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Q. Boozy Birthday Bummer: I recently had a birthday party—the first one in years thanks to the pandemic—and I wanted a BIG, wild celebration full of fun, raucous friends for my 33rd trip around the sun. As my birthday neared and the RSVPs started rolling in, I felt some kind of a “social contact high” from the excitement and anticipation. So much so that I randomly invited a work peer named “Stella.” Truthfully, I didn’t know Stella very well, but we’d exchange pleasantries here and there or quickly chat before monthly meetings, so we were familiar but not friendly to the point where we’d go out to a happy hour. After four years in consumer banking, we had never worked together directly and I wondered why we weren’t friends. Stella had an undeniable air of mysterious cool. I was thrilled that Stella and many other friends came out to celebrate.
The drinks and the tiki bar vibe were strong. Some guy at the bar kept sending Stella shots, she kept downing them and avoiding him, as she has a live-in boyfriend. When it was time to leave, everyone spilled out into the street and had ciggies while goofing around, waiting for Ubers. I cannot state this enough—everyone was shitfaced, falling down drunk. After kicking some bushes, Stella ran around the corner. We all had a laugh, but a few moments later, Stella came back around the corner driving her car. We begged her not to drive and told her to get out. We told her we’d get her an Uber or call whoever she wanted, but Stella was in party mode and too busy “woo-ing” and honking. She refused to exit the car and sped off. Absolutely none of us were in a position to drive after her.
The night wrapped up and then Stella didn’t show up to work on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. I’d learn from our boss that she’d been arrested for a DUI. I feel HORRIBLE. I feel like I didn’t do enough to prevent her from driving drunk and am incredibly relieved she didn’t injure herself or others. She hasn’t spoken to me or replied to any contact attempts. What is my responsibility here? I am absolutely racked with guilt and can’t stop thinking about Stella’s life imploding because of my birthday invite. I’m also afraid I’ll never be able to enjoy my birthday ever again!
Help! My Mom Doesn’t Think My Fiancé Is Enough.
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A: I promise you that Stella’s life is not imploding because of your birthday invite. It’s imploding because she had a random bad night of too much alcohol and poor judgment or, more likely because she has a drinking problem. You are 33 years old and I assume she’s around the same age. I feel absolutely certain that this is not the first time she’s been in the presence of strong Tiki bar vibes or free shots.
Plus, you did absolutely everything you could short of throwing your body in front of her car to help her. She hasn’t spoken to you because her life is falling apart and maybe because she’s embarrassed. It’s not because you were supposed to be in charge of her decision-making. Release the guilt and please, continue to enjoy your birthday parties knowing that any acquaintances who may show up are in charge of their own decisions.
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