Do I tell her parents she’s a party animal?

I’m 64, and for the last few years, since my husband died, I’ve taken in a student, each year, as a lodger.

The first year I had a young man who played a lot of sports, and the laundry he created, and the amount he ate, made me wonder whether I could ever make any profit. Then I had a girl who cried all the time. Finally, she left her course early and went back home. Last year I had a young man from overseas who was wonderful in every way, and helped me out with the handyman things that my husband used to do.

It was his final year on his medical course, but he was so lovely that he set my mind totally at rest, and I decided that being a landlady could be an absolute pleasure. This year, though, I have a different problem.

On this young man’s recommendation, his family and I decided that I should accommodate his young sister who was coming to the UK to study law. She appeared very quiet and very submissive. Her parents, who I’d met before, were by now old friends, and they’ve trusted me totally. The girl seemed ideal.

She wore the veil and the hijab and in the presence of her parents hardly spoke at all. But once they’d returned to their country (her brother had returned too) it was clear that this young lady was far from what she appeared to be. The veil and hijab were dumped, almost before their plane had left the runway. She complained to me about having to appear submissive, and I understood that she wanted to enjoy her university course to the full. She could, and can, twist me round her little finger.

She confides in me, helps with the housework and the shopping and washing, and is a brilliant cook. She also dresses in next to nothing, drinks heavily, and regularly brings boys back to the flat. She’s in her own words, a ‘party animal’.

I can see why she feels that she wants to find her own feet and do her own thing, and during our long chat sessions, in which she calls me ‘nana’ as her brother used to, she’s very honest, and emotional, but quite insistent, in her own way.

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She doesn’t want me to tell her parents what she’s up to. I know she’s on the Pill. I know she’s got a different man every month or so. And when her parents visit, on go the hijab and veil, and she’s the daughter of their dreams.

I care about her so much, and I know she’s a very clever girl who knows what she’s doing. But my question is – do I tell her parents that she’s putting on an act for them, or do I turn a blind eye? It’s bothering me. They pay me well to look after her.

Barbara says: Phew, that’s difficult! Where you may be going wrong is that you’ve asked me this question. You really need to ask her this question. She needs to know that she’s asking too much of you. Does she understand this? She’s put you in an almost impossible position. She doesn’t seem to be ‘getting’ that. And her behaviour isn’t just clear to you. It’ll be clear to all her friends. Someday, someone will say something in front of her parents, and you’ll be blamed.

Talk this over with her, and if you don’t get anywhere, talk it over with the Student Welfare Department. Someone really does need to know that you’re doing your best, in very difficult circumstances.