Dear Friend or Foe,
My best-friend "Ellie" left her job late last year after she was dropped from full- to part-time status—a decision I supported. But it hasn't been easy for her: She has been nominally unemployed ever since. For my birthday early this summer, I wanted to go ballooning. In the invite I sent out, I specified that it would cost each of us $150-$200. So I understood if, for financial reasons, some people couldn't do it. Ellie replied saying that she was sorry, but she couldn't afford it.
Well, later in the summer, another friend spotted my best friend in line at the AT&T store before it opened, waiting to buy the new iPhone, which costs upward of $300. I got really upset when I found out, confronted her, and said I felt as though she'd rather have a new phone than celebrate my birthday with me. She said that it was none of my business how she spent her money. But I think she made it my business when she used money as the sole reason for saying no to my birthday idea. And I told her that. She responded that she'd dashed off the e-mail without really thinking about it. And there were other reasons. And I shouldn't take it personally.
We're OK now. But whenever I see her take out her iPhone or talk about how wonderful it is, I get a little upset. Is there anything I can do to stop? I feel like I'm being irrational.
Not as Good as an iPhone
Yes, you are being irrational. But more than irrational, you're being self-sabotaging. Create unrealistic expectations, and you'll always be disappointed (and feel rejected). Forgive me for admitting that I let out a giggle when I read the word "ballooning"—by which I assume you mean "hot-air ballooning." Let's just say that it's an "acquired taste" kind of activity. That's one way of putting it. Another would be; "I'd rather die than catapult through the sky at 30,000 feet in a flimsy wicker basket!"
Unless you travel in the multimillionaire set, $200—especially in these rough economic times—is simply too much to ask any of your buddies to spend on a birthday. Even a big birthday. It's even a lot to spend on a wedding present.
Finally, comparing a ballooning expedition to the purchase of a smartphone really is comparing apples to oranges. One involves risking your life. The other is quite literally a lifeline, especially for the unemployed, who, on a psychological level, may feel that it keeps them connected to the world and, on a practical level, need to be near their e-mail. That Ellie wanted to get the Phone of the Moment is her business. Your business is figuring out a nice way to celebrate your birthday. Next year, try a potluck dinner party at your place. You make the main course. All your friends bring the sides. I guarantee that everyone will raise a glass.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My roommate and co-worker, "Joy," recently broke into the e-mail account of her boyfriend, "Stew," who is also our co-worker. She showed me e-mails from a year ago in which he graphically described to another officemate how he wanted to have sex with me. One e-mail included projections of what I'd be like in bed. Naturally, Joy was upset.
Before this, Joy and Stew's relationship had been going really well. As her friend, I counseled that these e-mails were from before she and Stew were officially bf/gf. I also told her that there were things boys said but didn't act upon.
Privately, however, I felt upset and sexually harassed. Before this, I thought Stew was a great guy. Since seeing his e-mails, I haven't been able to look him in the eye. What's more, as my roommate's boyfriend, Stew is going to be spending time at our house. I feel he should be held accountable for his actions.
I decided to tell Joy how I felt, and she's stopped talking to me as a result. Since I want to maintain our friendship, should I forget about this and move on? Or do I have an obligation to stand up for myself and the other women in the office? (I wasn't the only female co-worker whom Stew wrote crude things about.) I suspect—and, apparently, so does Joy—that her relationship will suffer if I confront him about what I've seen. Joy confronted Stew herself and he insisted the e-mails were a joke. (And she apologized for snooping.) But she never got him to acknowledge how wrong it was to make sexual "jokes" about co-workers in the first place. I feel like he owes me an apology. Am I wrong?
Think I Deserve an Apology