Dear Ms. Behavior:
My ex, Larry, was annoying when we were together, and he’s still annoying. Several pairs of his shiny shoes remain in my closet, even though we broke up two years ago, and I’ve asked him a dozen times to come remove them. He keeps promising to fix my computer (which he messed up by downloading porn), but never does it.
When we talk on the phone, or through e-mail, we argue over who is more annoying. No comparison—the way he chews his food could make you want to kill yourself.
Anyway, we haven’t talked in a couple of months, because we irritated each other to death the last time we spoke. I concluded that the friendship was probably not worth the effort. But I just found out that Larry’s grandmother died.
Should I send a card? If I send one, is it a message that I want to be back in his life in some regular way? I don’t. If I don’t send a card, is it a message that I don’t care about him at all? Also not true. What should I do?
After a relationship ends, people always ask if they still should:
(a) send their ex’s mother a birthday present;
(b) lend him money to buy a new hairweave;
(c) help him get his sister into rehab; or,
(d) give him the occasional hand job to cheer him up when he’s in a sad mood.
Sometimes, the answers to these questions are complicated. Yours is not.
Death trumps resentment. No one’s asking you to attend the memorial service, and keen over the casket, or to resume a closer friendship again. But sending a sympathy card is a no-brainer. You won’t regret having expressed your condolences, but you might regret it if you don’t.
Perhaps Larry is “annoying,” but a little misplaced porn on your computer, or few pairs of lingering pumps or flip-flops in your closet, sounds fairly benign, at least compared to the physical and emotional detritus that lingers after some relationships end, e.g., STDs, insecurity, a hard-to-dispose-of water bed, jealousy, crabs, crack addiction, etc.
So, send a card, but send it with kindness and love.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My old friend, Kate, married her girlfriend (whom I’ll call Hagatha) last spring, and didn’t invite me to her wedding. I never understood why I was left out. Kate’s excuse was that the ceremony was “practically spontaneous”—even though they drove all the way to Massachusetts for their celebration, and several friends were invited to join them.
Perhaps I was excluded because Hagatha doesn’t like me, or maybe she’s just a grouchy person. In any case, her grumpiness has kept me from doing what I normally would do—just knock on Kate’s door, and ask her what’s up.
I didn’t send a gift, and haven’t confronted the situation, but I ran into Kate at a birthday party last weekend. I was surprised by her exuberant greeting and big hug, because I had assumed our friendship was over. She just skipped right over the wedding insult, and acted like everything was fine.
Should I ask her why I wasn’t invited? Should I ask if Hagatha dislikes me?
One of the great perks of gay and lesbian marriage is that now, instead of just being offended by straight friends who fail to invite us to their nuptials (or neglect to include our partners), we can be dissed by our queer friends, too!
Even if a wedding is “practically spontaneous,” some thought goes into the guest list. But not everyone divides the prospective guest list into “friends” and “nonfriends.” Perhaps you occupy that middle ground where you’re close enough to Kate for a big hug and some occasional face time, but not close enough to be a wedding guest.
Does you need some other, deeper explanation?
Maybe “Hagatha” hates the very sight of you. Maybe she and Kate had financial constraints, and couldn’t invite all of their friends. Perhaps “Hagatha” wants all the lesbians guests to be bridesmaids, and wear pink taffeta, but knows you’re a “winter=E2,” and only look good in browns and burgundy.
If you still are feeling hurt, it’s worth mentioning your feelings to Kate. Maybe she’ll tell you something that’s clarifying. If she can’t handle talking about it at all, you probably will feel a bit less sorry that you’re not on her Top 10 list.
© 2008 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.