Play by the numbers with unexpected repayment



DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I got a strange, old-fashioned letter in my mailbox, with a funny block-printed address, like from a kid.

I tore it open, expecting to see a birthday card from my niece, but it wasn’t her. It was from my crazy ex. Her middle name is definitely “Trouble.” If she had sent a message online, I would not have read it.

Then, out of the envelope fell five $20 bills! The card said, in her scrawl: “Here is the first payment on what I owe you!” That was it. When we broke up, she owed me $1,500, had lost her job and was drinking hard. I paid for her rent and food. I also asked her to pay me back. I secretly never thought I’d see a dollar.

She went back to the country to live with her mother, another drinker. I need the money, but I don’t want her back my life. I thought of writing back: “Thanks for the $100. Now you only owe me $1,400 more.”

How can I keep this repaying thing business-like, but not “palsy-walsy” as she would say? I’m nervous. What trouble is this debt repayment about to cause me?

— Not a Rich Man, St. Norbert

Dear Not Rich: What makes you think you’re going to get what you’re owed back in full? This may have been bait. To keep the money coming, just send her a polite note saying, “Thank you, I really need my money,” in the mail.

To avoid losing at this game, don’t escalate your thankfulness into a phone call or online correspondence. Operate a bit like a financial institution — pleasant but businesslike. You don’t owe someone warmth after receiving an overdue payment! That may be what she’s trying to buy from you.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I went to my sister’s house for her birthday dinner. Her cheating husband took that opportunity to present her with a small new car stowed in the garage. He tried to make a big deal of his gift, but we sisters know he got caught with another woman recently. His wife’s smile didn’t exactly reach her eyes. He remarked to me later, “I didn’t get much of a thank you from her!”

I just looked at him and raised my eyebrows as if to say, “What did you expect?” Today he phoned me for the second time to “have a talk” and I refused to engage. Should I tell my sister he’s doing this?

— Feeling Weird, Fort Whyte

Dear Feeling Weird: Of course, you should tell your sister! Her cheating husband is trying to get you on his side to put in a good word on his behalf. Stop taking his calls altogether and tell your sister why. Let her know you are solidly on her side.

More than verbal backup, your sister may need a way out — a decent job that will support her and any kids, or some money to get her a lawyer. Talk it over with the family and see what you can come up with for practical help, as well as sympathy.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I’m a shy guy in high school, but I got in shape and became a lot better looking over the summer. I have two girls calling me since school started. I like them both, but I don’t want to “do anything” with either. I obviously don’t know how to talk to girls who are chasing me. One of them said she doesn’t want a relationship, but she’d like to come over and “see” me. Does that mean what I think it means? Please help.

— Inexperienced Guy, south Winnipeg

Dear Inexperienced: Her comment could be an invitation to just hang out together, or even to mess around a bit, or to actually have sex. Learn to ask direct questions if someone seems to be on the make. In this case, you could have asked her outright, “Does that mean what it sounds like?” and see what she had to say.

If she was suggesting you fool around, then say, “Whoa, it’s a bit early. I don’t really know you, but we could start out by being friends.” That way you haven’t been mean or rude, but you also haven’t said OK to fooling around or having full-on sex with her.

Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] or Miss Lonelyhearts c/o the Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6.

Maureen Scurfield

Maureen Scurfield
Advice columnist

Maureen Scurfield writes the Miss Lonelyhearts advice column.

Miss Lonelyhearts