Dear Friend or Foe,
“Veronica,” and I were best friends for going-on-35 years. It was as if she were part of my family; we could talk for hours about everything and nothing all at once. Although I’ve always tried to keep our lines of communication open by calling her, we haven’t spoken in over a year now. The last time we talked, she called, excited, to say that she was engaged. While I tried to express excitement back, it was hard, as my boyfriend and I had broken up the night before. When she asked about him, I told her we were taking a break. She said she was sorry and we talked about the engagement. I don’t blame her for calling to tell me her news when she did. But then a year went by, during which time I heard nothing from her—nothing about a bridal shower, or a bachelorette party. Finally, a few weeks before the wedding, I received an invitation to the event.
After knowing Veronica for so long, I’d hoped to help out with her wedding preparation. She has a large family, so I never expected to be in the ceremony. But I would have liked to assist on some other level. Hurt by her lack of communication, I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t attend the wedding. Now she’s married, and I miss her. But our lives are going in completely different directions. She’s happy being a housewife (that’s what she dreamed of as we were growing up), and I’ve graduated college and am single and trying to forge a career for myself all the while taking care of my Mom who has multiple health issues. I’m also busy raising two nieces as my own. Do I let it go? Or is it worth fixing? If so, how do I start the process of repairing our friendship?
Estranged and Conflicted
I can see both your points of view. I can especially see Veronica’s. Here she called to share her big news with her oldest friend. Instead of squealing, “That’s sooooo exciting,” she got a sour voice on the other end of the phone, saying, “Good for you.” Sure, you were reeling from your own breakup and felt jealous and left out. But sometimes we have to try and look past our own hang-ups and be happy for others—or at least pretend to be happy for them. It’s just a shame that, during that year before the wedding, neither one of you had the guts to reach out, admit how you were feeling, and try to work past it. Also, whether or not you were miffed, skipping your best friend’s nuptials, unless it’s a destination affair in Swaziland (or you get infected with bird flu) is—sorry—a jerky thing to do.
Is it too late to mend fences? Possibly. But it’s worth a shot. Email or write Veronica an old-fashioned letter explaining that you were at a bad place in your own life when you first heard her news—and that you’re sorry you didn’t express more excitement. But you were excited. And you were looking forward to being involved in the wedding planning. And you were incredibly hurt to have been left out of the buildup—hence, your no-show at the actual wedding. That said, you now realize that boycotting was a petty thing to do. You wish you’d been there. And you hope she’ll forgive you and that the two of you can start fresh. Would she like to come over for dinner with her new husband next month?
Just don’t be surprised if, when her reply email finally arrives, your computer starts smoking. As for the matter of you and she leading different lives, that’s not the issue—it’s that, at a pivotal moment in both your lives, you smacked each other in the face. Yes, it sounds as if your row is the harder one to hoe right now. But you haven’t given Veronica the chance to relate to you, never mind to sympathize. Moreover, how do you know she’s a “happy housewife” if you haven’t spoken to her in a year? Why don’t you wait to pass judgment until after you get back in touch.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I’ve been a Girl Scout leader for five years along with another lady, “Pam.” We didn't know each other when we started the troop, but have become friendly enough over the years. At first, everything went fine. The girls were young, expectations were small, and meetings consisted mostly of crafts and games. Move ahead five years, and the girls are juniors in high school. Their meetings should be a lot more involved, as well as planned by them, and we should be doing more meaningful activities during the month. Pam's daughter plays soccer year-round, however, which takes up a lot of time. Several other girls in the troop (of 20) play sports, as well. Because of this, Pam is unable and unwilling to devote much time to meetings and activities for our troop. We meet only once a month (I would prefer twice a month). And we’re unable to schedule any other scouting activities during the week because of all the sporting events. Pam has even gone so far as to tell me I shouldn't ever plan anything when there may be a game or practice because it's not fair to the girls who play sports.
But there are games and practices constantly! I told Pam these girls may need to start making some hard decisions about future activities. There are at least a dozen who have only scouting as their extracurricular activity. I know they would like to do more and go farther as Scouts. I don't feel like I'm being the leader I want to be. I’m considering telling Pam that we need to split into two groups, but I fear it wouldn’t go over well with her. And I don’t want to hurt her feelings. At the same time, I'm not happy leading a troop like this. What to do?
Scouting Is Important Too!
Well, I think you already figured out what to do—split the group into two: those for whom friendship circles and bridging ceremonies come in second in importance to cardiovascular pursuits; and those for whom roasting s'mores in a dark forest while singing “Each Campfire Lights Anew” is the teen bonding activity nonpareil. If Pam doesn’t like the idea, my feeling is: too bad. She’s already made it clear that her priorities lie elsewhere. Just be sure that, in proposing the division, you don’t make it all about yourself. Instead, tell her, just as you told me, that there are 12 girls (i.e., more than half the troop) for whom scouting is the main extracurricular in their lives. They want more frequent meetings and more involved activities, and thanks to the jock contingent and their endless commitments, they’re being short-changed. See what she says.
You say you’re worried that Pam will freak out. But I don’t see any evidence that she will. In fact, from everything you say, I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if Pam was looking for a way out of Scouts herself. She might even be relieved to hear that you want to take charge of the more committed girls. I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the jock group, once separated, slowly dissipates into Girl Scout (Dis)honor. (It sounds as if those ladies have other things on their mind.) But first, a final request: If you take my advice and the talk goes over well, any chance of a complementary box of thin mints?
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My friend, "Sally," is constantly bugging me about going into business with her. But I know that doing so would be a disaster! In the five years of our friendship, Sally hasn't held onto a job for longer than six months. She constantly picks fights with her employers, fellow employees, and peers, and has a huge chip on her shoulder that keeps her from realizing that most of her work troubles are a direct result of her own actions. Up until now, I've deflected her requests with excuses, and they’ve all been valid. (I work full-time already and am not ready to take on another major commitment.) But she just keeps bringing up new ideas again and again.
Do I continue to gently turn her down, or do I need to be honest with her and tell her that there's no chance in hell I’ll ever participate in a business venture with her? I tend to be a forthright (though diplomatic) person and am known for speaking my mind. Doing so in this case might make me feel better and might get her to stop asking, but it would absolutely destroy our friendship. Do I just suck it up and keep saying no? Or is there a better solution that would make her stop pestering me while preserving our friendship?
Tired of Saying No
It seems to me that, in today’s confessional culture, people are too convinced that others need to hear the truth. In this case, what would it accomplish—other than making Sally that much more defensive and insecure? Besides, by a certain age, our personalities are mostly set in stone. We can tweak our behavior here and there, but telling someone what’s wrong with him or her is, generally speaking, a waste of time (that’s also destined to complicate your own life).
Although you describe Sally as bellicose and insecure, it sounds as if, for whatever reasons, you’re determined to try to maintain your friendship with the woman. So if you know she’ll be mortally offended to hear your real reasons for not wanting to go into business with her (and who wouldn’t be mortally offended to hear that her friend considers her a bullying shrew?!), I suggest resorting to a white lie. Tell Sally that, on principle, you don’t think it’s a good idea for old friends to go into business together—and you’ll never be convinced otherwise. Other friends of yours have tried the same and lived to regret it, as laughter and camaraderie have quickly deteriorated into endless fights about money. With any luck, this should permanently put Sally off the notion while also preserving your friendship.
Friend or Foe
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Welcome to 13th Grade!
Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.
The Actual World
“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.