Dear John: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (Like, Really Hard)

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About John Simpson,

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. His column runs regularly on


  1. I couldn’t agree less with your advice to Stranger on a Train. I don’t think he should be getting in touch with this girl at all.

    Here’s how his story reads: he was talking to a girl on a train for three hours. When he got up and left her alone, she was gone. I notice he says “gone” and not “got off the train.” He looked at her ticket, so he knew her destination – did she leave because she’d reached her stop? Or did she move to a different seat because she didn’t want to talk to him any more?

    On the available evidence, I think it might well be the latter. After all, he admits to being mistaken in this kind of thing before, and I’m wary of anyone who declares himself to be in love after knowing someone for only three hours. If she wanted to get in touch with him, and he happened to be gone when the train reached her stop, she could easily have left a note with her mobile number or something like that – but she didn’t.

    Also, when I’m travelling alone and a guy starts talking to me, I am intently aware of how much personal information I’m giving away, for reasons of personal safety; if Stranger was less of a good guy, his knowing her full name could be dangerous to her. I’m betting she knows she didn’t tell him her surname.

    I imagine he probably is going to contact her, and little harm done, since, as you say, it’s facebook and therefore relatively non-intrusive. But I also imagine she’s probably going to pretend she never got his message – and will leave the whole experience feeling intensely uncomfortable that he tracked her down in this way.

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