Dear Friend or Foe,
My best friend of 15 years—”Ann”—is wrapped up in a scam, and her whole family has fallen for it. It involves buying worthless foreign currency that will supposedly be revalued and make her a millionaire. Ann, who is in her late 20s, is in no position to be throwing money down the drain. She still lives with her parents and is struggling to pay for a wedding, at which I’m maid of honor, later this year. The first time she told me about the scheme, a few months ago, I thought she was joking. But then told me she can’t sleep anymore because she lies in bed every night thinking about her impending windfall.
After we talked, I did some research and learned that a lot of people are being taken in by this scam. I voiced my concerns, but Ann told me not to worry; she’d only invested a couple hundred dollars, and it was mostly for fun. I felt better, but then the next time I talked to her, she told me in a very bratty, told-you-so voice that “IT’S HAPPENING and soon—so there!” I jokingly told her that if it happens I’ll gladly eat crow, then listened to her go on and on about how she’s going to spend her riches.
Now it’s been a few months; and every time I talk to her, the windfall is happening “soon” and she’s superexcited. She sounds like a delusional person—not my best friend of so many years. A mutual friend who works in banking told me that people will believe what they desperately want to believe—and that if I try to get her to see it’s a scam, it’s just going to damage our friendship. Plus, she’ll never believe me, so I should stay mum. My husband, however, thinks I’m doing Ann a disservice by letting her throw money away. What should I do? I don’t want to lose Ann as a friend, especially as I’m excited to be in her wedding.
Bearer of Common Sense
I’m on your husband’s side. Initially, Ann may only have thrown a hundred dollars into the pool. But the firmness of her conviction that her pot of gold is just over the rainbow raises the real possibility that she (and her family) will be driven to toss in every last cent they have. You owe it to her as a friend to at least reiterate your conviction that she’s fallen for a hoax. The trick is to do so gently, so she doesn’t think you’re mocking her or acting superior.
I’d send her an email rather than discuss it with her in person, as you’re less likely to lose your nerve or get talked out of your own concern. Tell Ann you adore her as a friend and are thrilled for her upcoming nuptials. You just don’t want to see her throw away money she could be using for the wedding or honeymoon on a scam that has been well-documented. Include a link to the Internet article(s) you found. Also, I’d get on this today. You don’t want to write this email the day before Ann’s wedding. And after you click send, give her a few days to take in what you’ve said before you get back in touch. If she still doesn’t believe you, at least you’ll have tried.
Your mutual friend is right that people believe what they want to believe. Fantasy, for instance, is the only thing that keeps lotteries going. (The odds of winning Mega Millions are so slim that, as my economist husband confirms, buying tickets day after day is also a completely irrational act.) But at least those suckers only cost a buck.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
Since moving to a new city, I’ve made friends through volunteering and interest-based groups. Most of my NBF’s tend to be of average weight, as I am. But one of them, “Julia,” is, to put it bluntly, fat. Her husband, “Jim,” and almost all the others in that group are obese to morbidly obese, too. Moreover, when I do activities with the fat group, individuals—including Julia’s husband, when he’s been drinking—sometimes make cracks about me being “skinny” and how I must feel like I’m a “sardine surrounded by whales.” The result is that I feel very uncomfortable and usually try to change the subject. Is there a good way to react to these comments?
What’s more, I want to host some events that would bring my groups of friends together. But I find I’m a little embarrassed for my smaller friends to meet my fat ones. I don’t think either group would hold it against me. And I feel bad that I’m embarrassed. However, I worry that the obese group will make uncomfortable comments to my thinner friends, just as they’ve made them to me. Finally, I tend to do athletic activities with my slim friends. Once I start intermixing these groups, should I start extending the same (token) invitations to my fat friends—even though I know they’re physically incapable of participating?
Through Thick and Thin
Overweight people—whether you choose to blame fast food, genetics, car culture, laziness, depression, thyroid issues, the corn lobby, school lunch room menus, or a secret plot by al-Qaida for our country’s high BMI s—can face cruel barbs as well as discrimination. (Never mind the myriad health problems associated with obesity.) So if Jim feels compelled to crack a few comments pointing out how much less sucky your life is than his, can you really blame him? As to what you should answer, and assuming you consider this guy a real friend, I’d go with something like, “Hey, Jim, if you’re really motivated, I bet you can join the sardines too!”
As for your second question, I’m confused about whether you’re embarrassed to be seen with your fat friends or whether your main worry is that Jim and others will crack jokes at your slim friends, making them self-conscious. If the former is the real issue, don’t be so shallow. If the latter is the concern, I wouldn’t worry too much; most people love getting called skinny!
Regarding your last question, I don’t see why you have to invite your fat friends to go play tennis when you know they’re not interested. A therapist once offered me this excellent piece of advice: “You don’t have to tell everyone everything.” Well, you don’t have to invite everyone everywhere, either.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
My husband and I regularly hang out with another young couple, “Mike” and “Nicole,” and we have always had a great time. Last year, they welcomed their first child into their family, and we couldn’t have been happier for them. We even threw them a baby shower in our home. Since the baby arrived, however, Nicole has turned into one of those overprotective, paranoid sorts of mothers. I understand that it’s her first child, and she’s worried about something happening to him. But it’s getting out of hand. She freaks out when a box of tissues falls on him or the family dog bumps into him as it walks by. Also, we’re no longer allowed to hang out with them in the evenings after the baby has gone to sleep. So we only see them for lunch on the weekends.
Even worse, while we’re together, all Nicole wants to talk about are the stresses and woes of parenthood. What she doesn’t see is that she’s making it stressful for herself by worrying so much over tiny things. My husband and I don’t know how to respond. (“That’s no big deal,” definitely doesn’t work.) So we find ourselves focusing our conversations on Mike, effectively leaving out Nicole, who no longer seems interested in what’s going on in the world. Is there a way to say to them, and especially to Nicole, “We liked you better before you had your baby?”
Missing Our Friend’s Sanity
You may have liked Nicole more before she had Tiny Tim. But telling her so isn’t going to get you anywhere, since, in all likelihood, the kid isn’t going anywhere for the next 18 years. The good news is that Tiny Tim is on his way to becoming Not So Tiny Tim. Ideally, as the child gains independence and continues to bang into every piece of furniture in the house—and continues to live—his mommy will also begin to see that every falling Kleenex is not going to create a large dent in his head. A lot of new mothers get freaked about the death thing, becoming convinced that their babies will stop breathing during the night or otherwise expire on their watch. It’s heavy stuff, and it takes some parents more time than others to live with the fact that we can only control what we can control.
Moreover, Nicole might be suffering from post-partum depression and not realize it. If you get her at a quiet moment, tell her she seems really stressed and ask her if she’s finding motherhood “fun” at all so far? Make you a bet she answers in the negative. I’d give Nicole some time to regain her personality and interest in the outside world before you write her off. If in a year from now she’s still treating you guys like uncovered electrical sockets, feel free to turn off the switch. But I bet she recovers her old self sooner than you’d expect. In the meantime, by all means direct your conversation to her husband, who’s obviously taking the transition better. Or tell them lunch doesn’t work and see whether they get the message.
Friend or Foe