A: "Rhonda, I might have left a misinterpretation about something that needs to be cleared up immediately before you incur any costs. The trip I mentioned was a romantic get-away for my husband and me—alone. We don't want to be accompanied by anyone else. I'm sorry if you got the wrong idea about it, but I was just telling you about our trip, not inviting you." The worst that happens is that she gets so offended that it ruins your friendship. (Actually, the worst that happens is that she goes ahead and books the trip.) If someone is so obtuse that she doesn't understand what an anniversary getaway is, then she's not much of a friend.
Q. Memory Page on Facebook: My nephew passed away young and unexpectedly about a year ago. Shortly thereafter, my sister and BIL set up a Facebook memorial page for him, and at first it was extremely useful in getting information out regarding services, donations, and other logistics. Now, a year later, both my sister and BIL update the page daily with remembrances, photos, and solicitations from others to share. Throughout the course of time, people have been posting less and less. Even though I am on Facebook, I feel uncomfortable posting private memories and my own grief in a public forum. My children have also expressed that they feel pressure to post and share daily, but they don't know what to say. My sister has been sending a lot of text messages and even dropping in casual conversation about people who don't post on Facebook and how offended she is. I would like to tell my sister that we are all grieving in our own way. I am hesitant to bring this up directly, because she is obviously going through something very difficult. I would appreciate any advice from you or your readers on dealing with this issue.
A: You proceed gently. Grief is different for everyone, and you know your sister and brother-in-law will always be in mourning over their loss. But you can have a conversation in which you say you know the Facebook page is therapeutic for them, but you want them to understand that not everyone is comfortable in such a forum and that you hope the memorial is something that can help them without them feeling as if others are neglecting them if they don't post. Then urge your sister and BIL to contact the Compassionate Friends organization. This is a wonderful, life-saving resource for parents who have lost children. Tell them that there they will find a community of people who truly understand what they are going through. And do remember on special days—your nephew's birthday, Christmas—to write your sister a note, or post on the FB page, how much you miss this darling boy.
Q. Funeral Etiquette: What is the etiquette for going to a wake or funeral of someone you knew but didn't especially like? I would like to go to my friend's mother's funeral just to show support for my friend, but I don't know if my presence is appropriate or welcome since I didn't especially get along with the person in the casket.
A: Fortunately a funeral is not like an episode of American Idol. The people in attendance do not voice their opinion of the life of the person in the casket. Tell your friend you are sorry for his or her loss and are planning on coming to the funeral. If your friend says, "I know you hated my mother, so please do not feel obligated to come," then you can make your decision. Otherwise, put on black, give your friend your condolences, and keep your opinions to yourself.
Q. Re: Invites and the divorced parents: Just a comment: My in-laws were bitterly divorced when my husband was in grad school. When our first child was about to turn 1, we invited all the grandparents. When I asked my FIL if he was coming, he asked if MIL was coming, and proceeded to hem and haw ... so I knew I had to nip it in the bud. I said to him, “Look—'Suzie' will be the granddaughter of both of you for the rest of your life. It would really be too bad if you skipped important milestones just because your ex might be there.” He came, and our daughter is now 20 and he's rarely missed a milestone. You just have to grow a backbone, or you'll be dealing with this issue as long as your parents are still alive.
A: Exactly. Good for you for telling the older generation to grow up and not punish the next generation because of their own unhappiness.
Q. Ex Resurfacing: What is the best way to deal with an ex-girlfriend who has resurfaced after over eight years of no contact? She was the girl immediately before me in the lineup. They lived together and their breakup was a bad one. She recently got in contact with him, through multiple phone calls and Facebook messages, after his business card was given to her by a co-worker in a professional capacity. Her messages have been emotionally charged and she has requested that they try rekindling their "friendship." My husband's replies have been polite and dismissive, and he hasn't responded at all to the latest one in which she asked for his friendship and bared her soul about how much she loved him. What is the right way to address the situation without making things awkward? They work in the same industry and will likely run in the same professional circles because their places of business are only 2 miles apart.
A: This is for your husband to handle, politely and decisively. He needs to say something like, "Danielle, I wish you the best but we are not going to be friends. The recent communication has been awkward and it needs to cease now." Then if it doesn't, he needs to block her. She sounds rather unbalanced, so let's hope she just goes away. But if she escalates, he can get a lawyer to send her a cease and desist letter. If he runs into her a polite but curt acknowledgement is all that's necessary. You should not let this get to you. Obviously your husband wants nothing to do with her.
Q. Liar, Liar: I recently discovered a good friend of mine is a compulsive liar. She has lied to me and our other friends about having a job, where she went to school, various tragedies that have happened to her (her dead mom is very much alive), and why she needs to borrow money (not from me, from others). This friend is charming and gregarious which is why I think so many of my friends and I ignored the warning signs. Now that I know, am I obligated to tell anyone? Right now I want to ease out of our friendship, but I know she and others will wonder why. What if anything do I tell them?
A: You can tell everyone the truth. To Lisa you can say, "I care about you, but you need help. You told me your mother had died, but Lisa, I learned she's alive. And that's not the only example. I just can't trust what you say, and trust is crucial to a friendship." If the others ask you can say, "Unfortunately, I found out that Lisa told me many things that weren't true. I'm concerned about her." Surely, everyone would start discovering this in due time.
Check out Dear Prudence's book recommendations in the Slate Store.