Dear Friend or Foe,
My best friend, "Lola," is a serial monogamist. She hasn't been single for more than a couple weeks since her mid-teens. After her last relationship (which, by her own admission, she stayed in years beyond its expiration date), she and I made a pact that she wouldn't move in with someone unless they were engaged. In a cheeky ode to her then new-found singledom, she signed a contract dictating that, if she broke our pact, she'd shave her head.
For the past two years, she has been dating "Bob," a combative, unemployed alcoholic who is verbally abusive. Lola knows that few friends or family are supportive of their relationship. Even though they've broken up several times already, it doesn't appear that Bob is going anywhere soon. In fact, she and Bob are now moving in together. At the same time, Lola has told me that, while she's enjoying the relationship now, she doesn't ultimately see them together and has serious reservations about the move but is afraid to hurt his feelings by changing her mind.
Needless to say, I feel like she is making a huge mistake. And, insane as this might sound, I now want to make her honor the contract and shave her head. Should I? In the past, I've made an effort not to discuss my views of their relationship unsolicited. And even when it is solicited, I try to be supportive as I voice my concerns.
Honor the Contract!
Whoa, you run a tight ship, lady. You also need to take a step back—straight off that ship. We are talking about Lola's life here, not yours. I understand your concern about your friend moving in with her dud of a boyfriend, and I'm sure I'd feel the same way. (Bob sounds like the gift that keeps on giving.) But you are her friend, not a cult leader. You say the boyfriend is abusive. But, honestly, forcing a grown woman to go bald sounds unnecessarily punitive to me as well. So before you make the woman pull a Britney (see: nervous breakdown, circa 2007), please do everyone a favor and take a vacation from Lola's troubles.
You say that, in the past, you've been circumspect regarding your views on Lola and Bob. If you're really concerned about the woman, what about amping up the views you've been so careful to hide? You're likely to have more luck, anyway, if you resort to reason rather than to Scarlet Letter-style punishments. In short, I'd sit Lola down and tell her that if she's having doubts, she should honor them and put off the move-in date. At a certain point, it's a slippery slope between domestication and marriage. And if she has no intention of ever marrying Bob, she shouldn't be taking a step in that direction. See what she says.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I've been freelancing for a major city paper since 2003. All three of the editors with whom I've worked (until now) have praised and encouraged my abilities, thought highly of my writing, and relied on me to cover a wide variety of assignments. Recently, a new music editor, "Donna," who is just a year older than me, came in knowing my reputation and aware of the stories I've contributed. She seemed fine at first. But then, on multiple occasions, she didn't communicate proper deadlines, which made me look bad. She also took stories that had been promised to me and assigned them to other writers (without explanation), leaving me with less and less work.
When she returned from maternity leave, she stopped returning emails and phone calls I'd make to inquire about possible assignments. After I informed the deputy editor of this, I started getting generic, passive-aggressive BS responses ("I'll get back to you," "I'll let you know"). Even worse, she'd send notes asking about my kids and suggesting we have lunch! I accepted her invitations, looking at them as opportunities to clear the air, but she canceled every time. Finally, I deleted her from my Facebook page and blocked her from my Twitter feed.
If my skills were falling off, or the paper wasn't using freelancers anymore, or even if she'd just told me that she didn't want to use me anymore, I'd try to understand. But I never even got that. Am I missing something? I still write about and cover many of the same events (for other publications) that Donna oversees. How should I handle her two-faced demeanor if we run into each other in public, and what do I say in future interviews about why I "left" the paper? An editor who doesn't know either of us suggested that Donna might be jealous.
Dismissed Without Cause