Social Question

jca's avatar

Do you agree with the advice from this columnist, as to the asker's obligations?

Asked by jca (36043points) April 22nd, 2012

Yesterday I was reading the advice column in the local paper. The person asking said that she had a friend from college, who she was fairly close to. The asker got married and had kids after college. The friend is not married, but chose the career path, got a job for a non-profit, doing fund raising. The friend’s non-profit charity is having a fund raiser and sent an invite to the asker and her husband. Asker said she RSVP’d “no” and the friend called her to express disappointment. Asker said she can’t afford it right now, because the night out would entail not only ticket costs, but babysitter, new clothes, etc. Friend was upset and said she has been to many occasions for the asker, bridal shower, wedding, baby stuff, etc. She feels offended that just this once, the asker can’t come through for her. Asker’s husband suggests a $200 donation to the charity and that’s it. Asker said she feels the friend is bean counting, tallying up obligations.

Advice columnist says the asker should go, is obligated, and should suck it up and deal with it.

I disagree. You?

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74 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

Spending time with people shouldn’t be tallied. They’re both going to live for decades, they can hang out another time. How immature.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I disagree with the advice. A true friend would accept the reason offered and not feel slighted.

JLeslie's avatar

I disagree with the advice too. If she can’t afford it right now she can’t.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Bankrupting yourself for charity seems not only counterproductive, but precisely the kind of thing that a friend would not ask you to do. Yes, this person is unlikely to literally go bankrupt from the expense, but she is the one in the best position to decide what she can or cannot afford. I also agree that the friend seems to be tallying obligations if she is counting the wedding and bridal shower as favors that can now be called in for repayment. Are they friends or trade partners?

Coloma's avatar

I completely disagee and, on top of that, the guilt tripping and statement of disappointment is emotionally manipulative. I have an ex friend that pulled that sort of thing and would just announce, expect my participation in things without asking if I wanted to do something.
No boundaries, no respect, not acceptable. Real “friends” always respect your feelings and circumstance.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Who would actually take advice from a newspaper columnist anyway?? If you do, uh, well… no offence.

Kardamom's avatar

Friends should never “obligate” friends and relatives to donate to “their” charities. Most people have their own causes and charities that are important to them, and clearly the married lady in this situation is not in a financial situation to participate, the friend who works for the charity should not only understand this, but should not try to bully or guilt the friend into donating/attending.

I always hated it when co-workers would bring their lists of their kids’ Girlscout cookies, wrapping paper, frozen cookie dough into the office. You could clearly see the names of the people who were participating and those who were not. I could never afford any of the stuff, so I always felt like a schmuck. It’s not like I didn’t like the co-worker, I simply couldn’t afford to buy anything.

wilma's avatar

I disagree with the answer that the columnist gave, for all of the same reasons as the rest of you.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Keep_on_running Now, now… not all newspaper columnists are created equal!

Keep_on_running's avatar

Thanks @SavoirFaire, now I have to clear my history.

marinelife's avatar

The asker is not obligated to do. Friendship should not be measured that way, Although ti would be go to support her friend.

Can just the asker go and leave her husband behind with the kids?

Michael_Huntington's avatar

@Blackberry <——-this guy, this guy right here is soooooo right. I mean…fuck….

JLeslie's avatar

Plus, I don’t tally things up with my friends, but even if I did, how does a baby shower and wedding compare to a charity dinner? It compares to buying girlscout cookies from the kids, but not to the baby shower or birthday gifts. One is a gift directly to those we love, and one is to raise money.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@JLeslie That is such a completely true statement that I now have goosebumps. And what if the person doesn’t want to support the cause that the fund-raiser is for?

ro_in_motion's avatar

Charity is a gift, not an obligation. I hate that she tried to make it seem so.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, I don’t do score keeping myself. There is nothing worse than someone tallying up their list of what they have done for you as a manipulative coercion tactic to get you to bend to their will via their petty recital. Gah!
The final straw with my ex friend was when she actually lied to me about getting “free” accommodations on a trip she wanted me to go on with her and then months later when I expressed my irritation at her constantly calling me for “favors” she let the cat out of the bag with a ” Well..I wasn’t going to tell you this, but I paid for the lodging in such and such a place..” OMG!
Totally backfired on her self serving agenda.

