Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to yet another fun-filled column at Gothic Charm School. This month the subject is something that the Lady of the Manners and her social circle have been having to struggle with recently themselves – just how DOES one handle the delicate situation when a dear friend is romantically involved with someone that one detests?
Well, maybe *detests* is a little strong, but there is no getting around the fact that sometimes friends date people that we don’t like. Don’t like, don’t approve of, don’t understand what they see in them … you get the picture. *Anyway*, after having endured several social events in the company of a friend and their special someone who was less than pleasant, the Lady of the Manners realized that even though her nerves were somewhat stretched, she certainly had a topic for a column. And now that the “behind the scenes” exposition is taken care of …
So, what to do? Well, there are a few paths to take, depending on how close the friendship is. If the person in question is a casual social acquaintance – someone you only see out at coffee or the clubs – then the Lady of the Manners is afraid you don’t *really* get to say anything to them. You’re more than allowed to huddle in a corner with close friends and (quietly!) exclaim “what does she/he see in them?!,” but as to marching up to your acquaintance and saying “by the way, your taste in romantic partners is appalling and you need to have your head examined,” no. Not even if the Horrible Partner in question repeatedly sticks their foot in their mouths, shows no social skills, or wears white undergarments under sheer black clothing and insists on dancing under the black lights.
What if your acquaintance (basking in the glow of new love or something else) asks you what you think of the Horrible Partner? This is when you fall back on one of those tried and true social cliché phrases: “I’m sure they make you very happy”. Keep in mind that you must say this with as much sincerity and enthusiasm that you can muster; no droning it out flatly or rolling your eyes, please.
But what happens if one of your nearest and dearest friends is involved with a Horrible Partner?
(As an aside: when the Lady of the Manners says “Horrible Partner,” she does NOT mean someone who is violent or abusive. If someone you care about is involved with That Sort, then you need to be honest with them about their choice of people to be involved with, and you should still expect your friend not to listen to you. Sad but true.)
When someone you hold dear shows … dubious taste in romantic partners, it’s depressing. “But you’re so funny! So smart, so attractive! What are you doing with *them*?!” will run through your mind often. Which is to be expected, just don’t *say* it to your friend. Yes, the Lady of the Manners is serious. Sometimes the best option is to not say anything and just bide your time. Perhaps the Horrible Partner was having an off day when you met them, perhaps you were, you never can tell.
So time goes by, and you’re now convinced your friend is dating a dud; it wasn’t a case of anyone having an off day, but that your friend has taken leave of their senses. Now do you get to shake them and tell them they can do better?
No, you still don’t. You also don’t get to make thinly (or not-so-thinly) veiled insults directed at the person your friend is dating. You just have to try and be as polite as you can manage. Of course, this will (probably) lead your friend to notice that your interactions with their Twoo Wuv are a bit strained, and ask you why. At this point, you should probably say something along the lines of “I know ‘___’ makes you happy; I’ve just never been able to hit it off with them,” and then *drop* it, no matter how much your friend badgers you.
That’s how it works in a perfect world, at least. How does it usually work in the real world? By still not trying to shake some sense into your friend, but on those occasions when your friend and the Horrible Partner have quarrelled, being the Sympathetic Ear and saying things like “Are you *sure* you’re happy with ‘___’?” and “Remember when ‘___’ did (insert last thing that annoyed your friend here)?” If you and your friend are in the midst of an emotionally deep, soul-bearing conversation AND you have a very, very strong friendship, then and ONLY then should you try and voice your concerns about their romance. Even then you should choose your words carefully, and be prepared for your friend to completely ignore you.
None of this is much fun, the Lady of the Manners realizes this. But honestly, there isn’t a simple way around the subject. However, there is one last bit of advice the Lady of the Manners has about all this …
If and/or when your friend DOES break up with the Awful Person? Don’t gloat. Don’t go on and on about how “I never liked them, I never understood what you saw in them, they were horrible and not good for you.” Just don’t. Listen while your friend rants (if they are so inclined), be supportive, and then do your best to set them up with someone much nicer-for-them that you DO like.
That, darlings, is that. (A brief pause while the Lady of the Manners waves in the direction of Chicago.) As always, send along any questions you have to Gothic Charm School, and be sure to come back next month.