Online friends aren’t always as they appear

Published 11:38 am Monday, May 8, 2023

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Dear Aunty Pam,


I have a dear friend that I met online years ago. We have always had similar interests, such as painting and crafts, and we met on a FB page that was created for such things. ‘Ellen’ lives in California and we have become such good friends that when she invited me out for a week’s vacation, I eagerly accepted.

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The plan was to stay at her home and do day trips. The first day, Beverly Hills, the second day, Malibu, and so on. 

Well, when I arrived at her house, it looked cute from the outside on a nice, residential street. When she opened the door I was horrified. It was clear Ellen was a hoarder and the rooms were completely cluttered and disgustingly dirty. The carpet looked like it hadn’t been vacuumed in months, and the kitchen and stovetop were filthy, with the trash overflowing. The bathroom literally made me gag. I didn’t even want to step into the shower. 

Worst of all, when she showed me to the guest room, it was obvious that the sheets had not been changed—there were make-up stains on the pillowcases!! I was so horrified I slept on a towel that I wasn’t even sure if it was washed.

Obviously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Today, Ellen emailed to say she would love to visit me as she’s flying across the country to see a relative in Charlotte, and asked if I’d ‘reciprocate the hospitality’ she showed to me when she invited me out. I keep my house nice and neat. I wouldn’t mind having her spend a few days with me, I’m just getting a really weird feeling about it all. Is it selfish or petty to try to weasel out of it?





Dear Barbara,


Not only are you not being selfish, but judging from the cold chill I got from reading your letter, I think you’re showing instinctive self-preservation. Nothing about Ellen sounds functional. 

The thing about FB, or dating sites, is that you never truly know how a person really behaves. When writing back and forth, someone can effectively hide behind an identity that they have created. 

As we know, hoarding is a form of mental illness, and because I’m not qualified to speak about it, I went to the Google machine and pulled up the Cleveland Clinic. It states, “While hoarding disorder is classified as being part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum, which is an anxiety disorder, hoarding disorder is a distinct condition.” 

The good news is that, with therapy, Ellen could be greatly helped, even cured, of hoarding, but that’s up to Ellen and not you. The living in filth might or might not be connected to that, and you have my sympathy—that must have been nauseating and frankly, frightening.

All of this is trumped by her recent email essentially inviting herself over to stay with you and actually writing if you would ‘consider reciprocating the hospitality…’ Who does that?? It feels controlling as it immediately attempts to put you on the defense, with a dash of guilt thrown into the pot. The whole thing culminates into a bright red, neon sign blinking… ‘DON’T LET HER NEAR YOUR HOUSE.’ 

Normally, Aunty Pam is all about telling the truth, however, in this case, you’re going to need to do whatever it takes to avoid her. Maybe say the house is being painted but you’re happy to put her up in a hotel if you do actually want to see her. But honestly, Barb, I’d give Ellen a wide berth. 


Cheers, dear!

Aunty Pam