I said..” Oooh, I see, so I OWE you for something I had no idea I “owed” you for because you LIED about it?” Can you spell sneaky and manipulative?
One of my staunchest relationship rules is that everyone does what they WANT to do with no expectations or strings. Anyone that plays that manipulative card with me is going to be history in a nano second.

cazzie's avatar

It is not a coffee at her kitchen table. She is not under any obligation to go to an event the friend happens to be a part of for her job and nor should she have to explain. Let me see if I can find a link to an advice column I call up when this stuff presents itself in my life (single, childless, career minded friends and their expectations of me, who is a single parent and penniless)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/22/AR2007052201554.html

Pandora's avatar

No she doesn’t have to go but it would be the right thing to do. The 200 dollar gift was enough but she should also not be surprised if her friend turns down any future invites as well and sends cash in lieu of her company. Her friend wants her to share in this evening. I would be ticked off as well. I’m sure she had to spend time and money for all of her friends events. I think its not that her friend is tallying stuff up but rather, she is pointing out that she was there for all her important events and now that she asks her to come to one event for her (that may be important to her), she’s bailing out with some sad excuses. I’m bet she has one dress in her closet (most women do) only she feels she must get something new. And I bet she can find one teen looking to earn some extra cash. Or she could go alone and leave her husband with the kid. She just doesn’t want to be bothered.

Coloma's avatar

@Pandora Well..don’t you think that not wanting to do something is a good enough reason?
I do.
Do you really want someone to do something they are not into or can’t afford?
This is where relationships get muddy, and I totally do not agree with doing anything we genuinely do not want to do.

That’s being co-dependent and disingenuous. She doesn’t owe her “friend” a big justifying explanation. I operate under the J.A.D.E. rule…do not “justify, argue, defend or explain. ”
We are all free to ask and free to say yes or no. “No” is a viable option and if the other person doesn’t like it, that is THEIR problem.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I actually kinda get it. I think she should have just accepted the reasons given, because pushing it doesn’t do any good, but I understand having the expensive gifts and large celebrations be a one-way street. If the asker has spent money on a bridal shower gift, then a wedding gift, then baby gifts (and normally, those gifts are extra-expensive), and then there aren’t occasions in her life that are celebrated, it seems like one friend is more important and more worth celebrating than another. If she’s pushing this because she wants her friend to recognize that her life events are big and valid and worth celebrating just as much, I really sympathize with that.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think both sides are wrong in the argument.

When we invite people to our functions and they accept, then we do build up “social obligations” that we should reciprocate. So there is an informal obligation in favor of accepting the invitation.

If the respondent feels that she can’t attend because of prohibitive cost… but has an extra $200 that (her husband) thought they could afford to contribute to the cause with their regrets, then I think sending regrets “because of the cost” is a false excuse.

There’s no reason why the woman couldn’t have attended on her own, without her husband, in an outfit that she already owns. (The argument that women make that they “need new clothes” is so patently false that I’m surprised no one else has jumped on it yet. Really? Can’t go “because I have nothing to wear?” Y’all aren’t still slaves to that bullshit, are you, ladies?) Then her husband could stay home with the kids, and there is no problem with finances.

She simply decided not to go and make up an excuse, and now she’s miffed that the friend correctly called her on it. (The friend should not have called her on it. That was also rude. Friends should be above responding to rudeness with rudeness. Well, we all should, but especially friends.)

Aethelflaed's avatar

@CWOTUS You will notice that at least one person (@Pandora) did point it out already. And while I would agree that if she already has a dress, she doesn’t need a new one, that really assumes she has a dress already. If she has perhaps recently changed sizes and not purchased a new dress in the new size, then that changes things.

CWOTUS's avatar

Yep, I have noticed it now. Thank you. And your second observation may well be correct, too.

nikipedia's avatar

Here is the original column.

I completely agree with the advice columnist, here. Certainly this person is not under any requirement to go to the fundraiser, but if a friend has been there for you over and over and over and over again, and asks you for the same once, and you refuse to do it, you’re a jerk.

Edited: two more things. I think this is a good reminder that as a society, when it comes to gift-giving for celebrating milestones, we have gone completely insane. You can’t show up to a shower without a gift and you can’t blow off a shower of someone close to you without becoming some kind of social pariah. Being socially appropriate in the context of celebrating other people’s life choices now requires a substantial financial investment.

Second, even Carolyn (advice columnist) doesn’t call this woman out on it, but the language of the letter strongly implies that the letter writer thinks her choices (marriage, baby) deserve to be celebrated in a way that her friend’s choices (career) don’t. Bullshit.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CWOTUS The original column says that the evening’s expense would have been $500, but the couple was willing to send $200. I have $200 to spare, but I don’t have $500 to spare. As such, it is not yet obvious to me that the cost is a false excuse. At the very least, the numbers alone cannot get us that conclusion.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@nikipedia “wedding showers, my wedding, baby showers, three christenings and numerous birthday parties for my kids”. Woah. Wedding showers, plural? Baby showers, plural? (I thought you just get the one baby shower, with the first kid.) More and more, I think the asker is only interested in getting from the relationship, and not giving.

