Dear Friend or Foe, I'm a college senior. I have a friend—"Layla"—who doesn't seem to understand the meaning of boundaries. She interferes in my interactions with waiters, ticket sellers, professors, even my parents. She even has the unspeakable rudeness, obnoxiousness, and nerve to tell me what to eat when we are out! I'm a tad overweight, yes, but I'm an adult! And her nagging and ordering me around only make me want to eat what I've picked even more. I usually allow her to boss me around just to avoid a fight. But I once went ahead and ordered what I wanted, and she ruined my entire lunch by nagging me about it. I'd have a talk with her about all of these issues, but I know she'd never, ever see it from my point of view and will never change no matter what I say. Is this normal? Do people behave like this? Should I maintain my friendship with this woman? Sincerely,
Not Your Damn Husband
Little Miss Bossy Pants types appear as early as nursery school, telling us what games to play, where to sit, even what color to wear—or else! By adulthood, most of us have learned to stand up for ourselves and, in the process, have jettisoned those "friends" who seem to specialize in telling us how to live as opposed to helping us enjoy the living. Only you know if a part of you secretly enjoy having a "mommy" figure in your life. It sounds as if you don't anymore, if you ever did. So you have your own answer: Layla needs to shape up (and shut up) or ship out …
You don't say what outrageous declarations Layla has made to your parents and professors. ("Mr. and Mrs, X, please understand that you're wasting tuition money on your lazy-ass daughter"? "Professor Y, perhaps you're unaware that plagiarism plays a large role in my friend's term paper"?) As for her humiliating you in front of ticket-takers, I can even less imagine what's said. ("I thought you should know my friend intends to scalp these"?) So all I can address is the food issue. If you have any interest in preserving the friendship—and establishing real boundaries with Layla—you need to give her a little of her own medicine. Next time she suggests you send the double cheeseburger back, I'd reply, "Can you please, for once in your life, mind your own frigging business? I don't tell you what zit cream to use!" (Or equivalent.) Good luck.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Last year, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my friend "Sabrina" and her (now ex-) boyfriend "Tim." We all became close. Since they broke up three months ago, I've been keeping in touch with Tim casually (and with Sabrina's consent). Last week, I hosted an informal, midweek happy hour at a local dive bar. Since Tim lives just a few blocks away, I invited him, his best friend, and a few others, sending them invites on Facebook. I'd originally intended only to invite people who live close by. But as word got out, people from other neighborhoods started inviting themselves. Sabrina found out about it and asked to be invited. So I sent her an invite. She apparently saw Tim on the list of invitees (not even on the "accepted" list) and freaked out.
She said she feels betrayed and doesn't know if she can be friends with someone who would invite her ex to an event and not her. She also made some mean jabs about me not having any friends of my own. (I do.) I thought Sabrina was OK with Tim and me being friends, and now I'm being punished for it. It doesn't seem fair. It's not as if I invited him to my wedding. Plus, I already apologized to her, but she says she's still upset and isn't sure the friendship is salvageable. I'm beginning to think she's right. What do you think? Is my Facebook flub breakup-worthy?
Eviscerated for an E-Vite
If you're just getting a few friends together on a Wednesday night for drinks, why resort to a Facebook invitation? (Maybe I'm just from the wrong generation, but does every small social gesture have to be publically declared?) That turns it into an actual party, as opposed to a random gathering. It also means that everyone is going to find out about it. As such, I can see why Sabrina felt hurt to have gotten a B-list invitation after her ex's A-list one.
Whether the crime is worthy of excommunication is another matter. In the months since Sabrina and Tim's break-up, have you made any effort to see her individually? Is it possible that, from Sabrina's vantage point, this is the last straw in a long pattern of hay? I assume you would have said if you and Tim had become an item or had even taken to flirting. You say that Sabrina gave you "approval" to hang out with her ex; this suggested to me that the subject has come up before.