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WIBU to lie to my penfriend?

(22 Posts)
ItWasABoojum Fri 14-Oct-11 11:54:26

My first AIBU - I'll try to keep it as short as possible without drip feeding.

I write to somebody on death row in the US. We've been corresponding for just over 2 years now, and we're very close. He has no family so I'm pretty much his only contact in the outside world.

A while ago I was signed off my uni course with severe depression that totally floored me. I ended up being off for several months. During that time I was in no state to write, and I also had to move house so he couldn't get in touch with me. I finally wrote back, apologised unreservedly - he had been very upset and worried about me but accepted my apology and we moved on.

Now I'm back at work and while I know it's been the right decision, it's left me exhausted and really struggling to get back into a routine. For that reason writing took a back seat again, and it was longer than it would have been before I managed to send a letter. I did send one, though, and he'll now have received it.

However, we crossed letters. I've had one from him again expressing worry (and annoyance, but mostly worry) - he's had a really tough time and not hearing from me has added to his stress. sad

I'm considering whether it might be fair in my next letter to express surprise that he didn't get the postcard I sent apologising for the delay and letting him know I'd be back in touch soon. Except there was no postcard.

On the one hand, believing that something got lost in the post would make him happy that I'd been thinking of him and that our correspondence meant a lot to me (which it genuinely does!). On the other, he's been lied to and messed around enough already and I'd feel incredibly guilty not being straight with him. Either way, this is about making him feel better, not assuaging my guilt.

WWYD? I'd like honest opinions, but please don't come on just to tell me what a shit friend I've been - I know that already.

ZZZenAgain Fri 14-Oct-11 11:56:37

I wouldn't bother lying abouit sending him a postcard. Why would it not have reached him when the other post always has for 2 years? He has your last letter now and he will respond to that.

ItWasABoojum Fri 14-Oct-11 12:24:03

Thanks ZZZenAgain - you're probably right. I'm a crap lier anyway, mostly because I'm usually so against it.

PetiteRaleuse Fri 14-Oct-11 12:32:24

No need to lie to him, just explain. It's true that these writing relationships become very important to the death row risoners. I used to write to one myself until he, well, got what he'd gone in for.

Often you really are the one person they can talk to about anything and they come to depend on that.

Glad to hear you're doing this though - I think working with prisoners is win win. Both parties get a lot out of it.

aldiwhore Fri 14-Oct-11 12:34:39

Be honest, apologise and carry on.

Though its not for me, you have undertaken a responsibility. Sometimes you won't be able to live up to that responsibility, sometimes it will have to take a back seat, but because you HAVE that responsibility, you owe it to the recipient to be honest.

Sorry you've had such a shit time of things, and hope you feel better soon.

You're not a shit friend, but you do need to be honest, friendship is a two way street.

plupervert Fri 14-Oct-11 13:11:36

Cross-posting a bit with aldiwhore, but I think it could be healthy for your "relationship" if you told him a bit about your problems. I know death row sounds a strange place for rehabilitation, but if he does some listening, after all the talking, isn't that a positive thing?

Naturally, you will have been taught what to keep secret from a prisoner pen-friend, but here you are on MN, after all: you evidently have some idea of how to share things with not-necessarily-well-disposed strangers, without being burned.

GHAHSTLYGHOULYpants Fri 14-Oct-11 13:15:21

Is it time to stop the contact? Or is it time to share something of yourself and explain that there might be times where you wont be able to write as often?

Only you can answer those questions, but from your OP it seems like they both need consideration.

Seabird72 Fri 14-Oct-11 14:54:47

Chances are he has other penfriends he doesn't tell you about but it is frustrating to not hear from people for ages, especially if you know they've been unwell and you do worry about them no matter what your situation. A postcard might not have been a bad idea - quick rushed postcards to show him you're still thinking of him. It's hard to stay on top of things at times and made easier for people with things like Facebook but I don't think prisoners have access to things like that anyway so next time you're feeling unable to correspond as you would like - send him a postcard or notecard just to warn him he might not hear from you for a while - that is unless you decide that worrying about him is adding to your stress.

switchtvoffdosomelessboring Fri 14-Oct-11 15:21:07

Sorry but I can't feel sorry for a death row prisoner, particularly if he sent a letter being annoyed at you for not writing!

He's not in their for dropping litter.

PetiteRaleuse Fri 14-Oct-11 15:24:10

I don't think anyone is really suggesting sympathy - but a little empathy goes a long way with prisoners.