If she was really, really hard up for cash (and while I really doubt it, you never know), she could have told the friend that while she couldn’t make it to this event, she’d love to take the friend out for dinner and drinks to celebrate her newfound success.

Coloma's avatar

Well, bottom line, dress or no dress, who is anyone to make snap decisions or assumptions about anothers choices? What someone else wears or does is none of our biz.
One of my pet peeves is when you decline an invitation and generously OFFER an explanation for your choice and the other person then decides to take it upon themsleves to tell you how you can rearrange your day or schedule to accomodate their wants? Gah…bite me!

SpatzieLover's avatar

My feeling is that the friend that chose career has already noticed her relationship is becoming one-sided and this event sparked her enough to finally speak out. The woman that chose to have a family has now been called out on her taking nature.

After reading the column, I wish someone would do an update in a few months to see if the friendship still stands.

The friend could easily go to this event or another with or without her husband. Most women own a little black dress. Her excuses are lame, IMO.

As a person that despises going to weddings, and any type of shower….I can tell you prior to choosing to have a family, I found women that didn’t reciprocate and used their family as an excuse particularly annoying.

My overall thought: Third World Problem.

CWOTUS's avatar

Well, you had the benefit of information that I didn’t have, @SavoirFaire. That information makes the “can’t afford it” excuse valid on its face, without even the add-on about sitters and clothes.

nikipedia's avatar

@CWOTUS, you now have access to the original article.

The cost of the evening is $200; the additional $300 would be for new clothes and a sitter.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@nikipedia Indeed, but that’s still part of the total cost of the evening. If I wish to purchase something that costs $306 + tax, it will not do to say “you said you could afford up to $306, so you should be able to buy it.”

@CWOTUS Fair point.

@SpatzieLover I think you mean “First World Problem.”

Aethelflaed's avatar

$300 for new clothes and a sitter? I’m rather jealous of how much money this LW has to spend. A new dress for me is $30 at Target…

nikipedia's avatar

@SavoirFaire, as Carolyn Hax and a number of people here pointed out, neither the new clothes nor the sitter are necessary. It sounds like the letter writer is finding excuses not to attend.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@nikipedia Unless it actually is part of the formal requirements for attending the event. We don’t know that it isn’t, and neither does Ms. Hax.

The question is about whether or not we agree with the advice given by the columnist. I have tried to answer given that constraint. A few people have added several layers of interpretation to the available data and based their conclusions on a situation other than what we were given. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing to do, but we should at least be aware that it is going on.

nikipedia's avatar

@SavoirFaire, you think the charity event requires that the couple (1.) Hire a sitter rather than leaving the kids with friends/family, and (2.) Only wear new clothes? Huh?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@nikipedia Thank you for tracking down the column. It helps paint a better picture for what is being discussed.

As a former career-focused person with no partner and no children, I understand your point-of-view. Recognition for career celebrations rarely, if ever, reach the level of recognition by friends that a family event does. Should a celebration be expected to be attended by friends when someone gets a promotion, receives an award, retires, etc.? It’s not common practice, but I’ve known it to happen. Usually, it’s just “Hey, I got ___!” and “Congratulations! Let’s go out and celebrate! Dinner/drinks are on us.” from close friends.

But that’s not really the point of this debate. In this scenario, the friend is offended because her friend (the one asking for advice) isn’t willing to go to a fund-raiser. The reason given to the fund-raiser friend was that the event was simply too expensive. Granted, the woman could go alone, in her existing clothes, and only pay $100 for a ticket to get in in order to support her friend.

My feeling is that no friend would play the “You owe me for shelling out money for your personal events”. Not only was that their own choice at the time(s), but this is a fund-raiser. This is not a celebration of a friend’s personal achievement.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@nikipedia I find that a rather uncharitable reading of what I wrote. For one thing, I quite plainly said that we don’t know what is required. For another, there are other alternatives than those you mention. The event certainly does not require that the couple hire a sitter, but they may not have any other practical options for all we know. Perhaps they have no local family (I certainly do not in my current location). Moreover, the event may be formal—perhaps black tie, or even white tie. If that is the case, then the couple very well might be required to purchase new clothes to attend. This is not the intention of the event planners, I’m sure; but it is a possible consequence nonetheless.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer The fund-raiser part leaves me with mixed feelings, rather largely dependent on how the friend framed it (which we don’t know). If this was her first fund-raiser, or the first big fund-raiser, that she planned, then it might really have been about saying “come celebrate what I’ve accomplished, on my big night”, and very much a celebration of the friend’s personal accomplishment. Or, maybe this is just yet another fund-raiser (though, the LW’s kids birthday parties are just yet another friend’s child’s birthday party…). Maybe this is a way to raise even more money, but maybe it isn’t (and showers are at least a good bit about getting gifts).

