Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “She Hurt Me. Do You Care?”

This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Danny Lavery discuss a Prudie letter: “She Hurt Me. Do You Care?

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Danny, thank you for agreeing to do this chat with me after a long day of travel while jet-lagged and exhausted!

Danny Lavery: Thank you for giving me a reason to stay awake until 8 p.m.! You saved me from a terrible 6 p.m. nap.

Jenée: You’re welcome! Whose side are you on?

Danny: I do agree that this sounds tough! But I don’t necessarily feel a strong tug towards being on any one person’s side more than another at first blush.

Jenée: I think Dana is doing her very best and not betraying the letter writer in any way.

Danny: I do think there’s a sort of overarching issue that has to do with avoiding conflict until it becomes so big and unbearable that all you can do is flinch away from a friend. But I don’t want to make too many assumptions without knowing more about what exactly precipitated the LW’s breakup with Taylor.

Jenée: Hmm, that’s a good point. I’m dying to know what the hurtful things were that Taylor “did and kept doing over time.”

Danny: I always want details along those lines. They can be really useful!

Jenée: As I said in my response, I feel like if we were talking about something objectively horrendous, LW would have said it. But that’s just a guess.

Danny: I think that the important thing to bear in mind here is how easily weddings can become incredibly fraught and stressful even under ideal circumstances, in part because it involves balancing a lot of different peoples’ needs /desires /expectations /commitments /feuds, and that’s a lot for one party to handle. And yet most people manage this without having two receptions!

So I would really encourage the LW to think of any bigger-picture conversations about friendship as ones that will be a LOT easier to have after the wedding is safely in the past. I am inclined to think that’s a lot of work, but I really don’t think the LW should try to convince Dana to do anything different re: the two gatherings, because I just think it’d be so easy for that to turn into a fight.

Jenée: Great point, which also follows the “don’t antagonize the bride if you can avoid it” rule.

Danny: Especially since the LW has already stressed “I can absolutely be in a room with Taylor and not make things harder for you,” and Dana has declined to change her mind.

Jenée: I mean maybe Taylor said “I’m going to fight LW on the spot if I have to see her.” We have no idea what’s going on, really.

Danny: Yeah, just hang your hat on the “Dana says it’s less stressful” and go with it. “You got it, I’m on board, can I bring anything to the party.” And obviously the LW is already there.

Jenée: I wonder why LW thinks Dana has picked a side, when she pretty clearly has refused to pick a side.

Danny: I think that the LW wants Dana to pick a side!

Jenée: YES. LW wants Taylor out of the picture for good lol.

Danny: Which is a fairly human impulse. I’m not saying it’s good or justified necessarily, just that it’s pretty common, and I can get why someone might feel that way. And that’s probably why she had “assumed” that Dana and Taylor had drifted apart, and realizing that she hadn’t hurt her feelings. She doesn’t feel like she has grounds to actually say “I want you to pick me,” so she’s in that difficult position of wanting something she doesn’t think she can ask for, and maybe even something she doesn’t think she should ask for.

Jenée: Meanwhile Dana’s probably spent the past year feeling so awkward about telling LW when she does spend time with Taylor. I guess I would also say to the LW, if you know in your heart that Taylor did something super hurtful and a real friend to you would shun her over it, it’s okay to be mad at Dana and be the one to end the friendship. If no friend of Taylor can be a friend of yours, that’s okay.

Any final thoughts before you pass out?

Danny: Yes! I think it’s really important to distinguish between these two issues: 1. Can I be friends with Dana if she’s also friends with Taylor? and 2. Is Dana maintaining friendships with other people as a barometer of how much she cares about me? And the answer to the first question is wide open! You might feel a number of different ways about it and only you can fundamentally answer it. But while it would make perfect sense to me, LW, if you said “I feel raw and overlooked since Dana and Taylor have stayed close” (especially because it doesn’t sound like you’ve had a heart-to-heart with Dana about it), I think it would be a mistake to then conclude “Dana must be friends with Taylor because she doesn’t really care about me.”

Jenée: Right, especially when she’s working this hard to be friends with both.

Danny: Right! And maybe she thinks Taylor did something wrong in hurting you and still cares about her—that’s entirely possible.

Jenée: Hmmm, true. I hadn’t thought of that.

Danny: I guess the question I’d encourage the LW to ask herself is “Are there ways I can ask Dana to reassure me that she cares about me or calmly discuss my fears/ vulnerabilities/ insecurities about whether she cares about me aside from the expectation that she will drop Taylor?”

You certainly don’t have to approve of all of Taylor’s choices, but she seems to be going to a lot of trouble to make sure she can celebrate her wedding with you—I think she does care. That doesn’t mean you HAVE to stay close with her if it’s too hard or you realize you want incompatible things. But I do think she cares, and if you think just having a conversation where you say, “I have felt at odds with myself over this, because on the one hand I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask you to drop a friend just because they hurt my feelings, and on the other hand part of me has wanted you to ‘choose me’ over her, and I want you to know that not because I want you to actually make that choice, just because I want you to know some more of my emotional state that I’ve been holding back.”

Jenée: Honestly and vulnerability! Imagine that.

Danny: It’s hard to do! I definitely get why this LW has been holding some of this back, but if you want to try to see if you can preserve this friendship, I think that’s the best way forward.

Jenée: This is a much better plan than “see whose reception is better and more luxurious—yours or Taylor’s” which was the next thing that popped into my petty mind.

Danny: Hahahaha, that is a great TV route, I’d watch that show. A Bridgerton-budget-level soapy rom-dram but ONLY about platonic friendship rivals.

Jenée: Anyway, good luck LW, and thanks so much, Danny! Go to sleep.