Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I had a disastrous year last year. I married too quickly someone I met
on the internet. I quit a great job and relocated to another city. All of
course with great fanfare because who does not wish a 50-year old
woman well after she has been single for fifteen years. He turned to be
an abuser who raided my savings account and almost drove me to the
loony bin. I moved back home but have barely been out of my rental
(a secluded cottage on the property of a close friend). I’ve lost twenty
pounds, look like crap, and am still very afraid of trusting anyone,
especially my own instincts. I have very tentatively begun to contact
people, very much motivated by the need to find a job. But even my
counselor agrees that I am probably not ready to rejoin society until I
stop shaking at loud noises. Do you have any good advice about how
to answer people who greet me delighted to see me, take in my
condition, and expect me to tell them the story?


Dear Lost:

Your situation calls for a two-pronged approach: verbal and non-
verbal. For people you genuinely care about, tell them the truth, either
in person or on the phone. Not the so-help- me-God truth with all the
gory details, but the general truth in a way that they feel included in
your process and compassionate about your situation. You’ll know
what boundaries to set after you do this a few times. The risk is that
you spill too much and people pass on the details, so I’d encourage
that you use your vulnerability and let them see fragility and tears,
more than too many words. That’ll engage most people’s desire to help
and quell their desire to gossip.

For others, print up the equivalent of a 3×5 card that you can carry
and hand people as you say: It’s been a really rough year. I don’t
want to talk about the details. Here’s the mini-summary. And on the
card have a very short list that says: I made a lousy choice too
quickly. I had a horrific experience. I am trying to get back on my feet.
I need help networking for a decent job. If you know of one, email me
and I’ll forward my resume. If people press for me, plead an
appointment and leave. They’ll get the hint, or should.