Dear Ms. Behavior:
For the past four years, a bunch of gay women in my social circle have gotten together at the house of one of us each month to watch a movie, have dinner, or dance. These are casual events—though we’ve seen couples fall in love, break up, get back together, etc.
The problem is with our friend, Julie, who has been coming to Lesbian Night for the past year. Every time we get together, she drinks to the point of getting wasted. We’ve tried to limit alcohol, because she gets so sloppy and boring. Last time she got drunk, she went on a dull rant about Pygmalion versus My Fair Lady.
Sometimes, she remembers nothing about what happened. She doesn’t believe us when we tell her that she sang the entire sound track to Flashdance by herself. She also doesn’t believe that she sits in the corner and cries.
Despite our attempted prohibition, Julie brings a couple of bottles of wine, and drinks them herself. Some of the women want to disinvite her, and a few want to disband. But I think we should talk to her, and tell her she clearly has a problem, so we don’t want her to drink at these events.
What are your thoughts?
—Lesbian Night Organizer
Dear Lesbian Night Organizer:
If the other women in your group drank as heavily as Julie does, perhaps no one would notice her boring diatribes or her off-key singing. But in her present social context, her drinking is conspicuous, and the rest of your group is held captive.
Meet Julie for coffee. Tell her that you’re concerned about her drinking. She’s unlikely, however, to get your point. Drunks rarely see themselves as others see them.
If Julie truly is unmoved by your worries, have one of your friends to document her next hammered evening on video, capturing all her embarrassing and tedious moments. If she’s performing as Eliza Doolittle, get it on film. If she staggers, vomits, or babbles about politics, film it.
Later on, you can have a special interventionist lesbian gathering, and invite her to watch it, so that she see herself the way others see her. This also would be a good time to tell her frankly that she puts a damper on lesbian night. Whether she ever stops drinking, she at least may feel too embarrassed to continue getting bombed at the monthly gathering.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
Joe and I got married last year, despite his mother’s protests. She’s a traditional housewife with many strong opinions. She also lives in our town, and drops by for surprise visits all the time.
Because I was the first man Joe ever introduced to his family, she seems to believe I ruined her boy. The rest of his family seems to go along with her. Joe defends his mother, and makes excuses for her. His father and sisters are the same way: “Oh, that’s just Mama. That’s the way she is.” Frankly, she’s a pill and a monster.
I love this man, and we’d like to have children, but I don’t want to bring a baby into this hostile family. I actually would like it if we never had to see her again.
How can I get Joe to see that we need to branch out from his family, and get new friends? How can I wrest him away from her?
—Married To Joe
Dear Married To Joe:
Finding a few new friends may provide needed balance, but don’t try to convince Joe to cut his monster (Mama) out of his life. Attempting to wrest him away from her only will make him bond with her even more.
Can you find a reason to look for another place to live?
In most cases a move really would be a last resort, but a physical boundary sometimes is required when emotional boundaries aren’t possible yet. Living farther away at least would be a deterrent to her stopping by, which may be the first step in gaining distance.
Because Joe doesn’t view his mother’s intrusion as a problem—and never may see it your way—relocation seems a reasonable option that at least would diminish the frequency of the surprise visits. Be forewarned, however, that the only way you’ll get away with it is if you pretend you’re moving for proximity to work, the ocean, or a leather bar.
© 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.