Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: Take the Hint Already

This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Linda Holmes discuss a Prudie letter: “Take the Hint Already

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Hi Linda, thank you for doing this today! As you know, you have made me feel like my job is in danger because you give such good answers on Twitter. I thought you’d be the perfect person to weigh in. So, what would you tell this person who hates their friend’s boring mom life and wants no part of it?

Linda Holmes: Well, the first thing I thought was … what hint do you want your friend to take, exactly, referenced in the sign-off? Because it seems like the explicit hint is “I’d rather only stay one night,” but the implicit hint is “you don’t interest me anymore,” and if this person is looking for the nice way to get that across to the friend without a confrontation, that’s a big ask.

Jenée: That is so true, she has dropped no hints. She’s actually doing what I tell people to do when they want to fade out from a friendship because they don’t like the person.

Linda: And there’s nothing here that makes me think the friend has done something really inconsiderate that would make it, like, the friend’s FAULT. Like, she has a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old! Yes, she is currently not going to wineries. And if the worst thing you can ever say about a friend’s partner is that they have little personality, then … lucky you.

Jenée: To be fair, he also can’t do dinner and bath time for one night. Which is annoying but I don’t have kids, I can’t really judge.

Linda: Yes, that’s the one thing I did take away, but it doesn’t even look like they talked about it. And let me just say, as a person who is also mostly a homebody, “we don’t do anything” is not the natural consequence of “we stay home.” Maybe you watch a movie, play cards, bake, talk … all friend things!

Jenée: So true … I feel like one thing we learned during the pandemic is that just being in someone’s physical presence can really be a joy. What it comes down to, I think, is the LW thinks real friendship is winery /night out friendship. Or more generously: That’s how she wants to spend her time these days.

Linda: Right. It’s the friend version of love languages. Some people need to go out, and that’s valid! But some people really value quiet time at home together, even with their friends. It’s just odd to me that there’s been no conversation from LW about this, about their frustration with it. Give the friend a chance! I think it’s ungenerous to read “lucky her, having that much time with you” as jealous and biting, rather than … your friend misses you! And I think your response is right on in terms of understanding that you may need a friend when you’re depressed, or getting over surgery, or grieving—friendship, like marriage, is not all a bunch of entertaining anecdotes!

Jenée: Yeah it actually seems like the friend is doing exactly what we’d tell her to do: “Reach out and invite your friend over and say you’d really like to see her more. Be direct.” She did it!

Have you ever dealt with this with a friend who had kids or was in a different phase of life?

Linda: For sure. I had a couple with whom I was very good friends who had a baby, and their strategy was that I would come over, and I would sit downstairs and watch TV with one parent just like we used to, and the other parent would stay upstairs with the kid. It was awesome; I stayed close to them. I also have a friend who cancels plans probably … half the time, because of family stuff. And now that I know that, and I know it’s not personal, I just roll with it, the same way I would if it were because they had asthma or chronic fatigue or whatever. You can learn to work your friendships based on the individuals in the situation.

But I will say: It takes a lot of confidence and honesty. The older I get, the more I learn that all friendships are not completely equal all the time.

Jenée: Yeah, I remember when my best friend had a baby when we were like 23, and I was a little caught off guard that our day together was “feed the baby a million times and take 100 hours to get out of the house, go to Target and come back.” But it didn’t make me not want to hang out with her.

Linda: It’s so important to see friendships as sometimes requiring the same commitment to the relationship as family or romance, if you really want them to be meaningful. You sometimes tolerate things, you do what you don’t want to do, you hang around tertiary characters you wouldn’t choose. And the rewards are incredibly … rewarding. I think your approach of “have you ever thought about approaching this really differently, with a more loving heart?” (Even though you were nicer than that) is right on.

Jenée: Thank you! And to be clear, again, so people don’t yell at me, she doesn’t HAVE to go visit and keep up with this relationship.

Linda: Absolutely not!

Jenée: But I honestly think she’ll be happier in the end (Again, the end being 90 years old, having outlived husbands, living a Golden Girls life or whatever) if she does.

Linda: If you want to nope out of a friendship because you don’t have enough in common, that’s perfectly okay! But I think you have to be clear that that’s what you’re doing, and not do a big “uggggggh” eye-roll about it if it’s just a matter of wanting different things.

Jenée: Do something to make the 5-year-old exhausted! Bring wine and noise reducing headphones! Or just find some joy in being a supportive friend. If possible.

Linda: Of course! This is such a natural part of a particular stage of life. It’s easy to feel defensive about not being interested in kids when your friends first have little kids. It’s easy to feel like they expect you to want to think about their kids all the time in a way that’s not fair. And I am certainly an advocate for not pretending you want to be around kids all the time! But your friends haven’t wronged you by having kids and changing their priorities, either.

I agree with you: Be kind to your friends when you can; it will be worth it.

Jenée: Thanks, Linda!