Thursday, January 2, 2014

When Is It "Safe" To Stop Sending An Invitation?

Dear Tazi:

Every year on the weekend after Thanksgiving I coordinate a mini-reunion of my high school friends. We meet during the years when we do not have a formal high-school reunion planned, and it is open to all who wish to attend - whether they receive an invitation or not.

There are about a dozen of us who have remained close over the years, and we all live within an hour of each other but busy lives, work, children, aging parents, and the like keep us from getting together regularly - there are always some who can make it and others who cannot, so we all plan for our Thanksgiving Weekend! All, that is, but "Caroline".

Caroline has not attended or RSVP'd to the invite for the past three years. Many of us keep in touch with her via email, or we run into her in the community, so it is not like she has simply lost touch with us or has no desire to join us; when we catch up with her she always gives whoever asks a long spiel about how busy she is and how her career is so time consuming and how her children are all in advanced placement classes and competitive extra-curricular activities and how it is "a wonder" she has any time for herself! She will always thank us for thinking of her before adding that she is simply too busy to get together with our tribe. (All italicized words are the ones she particularly emphasizes).

This past year I did not send Caroline an invitation to the Thanksgiving get-together, figuring that if she was too busy to even RSVP these past few years that I should not expect anything different and save myself the stamp. The morning after our event I woke to a screaming Caroline on my answering machine. She was very upset that she had not been invited to the annual get-together and accused me of trying to cut her out of our circle of friends. Not wanting to deal with Caroline over the phone, I emailed her to tell her that she has not expressed interest in attending in years so it was assumed that she had not interest in joining us. I told her I was sorry if this made her feel left out but she has not given so much as an RSVP in years so what were we supposed to think? I added that we all looked forward to seeing her at the formal class reunion next Thanksgiving.

Caroline responded with a fiery litany against me, calling me an unsupportive friend who could never understand the pressure she is under to perform and to be everything to everyone and that she always thought she could count on us, her friends, but that when the going gets tough you find out who your true friends are. She ended by telling me that a real apology does not contain the words "if or but". I realize that my apology was a fumbled one but it was also an insincere one, made to smooth some ruffled feathers more than to express remorse.

Was I wrong to cull Caroline from the annual guest list? Is she the one in the wrong for nor bothering to RSVP and then expect to still receive written invitations? Do I actually owe her a sincere apology or am I the wronged party here?

Also A Busy Working Mom

Dear Also A Busy Working Mom:

Caroline's failure to RSVP or attend an event three years in a row would get her culled from my guest list, too; however, it appears that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that Caroline is not telling you. Has it occurred to you that all of Caroline's bravado could be a front for her desperately low self-esteem? In all of her spiels, does Caroline ever once give you any specifics about her life and how she is doing? Could it be that she does not wish to attend your reunions for fear that she will spill the truth after a few drinks, and that truth may not be the façade she presents to the world?

Caroline mentions that her job is stressful. Well, whose isn't at some point? Could it be that Caroline has zero job satisfaction and the thought of having to go to the office makes her want to cry? Is it possible that her children are just as miserable in their AP courses and competitive extra-curriculars, and it is a battle to get them to participate? Perhaps Caroline and her husband are having marital difficulties or financial problems and keeping busy is the outlet Caroline chooses to stick her head into to avoid addressing the problems. Now, the people she felt that she could always count on to think of her and be there for her - her friends - have suddenly and without notice culled her from their tribe.

Rather than issue insincere apologies to each other, why not ask Caroline to carve out some time to join you for coffee - if she protests, offer to join her at one of her children's extra-curricular events and chat in-between scores? Let Caroline know that you and your friends all feel that she has pulled away and is making excuses not to spend time with you. Tell her that you are concerned about her; that her stress seems to have reached an unhealthy level.

If Caroline rejects your offer, do not take it as a personal rejection; instead, do what any good friend would do - let her know that you will be there for her when she is ready, and take a step back from the friendship. Continue to send email updates and invites to events, for these may be the only lifeline Caroline has to the outside world. Eventually, you will know when it is safe to stop extending invitations.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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