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Q. City Mouse and Country Mouse: My closest friend, “CF”, grew up in major cities around the world. I grew up in a major city but moved to a rural area as an adult. We are both in our 60s now. I live in a beautiful rural vacation spot, and CF comes to visit in the summer to escape the city heat.
The problem is she is afraid and/or upset about much of “country life.” The silence at night keeps her awake. (It’s not really silent. You can hear coyotes, owls, tree frogs, and more.) I suggested she use an app on her phone for background noise. She won’t because she doesn’t have enough data, and won’t use our Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is another issue. We share our Wi-Fi with 10 neighbors, so we all have the same address. She is convinced that she will be hacked because “so many people use your ISP address.” She is afraid to use her phone or laptop. We have high security. We have never had a problem in 25 years. I gave up on that.
Now, she’s afraid of bugs and won’t sit outside. I offered safe homemade bug repellent, but she won’t use it. Candles and such don’t help with the bugs. I can’t afford a screen house, even though I’d love one. The biggest problem is that my driving scares her. I am a very safe driver. I have low insurance rates to prove it. I drive the speed limit and no faster. She is not used to two-lane rural roads, so she keeps telling me to slow down. If I drive below the 45-mph speed limit the drivers behind me get angry. That puts us at risk of an accident, or worse. If we don’t drive, we are stuck in the house for the week. There is absolutely nothing within walking distance. I am not willing to spend a week in the house during our extremely short summer. I want to be outside to walk, swim, play badminton, and enjoy life.
I love CF dearly, but I don’t know how to make this work for her. We’ve talked about it, and she is willing to “suffer for our friendship” but I know she doesn’t really enjoy her visit. She is a wonderful house guest, and a joy to have around, so I’ve suggested coming up in the fall, but that would only solve the swimming problem. We will still have the driving problem in any season. Do you have any suggestions that could make this work for her?
A: You are such a kind and accommodating friend. But stop. This dilemma isn’t about city versus country or the proper speed limit for a rural road. This is about your friend living with massive anxiety that is affecting her ability to move through the world in any environment that she doesn’t control completely. You are going to exhaust yourself explaining the safety of your Wi-Fi, driving 5 mph, and making your own bug repellent in fruitless attempts to try to cater to her issues. Because there will always be something else, even if you move the visits to the fall. She’ll be worried about a space heater catching fire or terrified by the sound of apples falling off the trees.
You should tell her you don’t want her to suffer while visiting you—that’s no way to have a friendship—and that she might consider talking to someone or looking into medication that could make day-to-day life feel less angst-inducing. If she won’t, you can skip the summer visits and find a good time of year to go visit her where she lives and is comfortable.
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