I think a lot of this is that there aren’t really lots of celebrations for non-traditional life paths, and we need to start coming up with some if we want those things to be recognized. If marriage and babies aren’t your thing, you should have your I Got A Huge Promotion parties. Or, We’re Moving In Together And That’s The Last Step For Us bbqs. Lots of housewarms. Etc.

SavoirFaire's avatar

If I may, I would also like to crosspost something I mentioned on the related question which has sprung up.

I think we need to be careful to distinguish between what obligations we have qua friend and what obligations we have qua someone whose invitation was accepted. A lot of people are trying to shovel what might reasonably be an expectation of the former relationship onto the latter relationship. This, I think, is a mistake. Moreover, it is a mistake at the heart of the disagreement given the way that this question and the related question were posed.

nikipedia's avatar

@SavoirFaire, you are correct that we don’t know this family’s particular situation, but I think CH’s point (which I agree with) is that one can always come up with creative solutions. Instead of doing that, the friend is getting huffy, defensive, and self-righteous. Not very friendy behavior.

Edited: I also wanted to add, the letter writer specifically says that attending is not impossible, just difficult. To me that says that she simply doesn’t prioritize attending the event over other things they could choose to spend their money on.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@SavoirFaire So, I don’t know what qua means, and the Google definition isn’t making it any better… But if I get the gist of your post, then, you are correct. The LW doesn’t have any obligation to attend this specific event. But it seems like if she was really dedicated to the friendship, she wouldn’t respond with “omg, so much money!”, but something more like “I can’t make it this time, but next time is definitely on”. Or, “I can’t make this fundraiser, but let me throw you a party (one might even say, a shower… ;)) in celebration of your new success”. Or some way to show that she values the friend as much as the friend clearly values her.

Coloma's avatar

I think the only thing that may have happened here is that the friend got herself in a pickle by making, what seem to be “excuses” out of fear of being direct and just saying “no.”
“No.” IS a complete sentence.
@SpatzieLover Has a point, but…it could be the other way around too. Maybe the excuse making friend is tired of feeling coerced and pressured by the demanding friend.

I think the mistake here is insisting the friend NEEDS to do something to “prove” her friendship and who’s to say she hasn’t or isn’t planning on showing her care and support in another way? It’s all speculation and assumption from our end.

nikipedia's avatar

@Aethelflaed, as I understand it, qua means, as a necessary/definitional part—for instance, obligations qua friendship are obligations that are a fundamental component of friendship. That said, @SavoirFaire, I don’t really understand your point. In this instance we are talking about someone who is both a friend and an inviter-whose-invitations-have-been-accepted-and-received-many-gifts-over-the-years-for-it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Aethelflaed Sorry, my mistake! ”Qua” is Latin for “as” and is meant to draw attention to a specific aspect or capacity of something that has many aspects or capacities. Or to put it terms more closely resembling English, ”qua” might be said to mean something like “in virtue of being _____.”

What I owe to someone in virtue of being their friend is likely to be much different from what I owe them in virtue of being, say, their boss. In virtue of being their friend, I owe them a certain kind of moral support should they call at two o’clock in the morning; this would not be something I owed them were I merely their boss. In virtue of being their boss, I owe them a salary; this would not be something I owed them were I merely their friend.

When we talk about what we owe people, then, it is often relevant to ask ”qua what?” It is my opinion that focusing on the events to which the friend has gone as if that is what affects the asker’s obligations is a mistake. There is certainly something wrong with this situation, but the problem does not exist in virtue of the friend having attended several events to which she was invited by the asker. The problem lies in the demands of friendship as such.

Now that I have been able to read the original letter, I agree that the asker did not respond optimally. She should have done more to make up for the fact that she was disappointing her friend. That said, I still don’t think she was obligated to go to this event—pending new information about what makes this event so special.

@nikipedia I wish I knew more about the specific event. I do not disagree that the friend has a right to feel hurt about the invitation being declined, but I do disagree—for now, at least—that the asker has an obligation to attend. I would change my mind completely, however, if I knew that this event was important for some particular reason.

