Dear Friend or Foe,
I had a group of seven girlfriends throughout high school and college with whom I was really close. We're all in our mid-20s now and everyone is off doing their own thing as far as jobs and relationships are concerned. A few years ago, the group decided to do a Christmas dinner once a year. It’s a reunion of sorts where we can catch up, drink, and reminisce. I haven't been able to go because I haven't been home for Christmas in two years. (I’m the only one in the group who moved out of state—and halfway across the country—though I've been home at other times and have gotten together individually with some of the girls.) This year I made it known through Facebook that I was going to be here for the holidays. My friends expressed excitement and, of course, asked if I was going to come to “the dinner.”
The problem is that my husband is coming home with me. He lived in my hometown for a year and a half (that's where we met) and was friends with my friends during that time as well. But when I asked my girlfriend (“Diane”) who is point person for the dinner if I could bring him along—and suggested that others be free to do the same—she said she didn’t want him there because people might not be themselves; their current significant others don't know each other; bringing men changes the dynamic, etc. Instead, she suggested I drop him off at the house of a guy friend with whom he no longer keeps in touch. My husband doesn't want to do this. Nor does he want to stay home with my parents. Thinking about it, I realized that I wouldn't want to be put in that situation, either. Am I wrong for telling Diane that I’ll have to bow out if my husband isn't included? I don't want to be difficult, and I realize they’re planning the evening around me. But I also want to be fair to my husband.
Standing By My Man
I think your husband needs to stop being a 3-year-old and figure out how to entertain himself for one whole evening while you catch up with the old gang. If he can’t bear sitting around with his in-laws playing Scrabble, or having a beer with his old friend Bill, maybe he could go watch Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at the multiplex out on the highway. That’s two hours and 40 minutes killed right there! (Throw in the trailers and ads and you’re up to three hours plus.) Plus, he already knows his way around town, so it’s not as if you’re abandoning him in the wilderness to find his way home. You had a life before you were married, and you’re allowed occasionally to revisit it without your husband hovering over you—and preventing you from cracking jokes about the freaks and geeks you kissed in high school (who weren’t him).
That said, I’m assuming that you, too, would prefer to dine with the ladies solo. But maybe I’m missing the point: Maybe you secretly dread the company of your old girlfriends and want your husband there as some kind of security blanket? Or is this more about feeling sorry for your man and/or wanting to prove your loyalty? (From your letter, it’s unclear.) In any case, it’s evident that your husband belongs to the Attached at the Hip camp, and I guess I’m wondering about his “why” too. That is, why would he even want to come along to a Girls’ Night?! Does he suffer from extreme social anxiety to which you are the only antidote? (Do your parents have fangs?) Short of these possibilities, I think it’s completely valid of your lady-pal to say, husbands and boyfriends no can do—and for you to pass along the sentiment to your hubbie free of guilt.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
"Carrie" and I were good friends in high school and college. For a few years, she had a rollercoaster-like relationship about which I tried to remain neutral (though I leaned negative). Eventually, she broke up with the guy but not before turning me into a villain and accusing me of all sorts of imaginary slights. We stopped being friends. From time to time, she’d also bad-mouth me to our mutual friends. Later, she ended up getting in a far nastier fight with another member of the group, “Andrea.” Around that time, Carrie and I saw each other and she expressed delight that I'd "changed," when in fact, I’d simply put on my “polite pants.” She then apologized, admitting that she’d made up the things I’d done or imagined them. I wrote back and apologized, too—for any behavior that might have hurt her. But the group was fragmented again, with my newly traumatized friend (“Andrea”) wondering what she’d done to deserve Carrie's wrath. I knew all too well that it didn't take all that much to get Carrie going. For that reason, I continued to have limited contact with her.
Carrie subsequently managed to upset a third friend in the group. Now she has decided that she wants to try and reconnect with me. Part of me doesn’t care; the other part is worried that I'll have to watch everything I say, do, and suggest—lest she decide that I hate her because I poured my water glass before hers! Meanwhile, I'm getting married. I’m inviting Andrea to the wedding because we’re very close. But I don't think inviting Carrie is a good idea since having them together in the same room has proved to be awkward and painful for Andrea. Should I meet with Carrie at all? And, if so, when the subject of my wedding inevitably comes up, should I tell her I’m not inviting her and why? Frankly, I just don't want Carrie in my life anymore.
Not Interested in Being Reeled Back In
I think you already answered your question: You want nothing more to do with Carrie. I’d trust your instinct on this one. The woman sounds radioactive with a capital R. It’s not as if you miss her company or feel as if your life is somehow incomplete without her. From everything you’ve written, it sounds as if your overriding goal is simply to make peace. At the risk of disturbing it, I’d leave her off the guest list for the big day, too.
But just as you seem to have intuited before, polite is the way to go. Rather than meet up with Carrie, I’d send her another note saying that you’re always happy to see her at this or that event, but you think there’s too much water under the bridge to contemplate the two of you reconnecting in any real way. You wish her well, but don’t think you’ll ever be able to get past your hurt at how she vilified you. If she lashes out and says you were never her friend, calmly point out that you tried to be exactly that—until she turned on you. Good luck and happy nuptials!
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Since the time we met two years ago, my friend “Hannah” and I have gotten together about once a week for drinks after work. It isn't as if we’re best friends, but we’re fairly close. Neither of us has a car but we live in a small college town. My home is in an interesting neighborhood a 20-to 30-minute walk/10-minute bus ride/seven-minute bike ride from her house, and we both work centrally. It has dawned on me gradually that Hannah, who has no disabilities, will only get together when we meet in the center of town. Over the time I've known her, I’ve invited her over for dinner and cocktail parties, coffee and brunch; each time, without ever explicitly saying that it’s too far, she has come up with an excuse to cancel at the last minute. She never does this if we meet near her house.
For a while it didn't bother me, but slowly the issue has come to do so. I feel that, if we're really friends, once in a while she should go out of her way to see me—and that I'm the one always making the effort. Subsequently, she has never seen my house or, to my knowledge, even been outside of the center of town. I tested her recently by inviting her to get together and only confirming “where” the day before (a great place nearer my side of town). She of course tried to change the plans, but I reiterated that I really wanted to take her to this restaurant. She said she didn't want to walk in the dark. I said we'd meet early and I'd show her how to grab the bus home or call her a cab (very cheap and convenient here). She canceled the day of, claiming to have a “hangover” from the night before.
I haven't contacted Hannah since then, and she hasn't contacted me. I'm thinking I just won't hang out with her anymore. Am I wrong? If she was upfront about her limitations that would still be annoying, but it’s her lying that really irks me.
Sick of Staying in Your Nabe
We’ve all had that friend—dying to see us, so long as we’re the one standing on the porch, ringing the bell. But in defense of Hannah, she may be suffering from one of two maladies with which I can also relate. The first is low energy syndrome. Some people are simply so wiped out by the end of the day that the thought of even climbing into a taxi becomes daunting. (Pathetic but true.) The second is fear of the unknown. We may not be talking about the slums of Rio here. But the fact that Hannah has never even seen the other parts of your college town (how long as she lived there?!) suggests a need for familiarity that borders on pathological. I’d wager a guess that her failure to travel has more to do with her own hang-ups (maybe she’s gotten it into her head that you live a dangerous neighborhood?) than with not caring enough to cab it over. I’d send her an email saying, “Sorry things didn’t work out the other night, but I guess I’m a little frustrated that you’re never willing to meet on my side of town. Am I missing something?” See what she says. Maybe she’ll finally admit that the hangover is permanent. Good luck—and bottoms up!
Friend or Foe