My friend and I have been BFFs for over 40 years — since sixth grade. I spend most holidays with her family. I love being with them! The problem: Our friendship has taken a bad turn, and I’m sure that I’m the reason she’s been skipping family holidays lately. After her divorce, she jumped into internet dating. She seems to relish the trolling and catfishing online. She swears off the apps, then tells me about another terrible experience a month later. Finally, I noted that the apps seem to be an endless, negative cycle in her life. She lashed out at me for not being supportive. So, I told her to drive someone else crazy with her love life. That was two years ago, and we haven’t spoken since. I suggested to her family they tell her I won’t be coming to holidays anymore, so they can all be together again. But her family wants me there. Thoughts?
It’s pretty natural to see ourselves at the center of conflicts — even when we’re only ancillary players. (We experience the world through our own eyes, after all.) So, while I agree that your estrangement from your friend is a serious problem, it may not be her only one. If it were, you probably would have been disinvited from her family holidays by now.
I suspect your friend is having a rough time generally — not just with you. Her divorce seems to have thrown her for a loop. (Also pretty natural.) And though your assessment of her dating life may have been accurate, telling her you didn’t want to hear about it anymore — in effect, that she should solve her problems on her own — was not a super supportive move from a BFF, even though her reporting was probably really frustrating.
I would reach out to her again. Tell her you love her and miss her and want to help her if you can. This doesn’t mean signing up for litanies about her love life or telling her what to do, either. But it may involve asking her what she’s getting from the apps — other than short-term stimulation. By helping her to focus on what she really wants, as well as the obstacles in her way, she may find a more productive path — or at least return to family holidays.
Holding Your Peace About a Two-Piece
My son’s girlfriend, whom we like, has accompanied us on winter beach vacations. We’ve been going to the same small resort for years. The last few times we went, she wore a thong bathing suit that showed — well — everything. She doesn’t just wear it in the water, either. She wears it while walking and playing games without any cover-up. Whether I should be or not, I am embarrassed by this. We’re going again soon. I don’t want to shame her, but may I ask my son to suggest she wear a less revealing bathing suit?
I don’t want to shame you any more than you want to shame your son’s girlfriend. But another adult’s choice of bathing suit is none of your business. And I can’t think of a worse move for your relationship with this girlfriend than by triangulating it: sending (disapproving) messages to her through your son. Try to let this trifling issue go.
A Statute of Limitations on Chipping In
My friend celebrated a milestone birthday by inviting 20 guests to a private cooking class. There was no mention of cost on the invitation. We had a great time! But a number of us were surprised to receive an email from the guest of honor’s husband after the party, saying that in light of questions he received about costs, we could each pitch in $100 if we wanted to. The two other guests I’ve spoken to find this tacky and insulting: They would not have gone if they had known there would be a hefty price tag, and they should have been told beforehand. Are we obligated to pay?
Of course you’re not obligated to pay! Entry fees for parties (or any event) should be disclosed in advance. Still, I have a small bone to pick with you over your use of friends for cover — (potentially) ascribing your views to other people rather than just speaking your mind.
What other people think about the husband’s email has no bearing on your behavior. If a request seems off base, use your good judgment and behave accordingly. No need to crowdsource your disapproval — or, in this case, even respond to the email. The party’s over!
Extra Stuffing, Hold the Dander
Thanksgiving is nigh. I am hosting, and my younger brother just informed me that he will not come to our family dinner unless he can bring his dog — to which my 7-year-old daughter is deathly allergic. What do I do?
You safeguard your child’s health and well-being, which is your primary responsibility as a parent. I’m sorry your brother put you in this awkward position (assuming he knows about your daughter’s allergies). If you want to go the extra mile, you can explore dogsitters and kennels with him. Or you can simply say, “I’m sorry you won’t be able to join us, but as you know, your niece is severely allergic to dogs.”