I am a photographer and was asked by a friend of my mother's to do a photo project. She asked me whether I could take pictures of her demonstrating various ways of committing suicide in black and white, then paint red blood on the prints afterward. I know that this woman has had problems with depression in the past. My mom is her very close friend, and she asked me not to tell my mother about the project. She said this project is to help her work through some issues. Do I do it? Do I tell my mother about this in case her friend is seriously contemplating suicide? Do you think presenting her with images of her own fake suicide will encourage or discourage suicidal thoughts?
—To Shoot or Not To Shoot
Dear To Shoot,
This woman could have gone to a photographer she doesn't know and explained she's taking a conceptual art class on taboo breaking. Instead, she came to the child of her close friend with this macabre project. This is what's known as "a cry for help." It is a sign of how confused her psychological state is that she would involve a young person toward whom she should have some motherly feelings in this disturbing enterprise. If a chronically depressed person wants to rehearse and record various methods of killing herself, then she needs immediate intervention, because her actions are shrieking that she's a suicide risk. You must tell your mother, and your mother should call her friend's therapist. If her friend doesn't have one, your mother should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) for advice on getting her friend some help. Do not feel guilty about telling this secret—that's a burden you should not keep.
I had been dating the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with for almost two years when his ex-wife told him she was dying of cancer and that he should come back to be with her and their son. She put so much guilt on him that he would hardly talk to me. Then one day she called to tell me they were getting back together! He never had the nerve to tell me. I was devastated and could hardly function for months. It takes too much effort to be mad, so I told him that I forgave him and I hoped he and his son were happy. A month ago, I encountered someone I had known 20 years ago in high school. He is a wonderful person, and I can imagine a future with him. We have been inseparable. The kicker is that now the man who dumped me realizes that he made a huge mistake because he found out that the ex is not dying—it's just more of her lies and manipulation. I love him more than anything, but I just don't know if I can risk being hurt like that again. Do I go back to him or stay with the new man, who is not the type ever to hurt anyone?
—Back or Forth
You might want to consider sending a big bouquet to your ex's ex, since she saved you from life with a weak weasel. It is possible to have some sympathy for someone who breaks off a current relationship to go back to a dying former wife, but if she's a well-known manipulator, it would be a good idea to see an x-ray of the tumor before heading home. Every time you consider resuming a relationship with this guy, try recalling the miserable, cowardly way he treated you. You, however, behaved magnanimously, and maybe that's why the gods of romance have shined down on you and brought you this lovely man from your past. You're still emotionally vulnerable, so I suggest you take it slow and steady with your high-school guy—he may be everything you say, but you may be prone to idealizing your beaux. And when your ex begs your forgiveness, remind him you've already forgiven him once, and once was enough.