Dear Ms. Meniscus:
My younger sister has rheumatoid arthritis and lives with my husband and me. She is unable to work and is on disability and spends a lot of time online. What bothers me is that she goes on dating sites as a much younger woman (she’s 37) with a phony photo. I told her I think this isn’t good for her but she says if men knew she was disabled and older that she wouldn’t have anyone interested in her and no one to talk to and would be very lonely. Should I just leave her alone?
Hello Older Sister:
This reminds me of the phone sex worker (remember those 900 numbers?) who cooed sexy missives to her callers while doing her ironing and watching the soaps on closed caption. The only difference is that your sister hasn’t found a way to make money…yet. So, leave her alone. You could be driving a new car sooner than you think. Obviously to sustain the fantasy, she’s not meeting her online buddies in person. Internet chat rooms and dating sites are full of fakes, including people like you sister, as well as software masquerading as real people. Yes, that hottie on the dating site is likely to be a software bot, or a real person minus the hottie part. What’s the difference between your sister having an online fantasy and a young girl seeing herself as a princess? Well, age of course. Your sister’s not five-years-old. But it doesn’t matter. You sister needs a relief valve from her reality which is what we all need. Who knows what Stephen Hawking does when we’re not looking. We all want to put ourselves in a different if not bigger picture – one without emotional or physical pain in your sister’s case – and fantasy allows us to do that. Give her the privacy she needs and sleep well knowing she’s having fun talking to someone who’s probably lying, too. If you can’t find any peace with this solution, and you feel you must judge her, create your own fantasy where she ultimately meets another prevaricator and together they find the confidence to tell each other the truth about themselves. Just remember, we all alter the truth about ourselves – it’s just a matter of degree. Say this to yourself next time you’re putting on makeup.
Dear Older Sister,
Dear older sister,
I don’t believe you should be bothered by her harmless entertainment exercise, assuming the interactions are limited to email exchanges and fun banter alone. With that said, you should encourage her to test the waters for her own true self as well. She can unleash her creativity under her alias but she should also create a real profile and interact with people based on her true self.
And never leave her alone. In fact, spend time with her and remind her that she is special, lovable AND has another 50 years of life to live. Help boost her confidence, have fun with her and help her realize her gifts. She is very young at 37 and hasn’t even reached her prime. I suspect she is simply bored and depressed. Consider engaging in her online activities in an effort to better understand her and to further help reinforce it as fantasy. In the process, help her look for more suitable potential partners and more importantly engaging groups, activities and chat rooms. Direct her energies towards initiatives, online forums and activities that make her feel alive and peak her curiosity. Finding groups based on common interests could be more fulfilling for her as indulging in a pure fantasy will get old. Help her re-engage with the world that interests her – and to do that, you can start by leveraging the fantasy world that she has created to get inside her head.