Ask Margo

Published11/11/2007 12:08 AM

Q. I live in Australia and am 21 years old. Three years ago, I met a man on an online role-playing site, and we seemed to click. We talked nearly every night about planning our next posts together, and it progressed from there. "John" was nice, sweet and a very good writer, so I was naturally drawn to him. Then it got more personal. I've been raised to be wary of "stranger danger" on the Internet, but it's gotten to the stage where he wants me to come over and meet him, which means flying to America. He also has said in nearly every conversation that he wants to marry me. However, he's become oddly possessive. When I have to go get lunch, he makes a big deal of trying to make me stay online. When I get off, he gets all upset and doesn't want to talk to me again. When I'm not on for a day because of work, he claims I don't love him and I'm toying with his feelings. He's also made sexual comments, like imagining me stripping on a webcam or his hands running along my sides. I know it's probably bad, but I just have to talk to him every day. I'm scared that I've become obsessed with him. My parents are very conservative Christians, and they don't know about this. I have heard his voice on Skype and seen his face on webcams. Margo, is this dangerous? I've known him for three years.

Worried in Australia


A. While I don't think this man is into white slavery and three years is a long time to warm someone up for nefarious purposes, the whole thing doesn't sound promising to me. Being possessive and demanding only gets worse, not better. As for your obsessing, perhaps you could hunt up a support group either having to do with obsession or online "romances" that are not healthy. A psychologist could also help you extricate yourself. My vote about this guy is "no."

Q. I am a 30-year-old woman, recently divorced after 12 years together (eight years married). My ex and I split amicably after years of trying and failing to make it work. My problem is that other men now seem to have no qualms about flirting with me, making comments about my appearance, even commenting about my body. A married friend gave me his phone number and suggested we "go out sometime." I haven't dated since I was 17 and have no interest in jumping back in anytime soon, and this attention makes me very uncomfortable. Is there a polite way to make it clear that newly divorced doesn't mean back on the market, or am I crazy for not enjoying the attention?

Cara in North Dakota

A. You aren't crazy; I think you are wise. Some men actually think they are doing divorced women a "favor" by offering themselves. (Oink, oink.) Married men, particularly, are willing to offer this public service. A reader sent me a good response to this: "Even though you do not respect your marriage vows, I do." When you think someone is warming you up to put the moves on you, simply say you are, for the time being, enjoying time to yourself.

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