Tell Me About It: She found porn of son's girlfriend

Question: My college-age son carelessly left pornographic pictures in plain view in our home. Disturbed, I explained my objections but did not specifically mention what I had seen.

Sometime later, he brought his girlfriend home to meet me. I was shocked to realize the pictures I had seen were of her. I was shocked this young woman, a star student and community leader who runs circles around my son in terms of achievement, would provide him such pictures.

I did my best to cover my surprise and be welcoming, but apparently I am not much of an actress, because both my son and his girlfriend concluded I was cold.

How can I repair my relationship with my son and his girlfriend?

Answer: Explaining to your son that you weren't being cold all those years ago, just embarrassed, might provide him with one of those moments when years' worth of odd misfires between you suddenly make total sense.

That's the argument for telling him.

The argument against: It doesn't sound as if your son has rallied to stay close to you, or lobbied his girlfriend to give you a chance.

So, does your estrangement trace solely to that "aha" moment for the ages - and his being twenty-something - or were the two of you already strained?

If there's any chance your son is maintaining an old grievance, you'll need to address that before you start playing naked-picture bingo. It's just too easy to envision your confessing about the photos, finally, only to have your son perceive it as another attack and offer it to his girlfriend as fresh grounds for offense.

Oh - and if you're still judging her? Banish that. All. Somehow.


E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.