There's always a story and I'll start like this:
If an adult speaks in an authoritative voice my first instinct is to buckle under. Might have something to do with why most of my opions get stuck in the back of my throat right up until I'm experiencing frontal assault. Up until fairly recently I've also been prime meat for predators given my innate inability to establish and defend my own boundaries. That's changed slowly over the last four years but it doesn't mean I don't have my heart in my throat and my stomach all clenched because in my secret little girl heart I believe I might not have a right or my judgment might seriously be in question.
Until it comes to my kid. Well, even then I question myself or I'm scared but the worst thing that's going to happen is I'm going to come out swinging a bit too hard and that might have repercussions... and never mind, things have to be handled anyway.
I'm being vague but I wanted to make a point up front.
And maybe you've done enough digging to have found me here and you're reading this in which case you deserve everything you're about to read, you little freak. The email I'm still composing in my head is going to be a lot nicer although it will be crystal clear.
Back in November at the Thanksgiving Contra I met a man and his wife on the way out the door and he talked my ear off. I had trouble getting out the door. I have difficulty breaking off conversation with people who talk my ear off especially if they are charming, but I don't like to be rude even if my feet hurt, I'm exhausted beyond belief and my almost 11 year old is falling down tired. Eventually I got out of there. Turns out the man was married to the long time childhood friend of one of the committee members. I like her, the committee member, very much. I do trust her judgment although we are about to have what's probably going to be a difficult conversation. A little while after the dance I received an email explaining the relationship and asking if she could give the man my email address because he'd asked for it because he wanted to write Elizabeth a piece of music because he'd been very taken with her.
Elizabeth is very polite with strangers. Actually, outside the home Elizabeth is very polite with everyone. At home Elizabeth is 11. My friend explained that the man is very talented and had written a piece of music for her and her husband although they only had it in sheet music and had never heard it played since neither of them played an instrument. I said, 'sure, give him my email. Elizabeth has taken up the violin and Cletus and Numbah One Son play enough assorted instruments between them they'll work something out'.
A few days later I received a slightly over the top email intended to flatter which left me just a little uncomfortable but without anything I could really pin down. In retrospect I can dissect it sentence by sentence and if I sent it to Elizabeth's father at this point the top of his head would come off. The one thing he did do was ask permission and clearly indicate an acceptance of parent/child boundaries. OK, what have I possibly got other than a slightly uncomfortable feeling? Accept the gift. It's a piece of music called Whirling Elizabeth. Fine.
About four weeks later, exactly 11 days into my new job (when I would have been as underwater as possible) a piece of music arrived in my email box. It was well composed, well played and short. Very nice. The email itself was WAY over the top. On the other hand he wrote a piece of music for my daughter. He wrote that he dreamed about us. OK. He's weird but he's got to be harmless. He's the husband of my friend's friend and she's known him forever. Fine. He wants to be friends. He's provided his contact information. OK, I'll reciprocate. Not a problem.
I don't remember if I forwarded the entire email to Elizabeth's father. My guess is I did not. Red flag. I did send the music. I also responded to the email with a reasonable amount of information but not too much. He asked for recent photographs. I assumed he was making something for her. What I failed to process was that he'd already found pictures that were maybe too old or didn't work for him. He found these where, exactly? I was overloaded with work at the time and didn't make much of it.
Two packages arrived. They had nothing to do with Elizabeth. They were two books of poetry and something slightly biographical he'd written. The right thing to do was sit down and immediately compose two thank you letters and get them in the mail ASAP. We did so. ASAP. Elizabeth also wrote a poem in response to the book of poetry. In retrospect I wish she hadn't. At that point the responses should have reverted to doing what was exactly polite and correct. The email response was entirely over the top. OK fine, the guy really is out there. He mentioned having a meal together. Something about Prague, uh, we aren't travelling. He mentioned a home cooked meal but that was a problem since he was a house guest on this next visit East. My immediate response was (my inside voice), not my house, buddy. I let it go.
And then the email again, and then the phone call that was sent to voicemail the Saturday I slept off the 70 hour week. And then the next email and then finally the slightly petulant email that suggested, you really are busy (no shit. how many times do I have to say that?). And then the suggestion of a meal. What day will work for you? I was clear that Saturday would not but sometime Sunday would be fine. Sunday sounded like it would do if it had to. Something is definitely off now but this is no longer my problem; I have entirely reverted to polite and correct at this point. I still haven't processed that this is an invitation to dinner. I have processed that this is a suggestion that we meet and have dinner. There is a world of difference.
At the Saturday dance he and his wife arrived. He wanted to pin down a time and a place claiming no local knowledge. Bullshit. Your wife grew up here and you've been visiting for 27 years. That's when the shoes started to drop. He'd googled my address and knew exactly where I lived. He'd googled a number of things and seemed to have far more information than I'd provided. I wracked my brain trying to figure out what I'd put in those email communications. He didn't seem to have any compunction at all about telling me he'd done these things. On the contrary he was rather proud of himself. I was starting to feel stalked and a little afraid of what a meal alone with him might be like. I asked my friend if she and her husband would join us. After some hesitation and picking the right spot they agreed.
He wasn't pleased but there really wasn't any way out.
