We have become good friends with a couple who moved near us a few years ago. Not long ago, close friends of theirs moved here as well. Since then, we’ve seen our friends only a few times, and always at our invitation. We have received a Save the Date for their daughter’s wedding later this year. My husband does not want to go, and I agree, but am afraid that staying home is too big a statement. And they may not end up inviting us. We were obviously just placeholders for their real friends. If we are invited, should we attend the wedding?
B.C. / Boston
They will invite you; that’s what a Save the Date is, a promise of a future invitation. (Miss Conduct thanks you from the bottom of her old-school heart for not using the acronym, which never sounds, to her Gen X ears, like something one ought to be pleased to receive from a friend.) Before that invitation arrives, though, why not have a conversation with your friends?
You are obviously very hurt by their neglect, but leaping to the conclusion that you’ve been permanently B-listed and were never friends to begin with — that’s Spider-Man territory, leaping-wise. It’s far more likely that life got away from your friends a bit, what with their old besties coming to town, a wedding to help organize, and the usual summer chores and socializing, and they simply haven’t been as proactive about getting together as you were used to. Doesn’t that seem reasonable? If you’d inadvertently neglected friends — good grief, it’s late July already and you still haven’t invited the Belatedsons over for a cookout! — wouldn’t you like them to say something like, “Hey, we love you guys. We haven’t seen you nearly enough.” Offer to schlep along on errands or suggest starting a book group once the wedding is over.
If their response indicates that you have, in fact, lost your Priority Friend Status — I’m so sorry! It is painful. Go to the wedding or not, as you choose. The blunt fact is that if your friendship is not especially important to this couple, your lack of attendance at the wedding won’t be much of a statement at all and any vaguely plausible excuse to get out of it will suffice.
My friend — let’s call her Amy — has a sister I’ll call Beth. Beth has a checkered dating history, with a tendency to go for guys with criminal records, involved in drug dealing, etc. Beth has been dating “Carl,” an ex-con. Amy recently found out that Carl has a Nazi flag hanging in his bedroom and has been heard making racist statements. Amy’s conflicted about what, if anything, to do. Confront Beth? Say nothing? Sever ties entirely? The sisters are close but have a complicated relationship, and Amy is emotionally and spiritually exhausted from years of walking a tightrope of family issues.
Anonymous / Boston
It sounds as though Amy has wanted to draw a line in the sand with Beth for some time, and the thing about Nazis is, they are a great place to draw the line. Wittingly being in the company of Nazis removes one from the company of the civilized. Amy ought to give herself permission to take a break from her sibling relationship. Should Beth decide to de-Nazify herself at some point, she can be welcomed back into the fellowship of the decent.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.