DEAR HARRIETTE: A man approached me while I was sitting outside at the public library. He sat down next to me and started to talk to me. A few minutes into the conversation, I began to feel uncomfortable. I started to pack up my books to make it clear I was leaving. There was no one else in sight, which made me feel even more nervous.
As I was getting up to leave, this man asked me for my number. I gave him a fake number, so when he called it, it did not go through to my phone. He accused me of giving him the wrong number and would not let me leave. I gave him my real number, and he harassed me over text until I blocked him. I have not told anyone, but I am nervous he is secretly following me. Should I tell someone? -- Stalkerdude, Santa Rosa, California
DEAR STALKERDUDE: I’m so sorry that you were intimidated into giving any number at all. You should have gotten up and gone back into the library as soon as you felt uncomfortable so that you would not be in a vulnerable place.
What you can do now is report this man to the police. Show the texts to prove how this man has been approaching you. Explain the whole situation, and tell the police that you feel unsafe. Ultimately, you may need to change your phone number. In the future, never give your phone number to someone who is trying to intimidate you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends is having a lot of trouble at home lately. Her sister is in rehab, and her mom just had preventive breast-cancer surgery. She does not know that I know any of this because she has not felt comfortable telling any of our friends. I think she thinks that we will judge her or think of her family differently, but that is not the case. I want to be there for her and help her, but I can’t because I am not supposed to know about any of these problems. How can I be there for her and support her when I have to act like I know nothing? -- True Star, Reno, Nevada
DEAR TRUE STAR: This may be a time to reveal what you know -- incrementally. You might approach your best friend by saying that you know she has been going through a lot lately, and you want to be there to support her. While you do not need to know the details of her family’s issues, you do want to help support her in whatever ways you can. Tell her that if she needs a sounding board, you are ready to listen. If she wants to escape and go do something fun, just give you a call. Make it clear that you aren’t interested in getting into her personal business. You just want to be a helpful friend.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)