Miss Conduct

Advice: Can a longtime friendship survive long distance?

Plus, what to do when a strong family resemblance causes awkward social situations.

Need advice? Submit questions for Miss Conduct here.

Last year a close friend of 20 years moved about three hours away. I’ve tried to stay in touch but she is never able to attend anything I invite her to. Our last communication was in January of this year when she texted me to say she would call me when she wasn’t so busy. We are both planning weddings and I’ve received her shower invitation. Should I go as an act of good faith in hopes that someday we might be friends again, or decline and send a gift?


M.E. / Somerville

Flip a coin. It’s not a flippant suggestion, if you’ll forgive the almost-pun. Sometimes your gut reaction to the coin’s decision tells you something vital.

Or maybe I was supposed to be your coin, and give you a clear, decisive answer that you could follow or ignore! In that case, I say you should go. You and your friend both have a lot on your plates right now, and her inability to focus on your relationship almost certainly does not reflect her love for you. You’re both planning weddings, and she’s adjusting to a new town and probably a new job, and that’s a lot. And you’re still learning how to navigate your friendship as a long-distance one. Three hours is a deceptive distance — you think it’s more doable than it really is. If she’d moved to Chicago you’d probably be texting or FaceTiming more frequently.

I’ve been through some friend fade-outs myself and know how painful they can be. But this one may only be a bump in the road. Hang in there.

My family has been involved in our community for several generations, and we share a strong resemblance. Several times, strangers have approached me in public places, demanding to know if I am a member of my family, and proceeding to ask me all sorts of questions about my relatives. These people don’t even tell me who they are until I politely introduce myself and ask their names. Are they being impolite? How can I graciously tell them that I don’t want strangers knowing personal information?


Anonymous / Milton

They’re being kind of rude, yes, but they aren’t thinking of it that way — it’s a benign sort of cognitive egocentricity, is all. If they know who you are you surely must know who they are, on some preconscious level! It’s like how babies think.

What kinds of questions are they asking? If it’s anodyne enough — “Is Drusilla still plugging away at the DMV?” and Drusilla is — you may as well answer. If it’s encroaching a bit more than that — “Is Drusilla still plugging away at the IVF?” for example — take control without scolding them for asking. You’re already asking their names, which is great. Now push them to give Cousin Drusilla a call. “Honestly, it’s not my place to say,” you reply with a note of mild wonderment. “But I know she’d love to hear from you! I’ll tell her I ran into you the next time I see her.” Then you’re busy, and have to get going.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.