Dear Ms. Behavior:
I’ve seen my new boyfriend, Elliot, go through some difficult times, mainly because of problems with drug addiction. He has been clean and sober for nearly a year now. He just moved in with me. He says being with me is good for him. He really wants our relationship to work.
Elliot insists that this time, his sobriety will stick. His old friends were into hard drugs—that whole “party and play” thing. He stays away from his old druggie friends. At his drug counselor’s suggestion, he got rid of his old cell number and e-mail address. He is doing well, going to work, going to meetings, and making new friends.
The problem is that Elliot’s old friend, James, who got him into crack and meth, is trying to get back in touch with him. He now e-mails and calls my cell phone incessantly, looking for him.
Ordinarily, it would be a no-brainer—I’d do everything in my power to keep them apart. But James claims he has a serious illness, so he needs to talk with Elliot, and settle their past. I have no way of knowing if this is true.
Am I obligated to tell Elliot that James is looking for him? Or should I protect Elliot’s sobriety at all costs?
No one can protect Elliott totally. As soon as he walks out the door of your house, James or any other old crack-head friend can try to find him. Elliott’s fate with regard to drugs will depend on many factors, including the level of support he cultivates, and his own daily decisions.
Tell Elliott that James has been calling, and claiming to have a serious illness. Ask Elliott what he wants to do about it. If he tells you that he has no interest in seeing James, you’ll be free to tell him to get lost.
If Elliott decides to call James back, help him to muster up all the support he can get first: meetings, therapy, and voodoo, plus, most of all, the advice and involvement of friends who are clean and sober.
You might want to check out Al-Anon, too.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My best friend, Sue, who is marrying her girlfriend, Mary, asked me to officiate at her nonreligious wedding. Sue is the most controlling person I know. She has my every word scripted, and my every movement blocked. I know this is just her anxious personality, so I’m OK with following her orders.
The problem is that Sue has been taking modern dance classes on the sly. She plans to step out of her wedding dress when it’s her turn to say her vows, and do a full-on dance to express her love for Mary. Of course, no one knows anything about this but me.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen the dance, and it is not good—not at all. I fear Sue will make a fool of herself, and make all of her guests uncomfortable, but, most of all, embarrass her bride-to-be.
Is there anything I can say to her at this point? Am I being a jerk for wanting to squelch Sue’s self-expression? Or am I saving my friend from an unseemly moment in an otherwise beautiful ceremony?
Dear Rev. Joan:
A bride unzipping and tossing off her dress, and doing a dance to express the emotion behind her vows, does sound rather like a comedy skit, especially because she’ll be surrounded by people who’ve gathered to witness the sacred event.
Of course, the level of hilarity will depend a lot on what the bride wears underneath the dress (a white unitard? pasties and a G-string?), as well as on what kind of music accompanies her dance (an accordion? a French horn? a classical ensemble?).
It’s nice that you’d like to save your friend from being embarrassed, but it’s not your job to protect her. If you suggest that her wedding dance is absurd, she’ll feel you’re not supporting her. You gently can try to convince her to save the dance for the reception, but it probably won’t work.
Fortunately, your friend’s wedding isn’t an episode of So You Think You Can Dance, with a posse of harsh judges and a critical audience. Let’s hope the crowd of invited loved ones already adores the brides, and will be charmed by Sue’s flailing attempts at grace.
Do try to discourage people from videotaping the blessed event, if possible.
© 2009 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of Do What I Say: Ms. Behavior’s Guide to Gay and Lesbian Etiquette (Houghton Mifflin). Signed copies are available directly from the author.