Brawling bridesmaids, broke friends, and reckless exes—Friend or Foe offers advice at Slate.com.

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
May 17 2011 6:55 AM

Jerry Springer Wedding Edition!

I've been asked to be a bridesmaid—by a woman I once got in a bar brawl with.

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Dear Friend or Foe,

During high school, "Melissa" and another ex-friend, "Candy," both attempted—and failed—to make me miserable and ruin my relationship with my then-boyfriend "Chase," whom they disliked. Chase and I got married right out of high school, after dating for seven years. A year after we split up, I patched things up with both women. Candy actually approached me first, apologizing for all her childish drama in high school. But then Melissa and Candy started fighting. I tried to keep from taking sides by telling each of them that I didn't want to talk about the other. This worked for a while—until I started dating my now-husband "Mark," who happens to be Melissa's cousin (though they're not close).

Candy became jealous and started problems, resulting in me ending the friendship. She continued to create drama, however, going so far as to throw drinks on me and have friends start fights with me. I tried to act like an adult, but I finally had my fill one night when she pushed me into a wall at a bar. I pushed back. Then Candy pulled my hair and scratched me. Out of pure rage, I laid into her and pounded her face for a few minutes. She was kicked out of the bar (forever), and I didn't hear from or see her for a year and a half. Until recently, however, I stayed friends with Melissa.

I've since moved across the country. Not long ago, Melissa came out to visit. I soon realized that I was being used for a cheap vacation, so she could meet up with some guy she met on the Internet. The few hours that she didn't spend with him, she pouted and whined to me about what a bad guy he was. Had she told me before she went to stay with him that he had a girlfriend, I would have told her she was stupid and shouldn't go. Instead, she lied to me, then wondered why she got screwed over. What's more, she never said thank you for putting her up and never asked how my son and I are doing—and Mark is deployed in Iraq. I subsequently told Melissa I didn't want to be friends anymore because of the way she'd acted. In return, she's made it her mission in life to ruin my marriage and remaining friendships.

This leaves me with one and only one good friend from home, "Jamie." Recently, we both received letters from Candy, apologizing and wanting to repair her friendships with us. Jamie and I both told her we have no hard feelings. But neither of us wants to be friends with her again. Candy is now getting married, however, and wants us to be bridesmaids. Is it OK to say no? Our guess is that Candy is desperate to fill at least six or seven bridesmaids' spots and has burned so many friends that she has none to ask. Plus, I'm sure Candy has made the same overture to Melissa, knowing that Melissa will happily accept just for the attention. I would gladly attend the wedding as a regular guest. What should I do?

Lucinda Rosenfeld Lucinda Rosenfeld

Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.

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Sincerely,
I Just Want It All To Go Away

Dear IJWIATGA,

Wow. Well, if you say yes to the lavender dress, you just might go down in history as the first bridesmaid ever to have been physically mauled by the bride. More to the point, Candy must be really, really desperate if she's willing to have her wedding album peppered with photos of a woman who once punched her in the face. My advice would be to decline the invitation completely. Tell Candy that you wish her and her husband much happiness, but unfortunately you have a prior engagement. There's such a thing as burning bridges, and the bridge between you and Candy was long ago charred to a crisp.

As for Melissa's crimes, I'm of mixed opinion. The fact that she failed to inform you that the guy she was visiting has another girlfriend is not so much lying as failing to include details that might have helped you give her good advice. In her defense, she might have been embarrassed about the circumstances under which she was meeting up with him. (Here you are, a faithful wife, and she's sneaking around behind another woman's back.) Melissa also should have made it clear that she was coming out primarily to visit him, not you. But these offenses are negligible when compared to the fact that your husband is away at war, and she never bothered to ask how you're coping. This is what real friends do—comfort and cheer you up when you're going through a hard or lonely time. On this score, both Melissa and Candy have failed miserably.

