, and could vouch for him, oh and also to fill out the enclosed form and send it to UT, etc etc.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you naplesyellow!

I have always wanted to cite this article in a metafilter answer. Best true life story of an internet relationship gone wrong - EVER.

While I hope it doesn't seem too familiar, this story will probably do wonders for your conscience.

posted by jbenben at 10:42 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Tell her you've become involved with a woman, and they are very jealous and don't want you emailing other women.*

*this could possibly make things worse?

DarlingBri's suggestion is better, but in case it doesn't work, I thought I'd throw out another one to try.
posted by ishotjr at 1:06 PM on November 12, 2009

Response by poster: jbenben..thanks for the article. I do believe that this lady is indeed who she says she is...for one thing she has an incredibly dull life. She would be more prone to embellish much more interesting details if her character were made up.. But, I do indeed recognize some similarities in the article you offer and my (former) pen pal. For sure, she looovvves romantic crap. This is why she "fell in love" with my "angel" brother.
Also Oriole Adams, you've nailed my pen pal--she calls me her "sister"! Wha??? She has sent me all sorts of German thingys. And yes..I felt I should send her things back. But it has all gotten so old because of the sticky sweet neediness of her.
I thank you all for your answers. You've all verified what I suspect--that it is completely ok (and preferred!) to just quit this whole charade! Thanks so much.
posted by naplesyellow at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2009

Response by poster: ishotjr, I am a female and she is a female. Both heterosexual --she just loooooves my departed brother.
posted by naplesyellow at 1:57 PM on November 12, 2009

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