Advice from the Trenches: Internet Stalker

Dear C,

My 19 year old daughter isn’t really into school. She sees no reason for it and is attending only because I made it a condition of staying home rent free. Recently, through her online social media account, she met a 35-year-old man from across the country and after two months she thinks she is in love with him. They Skype and she has seen his kid and says he is real cute and she loves him, too. The man claims he got custody of his child after the end of an abusive relationship with the mom. They council each other on the woes of their lives. She wants to drop everything and move in with him.

So far, she has submitted to my ultimatum: “Over my dead body!” But I think that when she turns 20 she plans to leave. What can I do? She says they relate because he “doesn’t think like a 35-year-old.” This is what scares me — my daughter is not the most mature kid on the block. What if she goes? He says his ex was the abusive one but it takes two to tango. I’m certain my daughter is making a mistake. What if she had a child with this man? I am pretty sure I’d end up with custody, and I don’t want to be burdened taking care of her kids should it come to that.


Fearful Mom


Dear Mom,

Unfortunately, unless your daughter can be proven mentally incapable of making her own decisions, there is little you can do. Her age qualifies her as an adult, whatever her maturity level. This is too bad, because your daughter is a fool. Let me relate a story that actually happened to a friend of mine.

Jude was a fanciful girl who smoked a lot of pot and tended to indulge in “magical” thinking. She struck up a correspondence on the internet with a guy in California who claimed to have his own ranch. He sent many pictures of himself in green pastures with grazing horses. He seemed to understand her deepest thoughts. They felt the same way about the cosmos and about life and love. He asked her to be his “soul mate for life” and she was so besotted that she packed up all her stuff and drove across the country from Providence to be with him. When she got there, this little gnome of a guy who smelled like a goat and looked nothing like his pictures greeted her at the end of a dirt road. After she hesitatingly followed him to his cabin, she found out that the gnome was a consummate liar and he was actually the caretaker for a large ranch owned by the guy who’d been in all of the pictures he’d sent. Mr. Gnome had lied about everything. The only reason he and Jude “understood each other so well” was that they were both equally stoned and shared a penchant for romantic fantasy. She turned around and drove back. Thank god she hadn’t managed to sublet her apartment yet.

Here’s a message to your daughter, Mom: anybody can say ANYTHING on the internet and make it seem true. Nothing in their life has to match, not their age, their occupation, or even their gender. All they have to do is fabricate an identity for themselves, collect photos as supporting evidence, and convince someone without any ambition or life plan to get sucked into their story. If she’s lucky, your daughter will simply be let down. If she’s unlucky, she could end up dead.

Some men prey on young impressionable kids like your daughter because no one else will fall for their crap. The internet is a perfect place to do this. Any 35-year-old man who is picking up teens on social media is up to no good.

As far as what you can do? I’d show your daughter this blog. It may not open her eyes, but I hope to god it prompts her to ask a few more questions. Another idea: You might suggest that your daughter ask the guy to fly out and meet you and your husband. If the man is actually serious, he’ll welcome the chance to meet his intended’s family. If he refuses, that act speaks a thousand words. Even your daughter should understand the message.

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