Annie’s Mailbox for April 7, 2011: Trying to shake friend who wants my life
April 7, 2011
Dear Annie: I’ve been close friends with “Lucy” since high school. In the past few years, I’ve noticed that she is imitating everything I do, and I mean everything.
I recently dyed my hair red, and she did the same, even using the same stylist. She bought the same carpet, painted her house the same color as ours and last year acquired the same breed of dog. She buys her grandkids the same gifts we buy ours. I just purchased a jacket, and when Lucy saw it, she bought the same one and flipped out because she could not get it in the same color. I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is scary. It’s as if Lucy is trying to live my life.
Last week, I bought a set of new sheets. Lucy stopped by as I was making the bed and asked her usual questions — where did I buy them, how much did they cost, etc. But then she asked what my husband was like in bed. She confided that her sex life is not so good and once thought her husband was having an affair. I was flabbergasted and finally said it was personal and nobody’s business, and I refuse to discuss my sex life with anyone.
Lucy became agitated, said I should be willing to answer her question since we’re good friends and then left in a big huff. I haven’t seen her since, although she lives down the block. Should I have answered her? I think I need to end the friendship, but how?
— Feeling Uneasy
Dear Uneasy: No one needs to answer such personal questions. Imitation is usually a sign of insecurity in one’s own taste. It often helps to offer to shop with the person and help them develop their own style. Lucy, however, seems to be looking for more than style. She wants a life upgrade, and she’s chosen yours. We suggest you put gradual limits on the amount of contact you have. Continue to be friendly, but find a way to be busier. When you go out, alter your schedule so you have less of a chance of running into her. And if she ever asks for help, urge her to seek professional counseling.
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Dear Annie: I have sent thank-you notes for various gifts throughout my life. No matter what I wrote, at least one person was unhappy with it.
One thank-you was followed by a reprimand from an elderly relative, saying I should have written more. Another was fussed over by an aunt who said I wrote too much and it sounded contrived. When I sent a thank-you e-mail, I was chastised because it wasn’t handwritten.
I think people should be happy their gift was acknowledged. Most etiquette rules were formed prior to the invention of electronic mail. What is the real difference between an e-mail and a hastily hand-scratched note?
Dear B.S.C.: Handwritten notes are considered more personal and show greater effort. E-mail thank-you notes are perfectly fine for those who are more casual and don’t mind receiving thanks in this manner. However, unless you are still a child, no one should be chastising you. You have difficult relatives, dear.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Burning Up in Vermont” and laughed out loud when you said, “And now he can take the bus.”
Vermont is a very rural state. The likelihood of bus service where this person lives is remote to none. You should have suggested he carpool with someone he works with, although that might be equally difficult.
Dear B.B.: We admit we are not familiar with rural Vermont, and it’s possible “Burning” lives in an area where there is no bus service. In which case, we hope carpooling is a feasible alternative.