DEAR PRUDENCE: Recently I decided to get a job teaching English abroad. I felt fortunate to get hired exactly where I wanted to go and am now happily living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The problem is my parents. I knew they would be appalled at the idea of their young daughter going to live in the Middle East, even in a relatively safe place like Dubai. So... I told them I had accepted a job in Tokyo. I've been living in Dubai for eight months, and as far as I know they haven't caught on. I've made up stories about struggling with sushi and the Japanese language and even spent a fair amount of time learning about Japan to make my lie more believable. My parents don't use social media, so there isn't much danger of them finding out via that route. I love my life here in Dubai and would like to renew my contract, but I feel awful for lying to them! I also feel awful imagining how they will feel if they ever find out the truth. Please help me figure out what to do that will hurt my parents (and me!) the least.
--AN AMERICAN ABROAD
DEAR AMERICAN ABROAD: Oh, wow. First and foremost, I'm so impressed by your ability to sustain a lie of this magnitude for over half a year. This was sort of a plot on Friends, but you're pulling it off in real life.
You've probably considered your options, but let's lay them out. You can spend your life hoping they never find out. You'll periodically make up facts about Tokyo and feign a familiarity with the Japanese language you do not actually possess. If your parents ever introduce you to a Japanese-speaking person, you will be sunk. This will be a lot of work and a lot of stress, probably for nothing; they'll almost certainly find out somehow, at some point. They'll be mad at you, and you'll fight, and they'll do whatever it is that they do when they get mad at you.
Or you can tell them and save yourself years of stress every time you pass a sushi restaurant. You'll have to have a lot of difficult conversations in your life, and you won't be able to get out of them by pretending to move to Japan. That can't work more than once or twice.
So: Should you tell them while you're still abroad in Dubai, or wait until you come home? My vote is to do it now, while you're still overseas and thus harder to yell at. (I'm afraid you are going to get yelled at. That can't be helped.) There's not much to say beyond, "Mom and Dad, I told you a stupid lie because I couldn't handle the thought of your getting mad at me, and it's gone on for too long, and I have to tell you the truth."
Tell them you're not in Tokyo, get yelled at, renew your contract, enjoy Dubai and the peaceful sleep of the honest, and learn to face your parents' wrath head on in the future. The good news: This has to be the maddest they'll ever get at you. After this, everything they get mad about will feel like nothing.