Editor’s Note: Welcome to Red Thread’s new advice columnist, Debra Darvick, a longtime Detroiter with…
Dear Debra: Friend In A Fix
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A new woman joined has joined our mahj group. She’s a good player, but she has begun sharing her health concerns. I’m starting to dread our weekly game because I don’t want to hear about incisions, drainage and more.
— Having a Change of Heart
You and the other players need a plan. Stat. The next time Miss Two Bams starts up with the sharing, divert the conversation. “We’re so glad you’re better now.” “Tell me, what are the kids up to?” “Does anyone have a good kale salad recipe?”
If she continues with the updates from General Hospital, you can take her aside and gently ask that she limit the sharing of her operations. Tell her your stomach grows queasy or that her tales remind you of your own health issues that you prefer not to focus on.
If she doesn’t take the hint, you might just have a dead hand and will have to find a new game if you cannot find a way to let her weekly medical updates pass you by.
A couple of years ago, I reconnected, via Facebook, with a high school friend. Living to regret it. Lunch with the two of us was OK. But when we went to dinner as couples, it became clear we have little in common but a shared past. Economically, educationally, and in terms of our values and lifestyles, there is no fit.
Unfortunately, she and her husband want to hang out with us as “best friends” celebrating birthdays and holidays together. We caved and spent last New Year’s Eve with them (awful), and they already want to book us for New Year’s Eve this year! I wouldn’t mind going out for an occasional lunch, but the couples thing is not happening.
She’s starting to send emails that are making me feel guilty for not wanting to be with them more. They don’t have a lot of friends, which just makes it worse.
— Best Friends Forever Not
Given these strong-arm tactics, it’s not hard to see why your old friend doesn’t have a lot of people to hang with. While it is sad to see someone struggle, it is not up to you to be her social safety net. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, “No one can make you feel guilty without your consent.”
Next time she calls to make couples plans, suggest a lunch for just the two of you, if and only if you truly want to. If she brings up New Year’s, say as lightly as possible, “Oh, that is way too far into the future to plan!”
If she doesn’t get the hint that couples dinners are not happening, you can either continue to stall or tell her frankly that you are sorry but that is not a possibility. If the pressuring continues to the point that no comfortable middle ground is achievable, you may just have to unfriend her.
A good friend offered to do some work for me that fell within her professional skill set. She did a beautiful job, but it turned out to be a much bigger project than either of us anticipated, and she spent more hours on it that I ever imagined. While we didn’t discuss compensation at the outset, I don’t feel comfortable leaving this as a “friendship freebie.”
Asking her to send a bill at the point seems a bit awkward, and I’m not sure how much she would charge. I don’t feel any resentment vibes, but leaving this as a favor also feels like I am taking advantage of a dear friend. How can I compensate my friend and keep things on an even keel?
— Friend Who Benefited
Ah, the perils of mixing friendship and business. Sometimes, many times, simplicity is best. Say it straight out, “Friend, when we started you offered to do this and we didn’t discuss my paying you for your time. Given how well this turned out, it must have taken more time than either of us anticipated. May I pay you for your time or tell me which of your favorite stores would you like to have a gift certificate from?”
If she’s squeamish about mixing cash and friendship and opts for a gift certificate, don’t stint but don’t go overboard. She did agree to help you as your friend not as a professional. In the end, you have the result you wanted, and you are sensitive enough to preserve and honor a beautiful friendship. Priceless.
Debra Darvick shares her unique take on life, books and more at debradarvick.com.