Dinner was strained. His attempts to dominate the conversation were thwarted. By me. I wasn't willing to tolerate it. In retrospect it would have been better if I'd allowed it. He was left to speak with Elizabeth which he did at great length. Through the entire two plus hours my friend's husband didn't say a word. And then the bill came. My friend, his wife and I each reached for the bill in order to split it three ways. He reached out and grabbed it. This was to be Elizabeth's meal and he was going to pay the bill. He glanced at the bill and laughed off the cost. I was uncomfortable and about to put my foot down when my friend simply accepted it. Again, in retrospect I wonder if it just wasn't worth the fight. I told him that it was very unexpected. He said, I'd make it up to him by buying the next meal. Or he'd come to my house and cook it for me.
What. The. Hell.
Oh. Also, during the meal he informs me that my phone is still in my ex-husband's name (me and the cable company, don't ask). And he knows this HOW?! Well, I know exactly how he knows this. A reverse look up. And he did this exactly WHY? Well, because you can find out all sorts of information about a person and who they're related to and who lives in the household when you do a reverse look up.
More email. I didn't read it right away. I read it two nights ago. Oh Shit. Elizabeth, he tells me, is sad because she is latchkey. He wants to come over and keep her company when he is back in April. He wants a number of other things. Oh dear god. I sent the email to Elizabeth's father who rightfully loses his mind. There is one other thing in his attack on my parenting skills (there was more, it wasn't just the latchkey business). At dinner he gave her a small object. It was something he made, possibly a carving or something out of clay and then cast into plastic. I probably saw it at the restaurant when we were leaving but didn't ask to see it until we got home. He mentioned that on Monday he heard that I'd been harsh in my questioning.
Is the hair standing up on the back of your neck?
Before I go further, he has googled Elizabeth's father and wants to talk to him too. He has way too much information. He has attacked my childhood and both of my parents. He has accused my parents of ruining my life. He has accused my parents of spending the seventies stoned out of their minds (this at dinner). That's probably the point where I started taking his head off. He has accused me of being destroyed by my job (and then immediately accused his wife of the same thing). He has accused my parents of treating me as an object. I haven't actually said anything about my parents; I've mentioned that I, like a good part of my generation was raised in the school of benign neglect and therefore have overcompensated by overprotecting my children thus rendering them somewhat incapable of managing in adult situations where they really need to manage. Therefore I was chattel and my parents were stoned and boy is he bitter. And boy is he right. And boy is he pissed at me. And he's pissed as hell at his wife too publicly enough to be truly uncomfortable.
Is the hair standing up on the back of your neck?
I waited for Elizabeth's father to arrive at the house before we sat her down and asked if he'd contacted her directly. We didn't know how much to tell her. What to say to keep her safe? The balance between safe and scared - what is it? Where is it? What do we do?
Well, at dinner he asked for and she gave him her email address.
HE DID WHAT?!!!
Well, and she gave it to him. He's a family friend, right? Of course she did.
And he sent her an email. And I had no idea. She thought she was in trouble for not having responded yet. No, you are not in trouble. Show me the email. Send me the email. Delete the email.
Elizabeth's dad has googled him as well. He is not on the national sex offender's registry. Well, there is that. He is a stalker of sorts though. He is a predator. In the email he sent to Elizabeth I am refered to by my first name, not 'your mother'.
I don't know about you but the hair is standing up on the back of my neck.
All pretense of boundaries is gone.
His intention was to ship a package of 'antiquities' to Elizabeth yesterday that he would collect in April when he returns.
We've had a hard time explaining exactly what he's done wrong to Elizabeth. We were too worried about scaring her. She kept going back to, but I like him. Last night I sat her down and repeated parts of the email including the judgment about her unhappiness and his intention to come to our house after school. She was outraged. She stood up and pointed at Simon and said in a voice I've never heard before:
See my Saint Bernard? I don't THINK so!
I should explain about the unhappiness statement. First, her response was, 'I'm not unhappy. Why does he think I'm unhappy?' My response was, 'because you're latchkey'. Hers was, 'I like it here alone and it isn't for very long'. The truth is that in the January communication I mentioned that Numbah One Son came to her birthday dance because Nomans blew her off and that her sadness at that time was epic. I was talking about my children in general. He extrapolated the word sad to unhappy and applied it where it suited him. I didn't bother to tell her that. Why pick at scabs?
I don't know whether or not I'm going to have to kill her yahoo account. Probably we will. For now I've synced it with my crackberry so that all of her email will show up. We've talked about why and my respect for her privacy versus my need to keep her safe. All email that comes in will be instantly deleted, unread, from my phone (not her inbox) unless it comes from him.
Now she is scared. I am sorry for that but I need her to be safe.
Safe from what, exactly?
There are all sorts of predators. Yesterday she got her first lesson in the many different flavors and the way they work.
Do I think he'd snatch her? Do I think he'd lay hands on her? Probably not. Lay hands on her mind in a way that is entirely inappropriate and will eventually be damaging? He's already done that.
I don't know the percentage exactly but you hear in the news when children go missing or are abused that often as not it turns out to be a family member or family friend. Someone you trust, or maybe you don't trust. Maybe you know perfectly well this person is just a little bit off or WAY the hell off but because they are a family member or a family friend they have diplomatic immunity.
I don't think so.
The friendship which was assumed, let's call it an assumptive close, which was really only an acquaintance is about to be severed entirely and in a way that leaves fingers slammed in the door.