Do you have issues with your no-longer-best girlfriend? Is your coworker driving you crazy? Megan Carpentier is here to give you the life advice that you don’t want to hear, told in the way you absolutely need to hear it.
My great-aunt (with whom my immediate family was pretty close) died recently after a long illness. While we have a large extended family, she was preceded by her husband and two kids, so she’s got no immediately apparent heirs — but she does have a lot of money. I never expected to get any of it, nor do I really care whether I do or not: I mean, if she wanted to endow a scholarship or make sure her dog lived in luxury until the end of its life, that would be totally fine with me. Apparently, though, I’m alone in this feeling. From the phone call letting us know that she was headed to the hospital for the likely last time to the email arguments about the obituary, everyone has started jockeying for position — mostly against her nephew-from-the-husband’s-side, who is the executor of her estate. But I don’t want any part of this? How do I tell my family to leave me the fuck out of their nastiness so I can just grieve?
I’m really sorry for your loss, and for the realization that the rest of your family cared more about your great-aunt’s money than they did for her. Of course, that might well indicate why they’re worried about the status of her money: if she was close to the people that she knew cared more about her than her money, where her money goes might well reflect that.
But that doesn’t stop your relatives from lining up their defenses to try to claim a right to some money that a dying woman didn’t want them to have. It sucks, but it’s also pretty typical. And if you feel like it distracts from your ability to mourn your great-aunt in the way you need, you have to ask for the space. So the next time someone tries to involve you in their position-jockeying, just say something like, “Look, Great Aunt [Andrea] just died, and I need time and space to grieve for my loss. How you choose to use this time is up to you. But I’m asking that you respect my need to not be involved in these conversations about money for quite a while. And, if you don’t, I won’t be picking up the phone or responding to emails until I’m ready to speak about your desire to make sure you get the amount of money you think she should have thought you deserved.”
Adjust, of course, for your own level of personal combativeness. But any amount of “STFU about her money, you insensitive pusbag” should get the point across.
My friend and I used to be very close in middle school and early high school. We are 22 now. We see each other twice, maybe three times a year at most. We live in different cities, went to different colleges, have different interests, etc. We never had a falling out and I still like her very much but I would barely even consider her a friend. BUT she recently got engaged. She’s been with the guy for 6 years. She doesn’t have many close friends because she alienated them all since she’s been dating the guy. She asked me to be in the wedding and stupid me got emotional about how long we’ve known each other and automatically said yes. A few weeks ago she sent out an e-mail to all the bridesmaids saying we have to pay $150 to get our hair and makeup professionally done. I almost had a coronary. I have a job but I don’t make a lot of money. That e-mail got me thinking about the other costs that come with being in her wedding. I’m going to have to pay for a dress, shoes, etc. Not to mention the fact that I’ll have to take off work to travel to where she lives now for the bridal shower and bachelorette party. Basically, I’m realizing that this was a terrible idea. I barely know this girl anymore, and I don’t want to spend lots of time and money on someone who isn’t a part of my life. But I’m afraid if I back out now she’ll hate me. Plus, I don’t even know if I can back out now without being really tacky. What do you think?
Well, I think two things: one is that yours is a story I’ve heard from a lot of girl friends over the years, about the girl who disappears into a relationship only to emerge years later seeking the friends she ditched in order to fill out the bridesmaid roster for an unaccountably large wedding filled with people who know neither one another nor the bride. It pretty much never goes well for the bridesmaids, who find themselves shackled to a bride who has spent a long time making her relationship with one dude the focus of her life and time, and very little time maintaining relationships with female friends — because, of course, The Wedding is to be the pinnacle of that relationship, and bridesmaids are the minor, supporting characters in the two-person show she’s made her life. She probably doesn’t care about most of them except insofar as they look nice in the photos (although, often, she doesn’t want them to look too nice) and she’s certainly not used to focusing on their needs.
The second thing is that, yes, it is hard to back out of being a bridesmaid once you’ve accepted and, yes, she will probably hate you if you do. Of course, there’s always the argument that, if you only see her twice a year now, you’re never going to see her against when she’s married anyway. But, from a fairness perspective, I think you run the odds on this one and see if she’ll kick you out — or, at least, be a real friend cognizant of your individual needs (in my experience, the least likely scenario).
Tell her the truth: you can’t afford $150 worth of primping after you shell out for the dress and shoes. Look for a salon in the area that will do your hair (it isn’t gonna cost $150 — even in urban areas, a blow-out and up-do is $30-$60 in a moderate place) and tell her you’ll have your hair done there, and you’re even willing to get it done in the style she wants (which is probably why she wants her bridesmaids to go to one place together). Tell her you can do your own make-up. Tell her that you can’t afford the time off or the travel costs for the three visits — bridal showers and bachelorette party attendance are nice, but reasonable people (I know, big caveat) understand that inviting an out-of-towner to be a member of the wedding party often means they can’t be around for every event. Figure out if your budget and vacation time will allow you to do even two of the three “required” events, and then offer her that, if that’s a possibility.
If she’s really interested in being your friend, she’ll understand, and you’ll have a reasonable compromise and a sense of whether she’s really your friend. And if she rants and raves and threatens and cries and guilts and cajoles, then you’ll know you’re just a setpiece on her Big Day — and you can decide whether being her setpiece is worth the money she’s demanding you spend on her. And, if you’re really luck, she’ll kick you out in a big dramatic scene and you can skip being a bridesmaid and attending the wedding.
If you have a problem with a friend, relative, coworker, or other person in your life, email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him.