It occurs to me that this might be the friend’s official debut as a member of the board of directors. If so, then I agree with you completely with regard to what you wrote several posts ago (and which I regrettably did not see until reloading the question due to the fact that it was added by edit). That is, I would agree that the asker is devaluing her friend’s choices and overvaluing her own (different) choices.

Whether this information was purposefully held back by the asker, or whether it simply isn’t actually relevant, I do not know. This would affect my opinion with regard to the “not impossible, but very difficult” bit of the asker’s letter, though. After all, it is trivially true that the fact that attending the event is not impossible means the asker is prioritizing other potential expenditures over going to the event. The reasonableness of that priority, however, is as yet an open question for me given the information I have.

I actually disagree with both you and Ms. Hax, however, that one can always find creative solutions. The invitation was for two. Even if the asker could wear the drapes, her husband could do no such thing if this were a black tie or white tie event. He could rent, of course, but even that might be out of budget. At present, we simply aren’t sure (or, at least, I am not).

See also my response to @Aethelflaed for a reply to your most recent post.

nikipedia's avatar

@SavoirFaire, but we do know that the event was special for some particular reason. The letter writer’s friend said so. Not in precisely those words, but by saying how disappointed she was that her friend would not be willing to attend, she made it clear that it was important to her that her friend be there.

Whether the letter writer considers the event important or not is irrelevant. I doubt the letter writer’s friend attended all those children’s birthday parties because she personally was so eager to go to them—she went to support her friend, and was asking the same in return, one time.

nikipedia's avatar

So it isn’t missed by editing, let me add a final point: creative solutions aside, we know for certain that the letter writer could attend if she decided it was important enough. Because she said so.

Coloma's avatar

Well, I always try to be aware and not project my personal experiences onto situations, but…when my ex and I were young we had friends that made waaay more money than we did and while we really liked hanging out with them it always turned into more expense than we planned, and not for lack of clarifying what we could and could not afford to do.
They were all about steak and $30 bottles of wine and we were on a beer budget. Many a time we would get together and next thing you know, we’re going out for expensive meals, drinks, or at the store buying T-bones to BBQ and expensive wines.
They just never seemed to REALLY take what we said seriously.

30 years later we’re still good friends and the incomes have balanced out, but, I totally can relate to feeling pressured and I don’t agree, at all.
I recently had a good friend over for dinner for her birthday. I felt that a little Birthday dinner party was far more sincere than some random gift that may or may not be truly used and enjoyed.
People are waaay too obsessed with tit for tat reciprocity and it is a dysfunctional mindset.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Epiphany: Inviting the friend (the letter writer) to the fund-raiser would be on the same level as an invitation to an art gallery opening displaying their (the career friend’s) work. If that is the case, it should be explained in a way that that expresses the desire for them to see the fruition of their work. In a way, it is much like birthing a figurative baby.

Coloma's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Yep, but then again, it could also be seen as selfish, expecting someone else to be as passionate as you are about something. I don’t expect my friends to be as passionate about my many interests as I am. “Hey everyone, I expect you to donate to Majestic waterfowl rescue because, ya know, ducks and geese need your support.” lol

My passions are my passions and it is grandiose to expect others to be clones of yourself.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma But then doesn’t that go for the birthday parties of the LW’s children, as well? What exactly are the chances the friend went to all the “numerous” children’s birthday parties purely out of passion for the children and their birthdays, and not to support the LW?

ETA: I guess this doesn’t seem like tit for tat. It seems like tit for tatx15.

Coloma's avatar

@Aethelflaed Well, I guess that’s my point, doing anything out if a sense of obligation or duty is disingenuous and insincere and builds resentment in relationship.
I am able to say with sincerity in declining an invitation, ” nothing personal I am….—-fill in the blanks—.....just not interested, up to it, in the mood, etc.
I strive for honesty in my relationships, even if it isn’t what someone else would like to hear. I truly believe we are not doing anyone a favor by forcing ourselves to do things that we are not interested in, can’t afford, or any other reason short of genuine desire and enthusiasm.

If I have to force someone to do something it is tainted from the get go and serves no one.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma I mostly agree with you on that. But I also think that a relationship in which only one party is interested in actually spending time around the other person isn’t a healthy relationship. Forcing the LW to go won’t make things better, but it’s not exactly a compliment to say “I love you, just not as much as I hate getting a sitter.” If the LW is really so unenthused about going to this thing, maybe that’s a sign of a deeper relationship issue.

