Dear Prudence is Slate’s advice column. For this edition, Shannon Palus, a Slate features editor, will be filling in as Prudie. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
I am getting married in May and having my bachelorette party locally a week beforehand! My maid of honor asked me about a month ago to make my guest list and ask who could come so that she could book a place to stay! I verbally invited the girls in my graduate school friend group, and they all said they planned to come. We all live in the same small city. We are a year and a half post-grad and so our group is less solid than it once was and has broken down into smaller factions—while I still see some of the girls every week or so, others I just catch up with over dinner every couple months. All except for Heather.
Heather is invited to any group things we do but bails every time in favor of hanging with her other friend group, which has become more and more apparent in the time since I invited her to the bachelorette. While this is slightly hurtful, I can live with the fact that we are not her priority! She also never responds in the group chat (once again, I know group chats aren’t for everybody and that’s fine). However, the result of these two facts is that I basically haven’t communicated with her in months despite reaching out, and she doesn’t feel like the kind of close friend I want at my bachelorette weekend! It’s not that I think she’ll ruin the fun, it will just make me feel kind of lame and desperate having this girl come to my bachelorette out of some sense of obligation when I know she doesn’t even care to see me for dinner. I imagine there’s no way to uninvite her without causing drama or making it seem like I’m mad at her. But is there any way to say, in a non-passive aggressive way, “Hey, don’t feel like you have to come” and give her permission to flake as always?
—Planned Too Far Ahead
Dear Planned Too Far Ahead,
So you got a rough headcount for a party nearly a year ahead of the party. That is fine, weddings and the assorted satellite festivities can be complicated, expensive, and involve a lot of sketching out plans. Put a reminder in your calendar to get a firm headcount on the bachelorette party guest list in, say February. Until then, forget about this specific problem.
Doing some back-of-the-envelope physics—plugging in Heather’s flakiness, and velocity away from your core group—I think there is a 70 percent chance that she will have drifted completely away at that point, and it will not be weird at all to simply never speak to her about your bachelorette party again. But if she has, somehow, instead orbited closer to you, you can make a judgment call at that time on whether you really like this person or at least her contribution to the group dynamic, or if you want to tell her that unfortunately, you can’t accommodate as many people for the bachelorette as you thought you could back in August.
By the way, the subtext of telling someone, completely out of the blue, “Don’t feel like you have to come to this party I invited you to” is that you do not want them at the party. While I think—if it comes to it—that you should be a tiny bit more direct, doing an uninvite would be OK! You two are not close. And I am of the opinion that behavior that would be slightly shitty in other circumstances should fly when it’s your wedding (bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, etc). You only get one, or two. You are in charge.
How to Get Advice From Prudie
In March, a good friend of mine, “B,” moved several hours away. She moved because she realized that her mother had given her a lot of mental health issues, including an eating disorder, and she didn’t want her daughter to grow up with that kind of influence. It’s taken her a long time and a lot of therapy to realize just how terrible her mother was to her. I was happy for the realization but sad to see her go. Due to work-related trips, neither of us have been able to see each other until a couple of weekends ago. I called her the week before to set up plans and she said Saturday afternoon would probably be the best, but she needed to wait and see how her kids were doing. She has two kids under three, which I realize is difficult, but I’ve always been flexible with her. She mentioned she was incredibly stressed, so I didn’t want to push finalizing plans with her. Saturday comes and goes without a word from her. So Sunday morning I texted her to see if we could do brunch or lunch and she said she was already heading out of town and that she’d text me the next day.
Well, Monday comes around and her sister posts a ton of photos online of all the things they did over the weekend, things I could have been invited to, but wasn’t. Then, B sent me a rant about all the things her family made her do. No apology for not seeing me or even texting me until she left. I was too upset to answer. When I am that kind of upset, which is rare, I need my space. B knows this. I didn’t answer her text on Monday or the phone on Wednesday when she called. Friday she texted me saying she was worried about me. I told her I was busy and would talk to her the next week. She asked if I was upset about something and I said, yes, but I’ll call you next week. She didn’t listen and texted me asking what I was upset about. I lost it a bit after that and while I was able to scale everything back because we were texting, I think I may have overstepped.
