Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on morals and manners.

Advice on manners and morals.
Jan. 8 2004 11:19 AM

Best Friends For ... Never

When the feeling isn't mutual.

9_dearprudence_01

Get "Dear Prudence" delivered to your inbox each week; click here to sign up. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. (Questions may be edited.)





Dear Prudence,

I met "Annabel" when we became roommates our freshman year of college. She was very shy and bookish while I was much more gregarious, with an active social life. She seemed to live vicariously through me and always wanted to hear every episode of my escapades when I returned to the dorm. I was always kind to her but didn't consider her a "friend," though she referred to me as her "best friend." Fortunately, Annabel married and moved. She kept me informed, however, of every event in her life through phone calls and letters, as I was her "best friend." Sadly, her husband passed away suddenly last year, and she was understandably devastated. She isn't close to her family and apparently had made few friends over the years. I flew several hundred miles to attend the funeral, but that opened a new can of worms. Everyone at the small funeral knew that I was Annabel's "best friend since college." She had informed them of all the silly things my friends and I had done in school (such as sneaking back-stage at a concert) but included herself in the scenario. It gave me chills. Now she phones me regularly to let me know how she's doing, and it's driving me insane. I know how sad she must be, but I'm sick of hearing gloom and doom every time I pick up the phone. I have gotten a call on the same day of the month for the past year (the day her husband passed away) and pick up the phone to hear, "I knew you'd be worried about me!" followed by sobs. Annabel is seeing a local fellow and is becoming rather wild in an immature fashion. She'll call and say: "I'm becoming more like you every day! I have on makeup and a skirt cut up to there! You'd be so proud!" Actually, it scares me. We're in our mid–30s, and the image of Annabel with her stringy hair and 30 extra pounds stuffed into a mini is not something I care to visualize. She always tells me how lucky she is that we met and how she doesn't know how she'd manage if it weren't for having her "best friend" to lean on. It gives my husband the creeps, and it's getting to me as well. She wants to come visit so my friends can meet my "best friend." My husband has his opinions, of course, but I'm too soft-hearted to tell her the truth. Or, should I?? I'd appreciate ANY advice as I'm desperate!!

—One Too Many Friends

Dear One,

Your kindness in going to the funeral and letting her perpetuate the fiction that you are "best friends" is apparent ... as is your need to end this yearslong charade. Prudie is one for reality because she believes that no one should be hostage to another's neurosis, let alone their fantasies. Prudie supposes you could be the proverbial coward with a kiss and give her a made-up reason why further contact will be impossible—i.e., you are moving to Nairobi. What Prudie would do in your situation, however, is to cough up some gentle version of the truth, believing that reality trumps delusional thinking. You might tell this pitiable, immature, friendless person that you have no wish to hurt her, but you do not feel as close to her as she has let herself believe, and you need the regular calls to cease. Not everyone will agree with this; some people would say just endure the calls and play along, but Prudie believes that your feelings are just as important as hers. Whatever you decide, try not answering your phone on the day of the month when she normally calls ... or better yet, get caller ID.

Advertisement

—Prudie, empathetically

Dear Prudence,

I am an office manager for a physician. His boyfriend also works in the office. Actually he does very little work; mostly he makes all of our jobs more difficult, but he is here to stay. My problem is this: If I ever try, however gently, to point out a mistake to him, he absolutely goes ballistic. Not only does his face turn red, eyes pop out, and he starts to shake, but he begins name-calling and making threats. I know he does not have the power to fire me or anyone else, and the doctor refuses to acknowledge there is any problem, but there is!! How do I handle this maniac? I need to keep this job for one more year, then I'll have graduated with my master's degree and will be able to leave. Help me, please.

—Frustrated

Dear Frus,

Prudie does not wish to appear Machiavellian, but your handling of the doctor's inamorata, he of the red face and bulging eyes, should follow the path of least resistance. Because you have tried to instruct Mr. Temper Tantrum—and failed—in order to keep the peace (and your job), Prudie recommends that you let the mistakes go through for one more year. This will spare you from the ballistics, and what it will cost the doctor is not our concern. Should there be consequences, they will fall on you-know-who. Then the doctor might be forced to "acknowledge the problem."

Advertisement

—Prudie, chortlingly

Prudie,

Why would you encourage a person to practice witchcraft? That is totally against the Word of God. I am not trying to sound mean or judging. It's just we need to turn back to God and away from Satan. Please, you can impact many with your views, be careful and prayerful. Thanks so much for your time.

—Denny

Dear Den,

First of all, in the letter you are referring to, Prudie did not encourage anyone to "practice witchcraft." She would not be so bold as to tell another how to worship (ahem). What Prudie did was give a Wiccan woman her suggestion about how to tell her family that she's been studying this faith for 10 years and has become a believer. Second, "Satan" is a matter of opinion, my friend. Prudie would say that you have read Macbeth too many times, except that, on second thought, that seems highly improbable. What would really be good is if Prudie could "impact" you with the idea that you have a ton of misinformation. And no, Prudie is not a witch, except perhaps to a former mother-in-law.

Advertisement

—Prudie, ecumenically

Dear Prudie,

I am a teenager who has had only one boyfriend her entire life. Many dances have passed with me staying home. I am chunky but not fat, and most of the girls are much prettier than me. They get bad grades; I get good ones. They get boyfriends; I have friends who are boys. What is the secret to having/getting a boyfriend? I flirt and act sweet, but nothing works.

—Looking for Love

Dear Look,

Don't act anything. Be yourself and let life happen. With a little patience, your very own personality will attract the perfect boyfriend for you. Trust Prudie; there are boys aplenty who are attracted to girls with good grades and the knack for being friends with boys. The trick is to get to know someone who wants to get to know you.

—Prudie, positively