Dear Friend or Foe,
My husband and I have been close friends with another couple for more than 10 years. "Dan" and "Sara" are truly great people—charming, hardworking, ethical, family-oriented. But there's this one lingering weirdness. Dan told my husband that if he hadn't met his wife, he'd have gone after me. Sara independently told me if she hadn't met her husband, she'd have tried to date mine. She also told me my husband was "hot" (which he is).
They are also seriously straight-laced, so I don't think this was actually an invitation to explore partner-swapping. But every so often, my husband or I will recall these conversations and go, "Eeewww." It just doesn't seem like the kind of thing you say to someone else, even if it's meant as a compliment. Are we off-base in being creeped out?
More Information Than We Needed
Wait, I think I saw that show: Wasn't it called Trading Spouses? This is where you and I differ: I'd be psyched if a friend said my husband was smokin'. This is, of course, assuming that the deliverer of such an opinion posed no threat to the marriage. From your letter, it sounds as if Sara falls into this category.
As for Dan's confession about secretly pining for you, I bet that your husband isn't all that bothered about it, either. Assuming he's not the jealous type, the news of Dan's long-term crush probably makes him feel even more studly than you say he is. Though I can also see why, armed with such information, you might now feel a tad self-conscious in Dan's company. To wit, if you need to blow off the good-night hugs for a while, you have my permission.
But the big picture is that these people have been your intimate friends for 10 years and are guilty only of oversharing. My advice: Feel flattered, have a sense of humor, and forget about it. If you and the hubbie can say "ew," you get a shared giggle as a side benefit.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I'm a bridesmaid in my close friend "Jill's" upcoming wedding. Although I'm not the maid of honor, I've hosted a shower for her and am responsible for organizing the bachelorette party. My main complaint is that Jill's wedding is costing me a fortune. I laid out $400 (that was my half) for the shower, my bridesmaid dress cost $150, and I have to pay for child care ($10/hr) for another four wedding-related parties within the next three weeks.
My secondary complaint is that Jill is notoriously cheap and thoughtless. As a hostess gift, I received a mug, and I don't even drink coffee! She also blew off my recent birthday. I didn't even get a text. Hers was two weeks later, and I helped her move into a new house, arrange her furniture, and hang her pictures. Plus I gave her a small combined birthday/housewarming gift. Jill has also informed me that, because of wedding costs, she can't afford a gift for my daughter's first birthday. Finally, she failed to acknowledge a request to collect money for an honorarium for a mutual friend's mother who passed away.
I'm truly happy for Jill and welcome celebrations (and I understand being cash-strapped because of a wedding). But hers is consuming all my time and money right now. I also know that she and her fiance are not destitute (he's a doctor and she's a teacher). Am I wrong to be annoyed? At this point, I am so steamed I want to drop out of the wedding!
Feeling Bankrupted on All Fronts
Let's be honest. Once you marry and have kids, weddings and their accompanying festivities kind of suck. You can't get wasted and make out with the groom's ne'er-do-well best man. You have to leave by midnight, if not before, to get home in time to put the baby-sitter in a $36 cab ride home. But we show up because the brides showed up for us, back when we, too, thought our nuptials were among the most important events in world history (along with the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall). And you should give Jill the same courtesy.
Regarding the related monetary outlay, I wonder if Jill is really one of your dearest friends. If so, I don't think she's asking a lot for you to buy a bridesmaid dress or split the cost of her shower. (Though $800 on a bridal shower sounds insane. I thought the point was to sit around someone's living room drinking margaritas and giggling about sex while the bride-to-be unwraps G-strings.) The baby-sitting is also, unfortunately, your problem. Readers may disagree, but I'm also going to argue that birthdays don't merit acknowledgment—except for the big ones—past the age of 21. If you want to celebrate Jill's birthday, that's your choice, but not a requirement. Whether Jill ponies up for an honorarium for a mutual friend's mother is really none of your business.
Where Jill crosses the line into stingy bitch terrain is in suggesting that she can't afford to buy a gift for your baby's birthday. I think you'd be within your rights—maybe wait until after the wedding?—to say that it really bummed you out that she couldn't manage a frigging sun hat/bouncy ball for your little Tamara/Tim. Especially after the effort you made and small fortune you spent in the name of her matrimonial madness. In her defense, however, mugs aren't just for coffee. Also, maybe it was a nice mug?
Friend or Foe.
Dear Friend or Foe,
Somehow I ended up completely friendless in my 40s—save one good friend who lives on the other side of the Atlantic. When I was young, I had a reasonably active social life. Now my whole life is centered on my mom, my aging aunt, and my dog. I love them all dearly, and my mother is my very best friend in the whole world. And I have always loved all the dogs in my life with a fierce passion; they are my true soul mates! But I miss friendship and conversation with people my own age, and I seem to be at a loss at cultivating them.
At my old job, I thought I had made friends with my boss and co-worker. We would share lunches and help each other out in small crises. I took care of my boss's dog while she was on vacation. I helped my co-worker out with a loan I could ill-afford and cat- and house-sat when she and her husband had a family emergency. But since I've been unemployed, neither one has called to ask how I am. Nor have they returned my phone calls. What am I doing that is so obviously wrong and that turns people away?
I try to be upbeat. I help when I can. I have my own opinions, but I don't judge others. I never make demands. Should I just give up and accept that some people are outcasts and loners? I find great solace in reading and in spending time with my dog and other animals. But I dread the thought of life without my mother. I honestly don't know how I could ever go on without her—and I'm terrified of the day she leaves me!
I'm sorry that you find yourself with such a limited circle of intimates. Though you're lucky to have such a wonderful mother—just as she's lucky to have you!—I do wonder if your all-consuming closeness to her is preventing you from branching out beyond blood lines. And no, it's not too late to branch out.
The pursuit of friendship, like the pursuit of love, is a lifelong endeavor and definitely not the privilege of the young. Since you're currently unemployed—and presumably have some free time on your hands—what about joining some kind of community organization where you might meet people of a similar age? You could also consider taking a course at a job retraining center, a step that might also lead you to new employment. A final idea: If you have a special connection to dogs, what about helping out at an animal shelter? The point is to get back in the world, because that's where new friends are met. I promise there are people out there who would be thrilled to have as kind and generous a new friend as you!
You don't explain the circumstances under which you left your last job. But hearing the story of your work friends' negligence, I immediately wondered if this boss you befriended (and now feel dumped by) was also the person responsible for laying you off. If so, it would make sense that she feels uncomfortable about pursuing a relationship outside the office. As for what you're doing wrong, from what I can gather, the only thing you're guilty of is being too nice. (There are worse things to be.)
Friend or Foe