Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Friend breakup: I’m currently finishing my graduate program and recently got the exciting news that I got a job on the opposite end of the country at a prestigious organization. The only catch? A classmate who is ostensibly my best friend in the program also got a position with the organization. I feel terrible saying this, but I have wanted to distance myself from this friendship for the past year.
I realized this past summer that this friend is self-absorbed and externalizes blame, and that I tend to feel drained in her presence. I did not confront these issues this year because our program is tiny and our friend group is very tightknit. I had intended to simply set up some distance after graduation and to slowly fade on this friendship. Now we’re working in the same office and moving to the same city. What do I do?
A: Slowly fade on this friendship anyway! Don’t move in together; make new friends that aren’t connected in any way to this person; be polite and friendly at work but unavailable after hours. You won’t be able to vanish from their life completely, but you can certainly transition from “close school chums” to “vaguely friendly co-workers” if that’s what you want.
Q. Sick, abusive father: My father abused me sexually. I cut off all contact with him, which meant I lost most of my other relatives. He now has dementia, and my sister takes time from her work to go give his wife some relief from caregiving. I cannot be there to help but feel bad for his wife and my sister. Should I offer money for extra caregiving help? Pay for my sister’s plane tickets? My sister is very resentful that I “removed myself” from doing the front-line caregiving, even though I cut off contact a decade or more before he became sick.
A: If your sister wants to resent you for declining to act as a nurse to the man who sexually abused you, then she is making a poor choice.
You are of course free to offer money if you wish, if you think you would somehow benefit from doing so. But if you feel in any way like your sister expects or demands money and are considering giving in to keep her happy, please know that you are under no social or moral obligation here. You do not owe your abuser anything, even if he is old, and you certainly do not have to assist financially the family members who chose your abuser over you.