Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm a Ph.D. student and a single mom by choice. While I was pregnant, I developed a friendship with the administrative assistant for my department, who is about 10 years my senior. "Lina" was seeking to adopt as a single woman, and we bonded over becoming mothers. We shopped for baby stuff together. I helped her put together her adoption booklet. She was my labor coach, attending the class with me and everything. Two weeks before I delivered, Lina called to inform me that she no longer wanted to be my friend. She said she would not attend my birth and offered me no reason.
She was nasty after that, even professionally. Still, when other women in my department threw her a shower after her adoption went through, I purchased a gift and attended. I have no desire to be friends again, but more than a year later I find myself still hurt by Lina's abandonment. I also dread running into her. I tend not to have many close friends. So the loss of a friendship leaves a gap in my support system. Is my hurt disproportionate to the relationship, or am I justified?
Still Reeling From Being Dumped With No Explanation
You have absolutely no clue as to what Lina is angry about? Really? With the exception of a few psychos in desperate need of therapy, most people don't turn on each other in the middle of a thriving friendship without some grievance in mind. They slip away, yes, but they rarely scorch earth, as your friend Lina has done. Since you say you've given up any hope of rekindling the friendship, I see no downside to sending her a letter or e-mail, asking for an explanation. Tell her that you accept that the friendship is over, but, for the sake of resolution, you'd like to know what you did that was so terrible.
It seems to me that what you're suffering from, along with the loss of a friendship, is a lack of information to process. Maybe if you hear Lina's side of the story, you'll be better able to move on. Either you'll find her rejection completely unjustified, or you'll have an "Oh, shit" moment and see where you went awry. Perhaps she's super-sensitive on the adoption front, and you made some remark implying that biological children were in some way superior to nonbiological ones.
In the meantime, mazel tov on the new baby. And until you hear more, please stop being so nice and understanding! Lina didn't show you the courtesy of explaining where she was coming from. I can't imagine why you felt compelled to show up at her shower and watch her "ooh" and "aah" over stuffed animals for a baby you weren't going to meet.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe:
For the last few months, I've been dating a guy, "Ben," whom I met through a close friend, "Norah." I like my guy and I like my friend. But a problem arises when we all hang out together. Norah really likes male attention. And when the three of us are together, I can barely get a word in edgewise. What's more, a lot of what she says to Ben is flirty or sexual in nature—innuendos directed at him, dirty jokes—that type of thing. It's not my way of communicating, so I often end up sitting back and letting her take over the conversation. But then I feel jealous that she's flirting with my boyfriend.
I should add that I don't think Norah is actually interested in Ben. She's known him for several years and never tried to date him. But I do think she feels very comfortable around him, and that's part of why she acts like she does. Ben doesn't reciprocate very much, but he does laugh at her jokes.
Should I bring the matter up with her? I don't think she realizes she's being inappropriate. I worry she'll be offended and defensive if I say something. I'm also not sure if it's worth ruining a friendship over. But I no longer feel comfortable when it's just the three of us.
Help—My Matchmaker Is Flirting With My Set-Up
You say you don't think Norah is actually interested in Ben. But you don't say if you think or suspect that Ben is interested in her. This would seem to me to be the crux of the matter. He laughs at her jokes, fine. (Who doesn't love the occasional "cum again" joke?) But does he laugh so hard he falls into her lap? My instinct would actually be to bring the matter up with your boyfriend instead of your matchmaker.
Tell him you're not normally a jealous type. But lately you've been feeling threatened by the camaraderie on display when he's with Norah. If he assures you that there's absolutely nothing between them—and you believe him—drop it. At the very least, you'll put a bug in his ear regarding your sensitivity on the matter. Maybe next time she starts up about penises and vaginas, he'll laugh a little bit less hard. Alternately, you could come back with a dumb joke of your own like, "Hey, can we keep it G-rated tonight? I've got a headache."
Assuming she means no harm, I think you're right that Norah will grow defensive and uncomfortable if you accuse her of flirting with Ben. In short, I wouldn't go there unless you have to. (You'll know if it comes to that.)
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I don't mind giving my friends advice, and I even have a knack for it. My problem is that some of my friends, especially my friend "Alice," can't seem to do anything without consulting me. Alice has asked me for advice on every single little thing, from "I ate guacamole and my mouth tastes oniony—help!" to actually asking me to type out a paragraph-long e-mail on her behalf because she didn't know what to say to a guy who had been annoying her. I've tried just refusing to give advice; I've told Alice I am tired or busy, but this upsets her. It's starting to become emotionally draining. How can I get her to make her own decisions without losing her friendship?
I'm Not Dear Abby
As someone who answers problems professionally, I have to say I find it vaguely cathartic dealing with other people's problems (versus dealing with my own). On the other hand, I might feel differently if any of the people who write to me (no offense) had my telephone number and called on an hourly basis to complain about their man/mother-in-law/stinky-breath problems. My advice would be to treat all of Alice's requests for assistance in the manner of general practitioner writing up referrals for medical specialists. If she wants her toenails cut, e-mail her the address and number of a great new pedicurist. If she's having family drama or relationship problems, send her to Slate's own Dear Prudence. Bad-breath remedies? Refer her to "let me Google that for you." Eventually, Alice will get the hint. Assuming you have caller I.D., you could also turn her helplessness into a joke and answer the phone, "Dear Abby." A final note: Alice is clearly a deeply insecure individual who believes you're the cat's pajamas—if not God. Whatever you do, treat her gently.
Friend or Foe