Dear Ms. Behavior:
My friend Terry met a woman online and likes her a lot. Over the past few weeks, it’s practically all she can talk about. Last night she finally showed me the photo of her date. I nearly fainted because her new love—let’s call her Satan—is someone I dated briefly five or six years ago. She seemed really together at first, but turned out to be a super-jealous and possessive bona fide nut job. I actually considered getting a restraining order!
Last night I was so stunned by Terry’s photo that I was literally speechless. Now I’m torn: Should I tell her what this woman is really? Or should I keep my mouth shut?
Did you happen to save any evidence? Crazed emails? Police reports? Boiled bunnies? If so, feel free to create a Power Point presentation with a soundtrack, documenting every last detail of your ugly experience.
In the absence of incriminating material, it may be difficult to convince Terry of her new date’s disastrous potential, especially during these first moments of blissful infatuation. You can feel it out by mentioning that you once dated Satan, but it’s unlikely that Terry wants to know the truth right now. You’re better off stepping back and letting the ugly little drama play itself out; then, once it’s all over, you and Terry can have the bonding experience that’s generally reserved for people who have survived the same atrocity.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
Barry, a dear friend, has been writing an erotic gay novel for the past year or so. My partner and I are both published writers, and Barry repeatedly made us promise that we would read his book when he finished it. I should mention that Barry’s real-life occupation is dentistry—but when he turned 40 he decided that he’s “as good a writer as anyone else” and needed to write a book. The problem, of course, is that while he may be proficient at filling teeth, his book is, well…not good. It’s filled with clichés and stereotypes. Worse yet, the protagonist is a middle-aged man who pursues very young boys. Not my cup o’ tea, to say the least.
Barry claims to want our honest feedback but if we tell him that his writing is trite and the content is nauseating, it may threaten our friendship. Aside from this pressure regarding his novel, we do enjoy Barry’s company. What would you suggest?
-Between a Rock and a Hard-On
Dear Between a Rock and a Hard-On:
It’s awkward to be asked to offer an opinion on a friend’s art, because a request for your “honest opinion” is often really just a request for praise.
First, let’s consider the downside of being honest: You might hurt Barry’s feelings and perhaps even harm the friendship.
However, if you are honest, Barry probably won’t inflict his writing on you anymore, which means that you can wipe the cliché sentences and the disturbing images from your mind with the hope that they won’t come back. Perhaps he will take the opportunity to get some help, i.e., writing lessons. And, once you express your feelings, your nausea will probably go away.
All things considered, it seems like telling the truth is the way to go.
© 2013 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.