My advice is to write these chicks out of your life forever. You learned your lesson about what they were made of—twice. You also slugged one of them and, for that reason, should feel lucky that you didn't get in hot water yourself. As for Melissa, since you're married to her cousin, you might want to send her a Christmas card once a year, if only for the sake of family harmony. But since you say she's intent on ruining your life and marriage, I'd avoid any direct contact.

In the meantime, good luck to you and your son. And I hope your husband returns safely and soon.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

My friend "Kelly" and I are not very close. I've seen her only once since high school (we're both 20) at a mutual friends' get-together. However, we are friends on Facebook and frequently trade jokes and talk online. The situation is this: Kelly moved to a large city so that she could further her desire to be an artist. She's extremely talented and I believe she can go far. But she has mentioned a couple of times that she's often broke and can't afford much food. She recently got a minimum-wage job in addition to going to school full-time. But I know the cost of living in her city is high, and her salary can't be going far.

Recently, I purchased a $200 Visa gift card, intending it for something else that has since fallen through. (I don't make much money either, but since I'm still living at home, I can afford to spend a few pennies.) Would it be weird if I sent the card to Kelly, along with a note saying I know she's been struggling lately? I'm aware that this is a large amount of money for someone I don't know well, and I don't want her to think that it's strange or to make her uncomfortable. I just care about my friends. What should I do?

Signed,
Am I Too Generous?

Dear AITG,

You want to send 200 bucks to a woman you've seen once since high school? Forgive me for saying this, but it sounds as if you're trying to buy a friend, not help one. If you were a Russian oligarch or something, OK, fine. But you're still living with Mom and making peanuts yourself (and should be saving up so you can get your own foothold in the world). In short, there has to be a better way of bonding with Kelly than sending her cash. If your wallet is itching to be opened on her behalf, what about sending her a pretty sketchbook? If I were her and I received a gift card like that, I'd be too embarrassed to accept it and would likely send it back.

Here's another thing: Being a starving artist is a beautiful thing, but it's also a choice. It sounds as if Kelly decided to forgo a better salary so she could pursue her dream. Fair enough. People can (and should) do that kind of stuff when they're 20. If you really want to use your cash to help someone in need, I'd write a small check to Smile Train or Unicef—and save the Visa card for when you have to make a large purchase, such as a new sofa or bed. Honestly, you're too young (and poor) to be playing a Medici. Leave the patronage stuff for when you're 50 and sitting idly on your cajillions.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,

For the past eight years, I've had a best friend, "Dick." First, we were friends. Then we dated for four years and became engaged. We subsequently broke up. Dick never took the breakup very well, but we've remained super close. I've been dating a great guy for two years.

Dick and I had a falling out around New Year's Eve last year. Then, about a week ago, he called me and told me he was proposing to an 18-year-old that he's known for less than a year. (He's 26 and doesn't have any friends his own age except for me). I think he's making a big mistake—he and the child bride break up all the time—and I told him my feelings and that I wouldn't be attending the wedding. But now I feel bad. Should I swallow my pride and offer my congratulations and attend his wedding, even though I think he's headed straight for divorce court?

Sincerely,
Til Death Do Us Part

Dear TDDUP,

You don't give a reason for your falling-out with Dick. (Was it this same girl?) But if you care about him and hope to patch things up eventually, telling the guy you plan to boycott his wedding isn't going to mend any fences. Considering you two were once a pair and he never got over the breakup, I think it's fairly big of him to have kept up the friendship all these years and, what's more, invited you to his wedding.

I know you think you're warning off Dick for his own good. And, yeah, the chances of an 18-year-old making an informed decision about her life-mate are slim. But I'm afraid that's for her (and Dick) to find out. It's simply not your job to butt in. It's also frankly insulting to Dick, since the people we love are a direct reflection of who we are.

I'd call Dick back and apologize. We all have buddies with spouses who make the hair on our arms stand up. Short of those partners being abusive drug offenders, it's our job as friends to grin and bear them. Some of these unions even end up being joyful and durable. Then again, 43 percent of all first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years—including the ones that initially seem like perfect matches. So who's to say what a happy couple even looks like these days?

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

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