Originally Published: August 18, 2017 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: After college, I moved across the country to New York City. Coming from a small university, only a few friends moved to the big city with me, and we took very different career paths. However, I felt OK about the move because one of my best friends from college, “Olivia,” was coming with me.
We used to hang out quite a bit, but as the years have passed, we only manage to see each other once or twice a year. I get it. We developed our own niches and friend groups. But what really grates my cheese is when Olivia messages me every month or so to generically say that she misses me or that we should really hang out. We have fun when we see each other and reminisce, so usually I agree and offer up a few ideas for a gathering — grabbing coffee, visiting a new workout studio, whatever I’m up to that week. No response. The radio silence typically lasts until the next monthly message — “miss you!” When she does respond, it’s usually just to say how she’s busy but that she’ll try to make the next one. Each time she flakes, my fond college memories become less fond.
Annie, I’ve accepted that Olivia isn’t reliable, but I don’t want to cut her out of my life completely. How should I deal with this? — Flake’s Friend
Dear Flake’s Friend: No matter which way you slice it, flakiness is frustrating. Canceling plans once or twice is understandable. Life happens; things come up. But Olivia seems to have made this into a monthly ritual. And I’d guess the purpose of this ritual, for her, is to alleviate some guilt. “I’m not a bad friend,” she can tell herself. “I reach out.”
But good friends hold each other accountable. That’s what you need to do here. The next time she texts you, tell her you love her but she’s got to stop saying she wants to see you and then not following through. After you’ve called attention to her bad habit, it will be much harder for her to keep doing it with a clean conscience. Instead, she’ll have to make plans only when she plans on following through, as adults are supposed to.
Dear Annie: I read your column from prison, where I’m serving an eight-year sentence for attempted kidnapping and home invasion, done while I was in a state of cocaine psychosis. Next week, I’ll have five years of total sobriety. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, including earning college credits and participating in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Victim Offender Education Group.
I’m writing in response to the recent letter you printed from “Margaret,” who said her ex-partner attempted to sexually assault her daughter while he was intoxicated. I was taken aback by your calling her ex’s actions “unforgivable.” You do know that when you forgive someone, you do it more for yourself than for the person you’re forgiving, right? And what of all the offenders in our nation who are in need of forgiveness to help them heal? Are they incapable of changing, throwaway people?
Maybe I read too much into this. It’s just that this unforgiving attitude is part of the grease that enables the generational cycles of violence and abuse to keep revolving. — Chris B.
Dear Chris: You’re right. I was not thinking of those things when I called his actions unforgivable; I was just trying to emphasize that Margaret should stay far away from her ex. I should have chosen my words more carefully. Forgiveness is for the forgiver, not the forgiven. Thank you for writing, and congratulations on five years of sobriety. Keep it up.