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Today’s Dear Abby is a keeper. The letter, from “CONCERNED IN HOUSTON”:
DEAR ABBY: My 12-year-old daughter, “Jenna,” is in the closet—-literally. About a week ago, she moved into her closet. She put her dresser in there, threw some blankets on the floor and that’s where she hangs out now. When asked why she doesn’t hang out in her room, she says, “I just like it in the closet.”Some of her girlfriends claim to be bisexual or gay. Is she telling me that she’s “in the closet” or is she messing with my mind? Some of her friends are into cutting, and Jenna seems to be curious about it. I don’t know what to make of any of this. Any advice?
I, too, am concerned.
I am concerned at the apparent expansiveness of this 12-year-old’s closet. Perhaps she is attempting to tell her mother, “If I can lug my dresser in here and I’ve still got plenty of floor space, my closet is too large.”
I am also concerned that Concerned thinks her kid’s new hang-out spot could only possibly signify: (a) an overly literal gesture of lesbianism; or (b) a mind game meant to mess with mom. (Although from where I’m standing, both of these possibilities sound kind of awesome. Kudos for creativity, Jenna!). But perhaps she just likes it in the closet.
Abigail Van Buren, for one, is concerned that Jenna does like it in the closet—-and her new hang-out spot could signify a predilection toward darkness:
DEAR CONCERNED: How close are you and your daughter? Are you the kind of mother she feels safe talking to about anything that might be troubling her?
Happy, outgoing girls don’t usually take refuge in dark, confined spaces. She may be overwhelmed or depressed, or something may be going on in Jenna’s life she needs help with but is afraid to tell you. Stay closer to your daughter for a while. If her change in behavior persists, keep probing until you find out what’s going on.
Cutting can be an attempt to mask emotional pain, and if she starts, a licensed psychotherapist should be consulted.
While I am amused at the fact that Van Buren has discarded the “secret lesbianism” possibility without discussion, I have to disagree with her assessment here. I’m not a parenting expert, but I did spend a great deal of time hanging out in my closet when I was a kid. My literal closet. I’d also build forts in my room. And in the back yard. And in the dark, confined space under the stairs. It sounds like Jenna is a kid who wants a place to herself, and “probing” her about that perfectly normal behavior will only reinforce the idea that ohmygodyouthinkeverythingIdoiswrongmomIjustLIKEITINTHECLOSETTTT! Is Jenna hanging out in closets and feeling out her sexual identity? Relax. Is she cutting? Time to get “concerned.”