Coloma's avatar

@Aethelflaed Maybe so. Things and people are ever changing. I’ve just really come to the conclusion that we put waay too much stock on constantly wanting others to “prove” their loyalty and devotion. I say, just enjoy what works and forget the rest and if the balance feels too askew then, either accept or move on. :-)

nikipedia's avatar

@Coloma, I don’t think it’s disingenuous to do something because it’s important to someone else. If this woman was going to all these children’s birthday parties thinking, “Wow, my friend sure OWES ME since I’ve gone to all these parties!” then yeah, I can see your point. But if she went to them thinking, “Wow, I’d love to have this afternoon free for something else, but I know it’s important to my friend, and I want to be there for her,” that seems reasonable to me.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma See, since she’s only brought it up just the once, it doesn’t seem like this woman is asking the LW to constantly prove her loyalty and devotion, but rather to one single time show that the friend cares about her just as much. How do you know you’ve got a good relationship if you’re never allowed to critically examine it?

Sunny2's avatar

Tell your friend that you weren’t aware a score was being kept. Reiterate that you can’t afford it just now. If you lose her as a friend over it, she wasn’t a true friend in the first place.

JLeslie's avatar

I really see @Coloma‘s point. We should be able to say no. We don’t know if the friend with the family is a “taker” as some have said, unless we know that if the other friend had not given gifts at the baby shower and wedding, the family woman would have felt slighted and annoyed with the lack of giving. The professional woman chose to give those things, spend the money, and her time, her choice.

Moms all the time do use their family, and especially their kids to get out of things instead of just saying no, which can be annoying, but for me, it is the lie that is annoying, when it is a lie, just say no, we can say no. But, can we? Not if our friends are expecting everyone to have all these obligations, then no one can say no, not without a reason (sometimes lie). maybe the woman running the fundraiser wanted to say no a couple times to her friend and didn’t, aside from the money spent, and is annoyed with herself.

I would think if the girlfriend wanted to show off her work, wanted her friend to be present, then probably she could have had her at the dinner for a reduced price. They probably make a lot of money of off each ticket, and a few seats taken without much money going to the charity I think is ok. Same as someone getting married and a friend only affording a minimal gift, or no gift. When one of my moms close friends could not afford to come to my wedding, my parents paid for her hotel so she could come.

Now, I can empathasize with those who are not married, who have spent money over and over again on wedding gifts and even brides maids dresses and never receive gifts to help start their lives. I tend to blame the parents (not very seriously really, but follow me on this explanation). If one of your children never marries, parents eventually should fork over some money as they did to pay for the weddings of their other children. At weddings people get gifts, but the parents have shelled out money for the wedding, and it all sort of balances out sort of. As far as the babies go, that usually does not have to be a big expenditure to show up with a gift for a shower, but it’s true that can add up after a while. Single people can have house warmings with registries in my opinion, everyone should get help for their start into adulthood. Now that people marry later, it seems to me we need to maybe change the customs a little, but of course that would take time as a culture, to maybe bigger parties for graduation and starts into the adult world, rather than for weddings.

I still say a personal gift is not the same as attending a work event though, and the offer to send $200 should be accepted with grace. I see my friends go through all sorts of fundraiser bullshit to raise money for their kids school, and if I were a parent I would want to be able to give money directly to the school with a check, not attend some event I won’t enjoy, my check will be worth more if I donate directly. I’m sure the people organizing the fundraise will be annoyed people don’t want to go after all their hard work, too bad. Same with buying gift wrap or chocolates, the school gets about half of what I spend I think? Let me just gve you $20, instead of me spending $40, or the school only getting $10, and leave me alone.

jca's avatar

To me, attending a birthday party or a baby shower is more fun and more easy (and last but not least less expensive) than attending a fundraiser where the “asker” would have to rent a tux (I am assuming since many of these fancy fundraisers are black tie), make sure she’s dressed to the nines, pay for the tickets, pay for a babysitter, deal with the babysitter, and “hobnob” with the charity circuit. The babysitter alone could be $70—$100. If I were the friend, I would probably tell the asker that we’re having this big event but I don’t expect you to go. I might see if I could “buy a table” for my close family and friends, and then that would be one less expense. I can see that in thinking about the costs, donating $200 is “getting off easy” and it’s the route I would rather take, rather than the clothes, babysitter and hobnobbing.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@nikipedia No, we don’t know that the event was important. People can have a mistaken sense of importance, so I am not willing to grant that it was important merely because the friend was disappointed that the asker declined the invitation. Or at least, I am not willing to grant that the event was important enough to warrant the disappointment.

