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Reality Check

Jyl is taking some vacation time. This column is reprinted from July 16, 2008 Flagpole.

I have a very good friend who I have known for several years. Her birthday is coming up. I know this because she brings it up at least once every few days for a month or two beforehand.

There is, of course, a big to-do planned, even though we are well into our 20s, and I don’t see why every birthday has to be such a big deal. She has invited a sizable group of people to dinner. Her birthday falls on a Tuesday, which is wholly inconvenient for everyone else, and I tried to tell her as much, but she won’t hear it. I know damned well that half of her “friends” won’t be there, not that I blame them, and she will inevitably be disappointed. (Can you tell I have been through this before?)

Also, she will expect those of us who are there to pick up the tab for her meal, which isn’t a big deal, but it would be even less of a deal if we could all go on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The thing is, I know her other friends, but I am not their friend. We all know each other only through this girl, so I have no one else to talk to about this.

Okay, so now I have a huge problem: I am starting a new job that day. I will not be able to make it, even though I agreed a month ago to be there for her dinner. I have no idea how to tell her because it is going to be a big deal no matter what. I know she is going to be really upset, and I don’t want to deal with it. I am one of the few people who consistently deals with her through thick and thin, and no matter what I say it won’t be good enough. So, here’s the dilemma: Should I tell her ahead of time that I can’t go, in which case she will give me grief from now until way after that day, or should I tell her I’ll be there, not show up, and apologize later?

Rock—Me—Hard Place


Normally, I am a proponent of being upfront, RMHP. In this case however, an old saying springs to mind: “It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” The bottom line is that this needy, pain-in-the-ass friend of yours (and you never did say WHY you were her friend, since she is clearly not yours) is going to whine and carry on regardless of what you do. At least if you pretend that you might make it, you can get through your first day at your new job without having had her nagging you for a week beforehand. You can just call her after the fact and apologize, and see if maybe she wants to get together that weekend. If she decides not to forgive you, then you’ll likely be better off. But, I don’t see that happening, since you are obviously one of the only people insane enough to put up with her shit.

Should you decide to go the truth route, just say it. Don’t hem and haw, and don’t leave room for her to get manipulative on your ass. Just say, “Hey, it turns out I’m not going to be able to make it… new job blah blah blah,” and ask if she wants to get together at the weekend. Don’t leave her room to argue. If she tries, you might want to tell her to think about somebody else for a minute. Or something. Sheesh.

My best friend is a woman. We have known each other for a really long time, longer than I have known my wife. I have never had any feelings for my best friend other than strictly platonic ones, and as far as I know the feeling is mutual. My wife knows this, and there has never been an issue. I often go out with my friend when my wife is either at home or out with her other friends. My best friend and I are often mistaken for a couple, which is natural and not really a big deal to either of us. I have a very happy marriage, and my wife and I trust each other implicitly.

The problem is that some of my friends seem to think that my best friend and I are more than friends, or at very least that she has “a thing” for me. It is really uncomfortable for me since I would never, ever even think about cheating. It makes me mad because my guy friends should know me better, and I feel like it also devalues my friendship with my best friend. I know they don’t really think I would do anything, but I am totally sick of the jokes and remarks, and I know it makes my friend uncomfortable too. AM I being too sensitive? Is there a way to make this stop without the whole “Thou doth protest too much” problem? Help!

Totally Married


First, bravo to your wife for being cool. And bully to you for making both your friendship and your marriage work. There isn’t much you can do about the assumptions of a waiter, but if your guy friends are going to continue to be jackasses, it may be time to find new friends. Are they giving you shit because it amuses them and they know it pisses you off, or is it possible that they really aren’t sure? The reason I ask is because if they know it bothers you and it amuses them, then fighting back will only make it worse. Depending on their personalities, if they know they are really getting under your skin they might redouble their efforts. But, if they are adults, and truly your friends, and if they’re just giving you shit because they have nothing else to talk about, then you need to set them straight once and for all. Tell them that it isn’t cool to suggest that you might cheat, and that it is disrespectful of you, your wife, and your best friend. Ask them seriously to not bring it up again because it really pisses you off.

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