Friend or Foe: Should I make my friend shave her head?

Advice on sticky friendship dilemmas.
Sept. 20 2011 6:56 AM

Should I Make My Friend Shave Her Head?

We made a pact that she wouldn't move in with someone unless she was engaged—and she broke it.

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Dear DWC,
It must be very disappointing, not to mention disheartening, to find yourself shut out of a publication at which you thrived for nearly a decade—and with no explanation to boot. (As a freelancey type myself, I can relate!) My hunch is that this is a case in which a new editor arrived on the scene with her own stable of freelancers in mind. It's not that Donna thinks your writing is sub-par; it's that she's eager to give the work to Person Y, with whom she built up a close relationship at another publication long before she ever heard your name. It's just a shame that she isn't a good enough manager, or mature enough person, to realize that she owes you a sit-down at which she tells you the truth—rather than pepper you with phony lunch invites.

The sad fact is that, in a situation like this, freelancers like you have few rights. It's why staff positions are so coveted in journalism and, increasingly, so hard to come by. My advice is to pat yourself on the back for a job well done; forget about Donna; and move on with your life. It may feel like the end of an era, but it's also the beginning of another one. Try to see it that way, and I think you'll feel less bitter. After all, we can't do the same thing forever. And if a future editor questions your "decision" to leave the paper, just say your old editor left. (Enough said.) As for what to say if you run into Donna at the Stop & Shop, a quick and insincere smile should do the trick.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe

Dear Friend or Foe,
Two years ago, my old friend "Sue" moved to the West Coast, and I stayed in the East. During Sue's last visit, she was over-served at the bar and mentioned several times how much she disliked my boyfriend of two years. She also dropped several passive aggressive comments. I've recently lost weight, and she said it didn't matter because we're getting old anyway. I wrote it off as a drunken night and, having had a few myself, decided to not think much of it.

But then she blew off my birthday party. (One of the things I was excited about during Sue's visit was that she'd be able to celebrate with me.) Five minutes before we were all due to meet, Sue called and said she was running late and would catch up with us. She ended up missing the celebrations completely. And then, later in the week, I went to visit her and she was incredibly negative, snapping at me, her boyfriend, her parents, and even her young nieces.

She's never acted like this before, and I figured it would pass. But it hasn't. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I have split up. When I returned from collecting my things from his place, which was a painful experience, Sue called. She offered no sympathy, but said "Didn't you have things in storage there that you were going to put in a care package for me? Presents! Presents! Presents!" I was appalled and made up an excuse to get off the phone.

Since then I've made no effort to contact her. She's posted comments on my Facebook about old inside jokes we used to have, but she hasn't addressed her rudeness. A part of me doesn't even want to go through the drama of confronting her—and would rather let the friendship fizzle out. With our shared history, however, I feel guilty doing so. Opinion?

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Sincerely,
Fight or Let Fizzle?

Dear FOLF?,
Well, Sue definitely sounds like a Rudie. But I also have trouble believing that her blunt verging on belligerent conversational style was born yesterday. You say you've been friends with this woman for a long time. Are you sure it's not you who has changed—and who no longer has the stomach for Sue's abrasive manner, never mind her put-downs and wisecracks?

In any case, let's break down what she actually said—and weigh the obnoxious quotient. Most friends, it's true, drink or no drink, don't typically volunteer the information that they "dislike" the person with whom we share our beds. Apparently, Sue had no such qualms. (At least she's honest?) Moreover, since she failed to identify any redeeming features in your man, she was apparently unable to summon an ounce of sympathy on hearing that the two of you had broken up. (At least she's consistent?) One could also make the argument that the "presents, presents, presents" crack was an attempt to bring levity to a sad situation. (I'm on the fence on that one.) Same goes for the weight-loss comment. (I, too, have sometimes wondered what the point of dieting after 40 is.)

All that said, the birthday no show, especially if no apology attached, suggests a woman who is not thinking about anyone but herself. (You don't elaborate on the "snaps," so I can't comment on them.) Of course, it's also possible that Sue is going through a hard time herself—and, for better or for worse, this is how she's expressing it. In any event, my instinct would be to trust your own instincts. If you can't deal with the drama, I'd purposefully lose touch with the woman, at least for a while. You can always revisit the friendship later down the road—at which point Sue might surprise you and be actually pleasant again.

Sincerely,
Friend or Foe