It may have been important to the friend, but what if she does these benefits every week? If there’s no reason that this particular event was more important than other events she has done, then I don’t agree that the asker should have gone. If this one was special, on the other hand, then the friend may have an argument.

You keep mentioning the balancing part (one invitation versus many invitations), but that is the part of Ms. Hax’s argument that I find weakest. If it really is a matter of sheer numbers, then the asker is perfectly right in her accusation of bean counting. That should not be what—if anything—obligates the asker to go.

As for your added point, I have already addressed it: whether or not this event was special would affect my opinion with regard to the “not impossible, but very difficult” bit of the asker’s letter. I have not denied that going to the party was possible for the couple; I have only denied that it was obligatory given the available information. Whether or not I agree with the asker’s prioritization turns on unknown specifics about the event itself.

Pandora's avatar

@Coloma I wasn’t saying she had to go but I must agree with her friend that it isn’t a very nice way to be. I’ve known people like that. People who want everyone to be at their events but don’t even make an effort to go to any event their friends hold for one reason or another. I was once invited to a shower for a friend and I had just given birth. The bride really wanted me to attend. Non of my dresses fit and she knew I wished to attend but I couldn’t afford a nice dress and a sister either. My husband stayed with both of my kids because he said I deserved a night of fun, and another friend who knew I was not feeling quite my best took me to her closet and let me pick out something to borrow to wear. She only showed me her sexy clothes. She said I needed to be a diva for the night. I had a blast and the bride to be was very happy I attended. She wanted all her friends there to help her celebrate.
My point. Where there is a will there is a way. I think her friend is just pointing out that she’s feeling that this relationship is one sided. And I would say it certainly sounds that way. A real friend would find a way and a decent spouse would volunteer to stay home with the kid. It doens’t sound like she has to fly out of town or miss work or leave a sick kid at home. She simply just doesn’t want to go and she’s hurting her friends feelings in the process.

Coloma's avatar

@Pandora I understand your sentiments but not wanting to go is an option and her friends feelings are not her responsibility. I think a good friend is understanding and wouldn’t pressure a friend if their heart wasn’t in it. You are right though, if someone really WANTS to do something they will find a way. I just don’t agree with making not wanting to do something a criteria for labeling someone a bad friend.

I just hate obligatory pressure, I don’t think it is part of a genuine relationship. I’d have no problem just saying ” I understand, don’t worry about it.” I think people put waay too much pressure on each other to “prove” loyalty and devotion.
It is possible to really like/care for someone but just not be into the demands of the moment IMO. :-)

JLeslie's avatar

In anger management one of the things they teach is angry people have a lot of “shoulds” in their heads. My sister should do this, my husband should do that, and my friends should behave a certain way. They even do it to themselves, I should go to the dinner party. Those people tend to be angered easily, because they have people all around them dissappointing them, not meeting their should criterias of etiquette and loyalty. I find it exhausting. The standard can be too high. Or, the rules are only known by the one person, and everyone around them cannot understand why they get so upset. I do agree with being there for friends, and if friendships get very onesided the friendship will probably fade somewhat, so each of us seeks the friends and stay closest with the family members who are similar and then the relationship does not seem like work. IMO.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Excellent! My sentiments exactly. Amen..exhausting is an understatement, along with controlling and manipulation. I don’t do guilt trips at all, want to alienate me the quickest way possible, just start “shoulding” on me. lol
Yep, don’t should on yourself, and especially not on anyone else.
Right, if the balance is too far off the relationship will naturally fade, but nobody needs to be should on.

nikipedia's avatar

@Coloma, if the letter writer had just said she didn’t want to go my read if the situation would have been very different.

Coloma's avatar

@nikipedia Yes, I mentioned that a few posts up, Lack of clear and direct communication.
Starts the dysfunctional ball rolling with excuses rather than truth for sure.

CWOTUS's avatar

Well, @JLeslie… those people should know better.

Another great day! I haven’t even left the house yet and I’ve learned something new!

nikipedia's avatar

@SavoirFaire, sorry, I am not following. You say that your answer changes depending on whether the event is actually important.

1. Do you mean whether it’s important in some kind of objectively true sense, or only whether it is important to the friend who did the inviting? For instance, supposing (for the sake of argument) that the two events are of exactly equal importance to the person doing the inviting, it is appropriate to decline to attend a Tupperware party but not a Nobel prize award ceremony?

2. Am I correct in understanding that you do not consider the conversation with the friend to be evidence that this was important? If so, I guess that is just a difference of opinion—from my perspective, if someone says, “I’m really disappointed that you can’t come support me at this event I asked you to come to after I’ve supported you at your major life events,” it is reasonable to infer that the event was important to that person.