Rhinestone Fri 14-Oct-11 15:26:24

Agree with SOTVDSLB - can't see how you owe this man any apology or explanation at all. He should consider himself lucky that someone is showing him more compassion than he showed his victim[s].

By the way, I'm anti-death penalty but this doesn't actually extend to feeling particularly sorry for them.

switchtvoffdosomelessboring Fri 14-Oct-11 15:28:39

I wonder petiteraleuse if he extended that same empathy to his victims.

WilsonFrickett Fri 14-Oct-11 15:33:54

I think some of those comments are really off actually. Fair enough, few of us may choose to write to prisoner in this way, but the OP did and she therefore has made a committment. She hasn't said 'WIBU to write to a prisoner'.

OP I don't think you should lie because I don't think you would be comfortable with that. I take it you're not allowed to share too much of your life, can you say 'I've been ill and it's taken me a long time to get back on top of work, sorry if I've been irregular?' and then send him the odd postcard when it does feel too much for you?

ItWasABoojum Fri 14-Oct-11 15:44:24

Thanks everyone for the helpful advice - so that's a unanimous YABU then! I have shared some of my problems with him, in fact, and he's been very sympathetic (unsurprisingly, depression is something he has experience of himself) - but I think I made the mistake of thinking 'I'm better now, I'm going back to work, everything will be normal' and making promises I couldn't keep. I'll write him a nice long letter explaining where I'm coming from and get a stock of postcards to pre-address and stamp for those odd meltdown moments.

I'm not surprised to have a few of the 'how can you have any sympathy' kind of response either, and I won't get into a debate about it here - my take on it has always been that everyone deserves compassion, and if I'm in a position to offer comfort to someone in a desperate situation, I should do it.

Thanks for not flaming me, btw. thanks

switchtvoffdosomelessboring Fri 14-Oct-11 15:49:01

For me any empathy/sympathy would have ended when the OP said in her original post that her penfriend sounded annoyed at her that she hadn't wrote sooner and made her feel bad about it.

ChippingIn Fri 14-Oct-11 15:52:40

I don't think you should lie, but only because you would feel bad about it.

I spend too much time on MN and my RL emails/phone calls/letters suffer for it - it's always tempting to lie about why you haven't been in touch, but generally I just apologise for being crap!

I don't think you have made a commitment. You write to someone when you want to and he does the same. You don't sign up to write x times a month (well, I assume you don't, that would be pretty weird). You have, however, made a friendship and when you have a friend, especially one who isn't able to get out and about, or call you or drop in on you to check up on you, I do think you do owe it to them to not make them worry about you unduly however I can't quite reconcile that with someone on death row. I'm sorry, but I can't. As others have said, he's not in there for dropping litter and probably didn't show any empathy for his victims - so I guess my POV is tough fucking shit if it upsets/annoys him.

I don't understand writing to strangers on death row & forming relationships with them - why do people feel they deserve this? Why not write to lonely, elderly people who have lived decent lives?

Anyway, that's just my musings - no need to answer if you don't want to.

ChippingIn Fri 14-Oct-11 15:54:03

x-posts sorry, had to stop mid post & answer the door!

DaisyDaresYOU Fri 14-Oct-11 17:05:56

I don't understand it either chipping in.He must have done something truely awful to be on death row sad.

WhereYouLeftIt Fri 14-Oct-11 17:35:01

"he's not in there for dropping litter and probably didn't show any empathy for his victims" and similar -
The US isn't very good at only passing death sentences on those who deserve it.

OP, it may actually help your penpal if you say how difficult it has been for you of late. Someone else's problems are always good for taking your mind off your own, IYSWIM.

PetiteRaleuse Fri 14-Oct-11 19:18:05

That's a good point WhereYouLeftIt and he may want to offer some advice which is good for self-esteem.

MMMarmite Fri 14-Oct-11 20:49:49

OP, it may actually help your penpal if you say how difficult it has been for you of late. Someone else's problems are always good for taking your mind off your own, IYSWIM.
On the other hand, i imagine not many things are more difficult than being in prison on death row.

cottonreels Fri 14-Oct-11 21:02:46

I think its best to be honest to be honest smile
ChippingIn- Why not write to lonely, elderly people who have lived decent lives?

Is there an organised way of doing this do you know, Help the Aged or something? I might be interested in that.

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