I told her that I was upset that she did all these things with her family and that I didn’t get so much as a text, which takes five seconds to send. She got upset too and said I didn’t understand what it was to be a mother and she thought I forgot since I never texted. I told her that was BS, I did text her on Sunday, but I didn’t want to add to her stress by trying to finalize plans. That this wasn’t about her being a mother, it was about her prioritizing her crappy family over someone who has supported her for decades. She texted me that I was starting to act like her crappy family. We haven’t talked since. I feel so weird about the situation. Was I really being that unsupportive? Is it too much to expect a simple text update? There were things I could have done that day that I missed out on because I was waiting to hear from her. Am I in the wrong here?
—Not So Supportive
Dear Not So Supportive,
You should have texted her on Saturday (or even Thursday or Friday) to ask for a status update instead of expecting one. I know waiting for her to text first came from a kind place, but it ended up making everything so much more complicated and worse. She might be very stressed, and you might wish to be accommodating of this, but you are still a person with needs and desires. By not voicing them, you ended up putting more work on her (guessing your needs)—work that is basically impossible.
I think you should reach out to her and say that you’re sorry that you didn’t just text her earlier, you’re sad that the two of you didn’t get to hang out, and that you just really miss her and hope you can catch her next time you’re in town. And next time, instead of waiting for her to text, say something like this: “Hi! Are you and the kids up for getting together today? Happy to tag along with whatever you’re doing, but I’d like to nail down my afternoon plans one way or another by 11 A.M.” In the meantime, remember that you’re both adjusting to new circumstances—kids and distance. I hope you can both give each other a little grace.
Get Even More Advice From the Dear Prudence Podcast
Generally speaking, my flatmate and I get on really well. However, there is one habit she has that drives me up the wall. If she asks me to do something or we are having a discussion about housework or similar, she will often say things that seem to assume I don’t know something really obvious. Think: “If you leave the pans to soak, they’re easier to clean,” if it turns out I’ve missed a spot when cleaning a pan. I know that! Of course, I know that! We are both in our 30s, for reference. Since I find it irritating and patronizing, I have found that if I respond in the moment I come across as a sulky teenager. She thinks she’s being helpful, I find it rude that she doesn’t assume I’ve got the same basic knowledge of household matters that she does. For context, I have met her parents a few times, and they are both a bit like this as well, so I’m guessing that’s where she gets it from and it’s an ingrained communication habit. Is it worth trying to get her to knock it off (and how would I approach that?) or should I just let it slide and cultivate a bit more inner acceptance? I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but it’s really annoying when it happens.
Dear Captain Obvious,
This sounds so annoying, and your hunch about her parents is probably right. I suspect she doesn’t even know she’s doing it. If this person were your spouse or best friend, I would say you should absolutely bring up how it makes you feel. (“I’m feeling frustrated because I do know that soaking pans is helpful for removing food. Sometimes when you give me cleaning advice what I hear is ‘you don’t know how to do basic household tasks.’”) They might not stop doing it—ingrained habits are hard to kick—but it could help you both understand each other a little better and alleviate some of the resentment that’s building up.
The fact that you are just roommates makes it kind of a toss-up for me on whether to say something, or to just practice letting it slide; I think it really depends on how close you are, and how much you feel like investing in this relationship. And again, there’s no way to get her to stop doing it entirely, so you’re going to be doing the “cultivate inner acceptance route” to some extent no matter what. Such is life around other human beings! To that end, the trick of writing a letter to her and not sending it, so that you can process your feelings for yourself, might help here. Then, next time she reminds you that water is wet, try to just take a deep breath and smile to yourself at what a ridiculous thing that is to say to another adult.
My issue is a boring and perhaps petty one, but causes me grief, no matter how I try to dismiss it. My son and his wife just don’t have the courtesy gene when it comes to acknowledging gifts. Somehow my son thinks it’s fine for me to ask, over and over again, “Hey, did you receive that gift I sent? I got an update that indicates that it was delivered.” He’s even said he considers this follow-up “[my] responsibility” as the sender.