Coloma's avatar

@nikipedia I dunno..I see that as guilt tripping. I think it’s okay to say ” Oh, I’ll miss you being there” but to toss in the guilt tripping is not cool.

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma Right, communication is a big part of the shoulds actually, I touched on that in my paragraph too. I once asked my MIL, “what are the rules? Is it that the children are responsible for making all the calls?” I figured maybe there was some sort of cultural difference. There had been a fight in the family and my husband primarily was accused of not calling enough, and not being close enough to the family. Fucking pissed me off, because we were the only ones who called his mom or sister, and we would drop by when we were on their side of town, invite our niece and nephew to things, and they never did. Their song and dance was that they didn’t want to bother us, that since we did not call and stop by more, they did not know if we wanted to see them. Huh? When the whole thing came to blows, and I said we were the only ones doing anything to be in touch, his father nodded, and said, it’s true. His dad did call on most Sundays, or we would call if he hadn’t in a couple of weeks, and his mom would get on the phone usually. Anyway, his mom said there are no rules, and I asked, “then why don’t you call us if you want to be in communication more, instead of being upset or angry we don’t talk more?” She had no answer at the time. She later apologized, seeing she had played a part in the distance.

Also, his family seems to like being able to say someone else sucks, makes them feel better about themselves or something. When my niece was turning 9 or 10 her dad forgot to call on her birthday. Everyone in the family talked about what a piece of shit he is. Well, I think her mom sucked for not calling him by 7:00 at night and telling him to remember to call. He still would have been crappy for not having called yet, if it is important to them to think he is lower than low, but at least hos daughter would not have felt forgotten by her father. The guy was/is not a total deadbeat, it isn’t an extreme situation like that. Anyway, that dynamic of people making themselves feel superior is part of the should thing I think sometimes. Those people usually are insecure to some extent.

Coloma's avatar

Here’s an example of what just unfolded in a conversation with a good friend over here not 10 minutes ago. Her daughter graduates HS next month and she was talking about the party she is throwing at her home for friends and family. I told her I had no interest in attending the actual ceremony when she mentioned inviting me. Said ” nothing personal, but I’m not interested in the actual ceremony but I’d love to come to the party and help with that.”

No problem, no bad feelings, because we both don’t do obligatory “shoulds.”
This is the true definition of “friendship”, everyone is FREE to pick and choose without fear of bad feelings. :-)

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Haha..yeah, just WHO makes up these “rules” anyway? Bah!
I really like the Byron Katy work where she tells you to always ask yourself if something is true.
Is it really true that forgetting someones birthday means they are a bad friend/person?
Isn’t it possible they just forgot and that is all there is to it?
Always ask yourself these questions before implementing your “rules” read: programming, beliefs

1. Is that true?
2. How do I know it is absolutely true?
3. Do the turn around…

“He/she is bad, wrong, uncaring for doing/not doing such and such turns into I am bad/wrong/uncaring for foisting my beliefs on others and making assumptions about what they “should” do to prove their caring, devotion, loyalty, friendship, love. ;-)

JLeslie's avatar

@Coloma I am should oriented enough that I think a little girl should get a call from her dad on her birhtday, but that is the most important part, not how it happens. He would want to call her, it isn’t him being forced, it is just that he forgot.

Coloma's avatar

@JLeslie Well yes, a parent forgetting their own childs birthday is rather pathetic, but in other circumstances it doesn’t mean anything other than they forgot. :-)

SavoirFaire's avatar

@nikipedia Taking your points in reverse: I agree that the conversation shows that the event was important to the friend. I do not agree that the conversation shows that the event was important. So what do I mean by contradistinguishing “important” and “important to”? I mean that some events are more reasonably seen as important than others. If this was an event like every other the friend has ever done, it would be difficult to see how this one could be of any particular importance. Moreover, it would be difficult to see how it could be of particular importance if its only differences from other events were trivial or not anything to do with the friend herself.

If it was her first event as a director, an event for her favorite cause, or an event with some other relevantly distinguishing feature, then I could see an obligation to attend arising. To use your example, a Tupperware party is a less reasonable thing to get upset over than a Nobel prize award ceremony. One relevant factor in this case is that you can have a Tupperware party any time, whereas the Nobel ceremony is rather time-sensitive. There is also the fact that the Nobel ceremony represents an extraordinary achievement, whereas the Tupperware party shows only that you are willing to pick up the phone or fill out a short online form in order to receive free and/or discounted products.

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