Miss Conduct

Too close for comfort

Fear of friends becoming friends-with-benefits, plus gift card and defriending etiquette.

By Robin Abrahams
March 27, 2011

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I am 18 and a high school senior. My parents recently and suddenly told me that they did not approve of my relationship with my best friend “Brady.” They are concerned that our friendship could turn romantic and have prohibited me from seeing him. This seems ridiculous. I have known Brady since we were kids, I’m at his house all the time, and my parents have known his family for years. I only visit when his parents are home, and nothing inappropriate would ever happen between us anyway. I cannot ignore their command, but I can’t live with it either. Advice?

E.G. / Hopkinton

I admire the fact that you want to keep peace in your family. Nevertheless, you are legally an adult: You could marry “Brady” if you wished, regardless of how your parents felt about it. (Yes, I know you don’t want to.) Treat your parents with respect, but at 18, that doesn’t have to mean obeying irrational and hurtful orders.

Talk to your parents and try to understand the nature of their concern. I confess, I don’t quite see why the prospect of your friendship becoming more than it currently is bothers them so much. After all, sooner or later you will “turn romantic” with someone. What are they trying to protect you from?

If you can’t assuage their worries, I don’t think you are out of line to continue to visit Brady in public or at his house. Don’t invite him to your parents’ house, since they object, but you can see whom you choose. Don’t lie about seeing him, but don’t make a point of rubbing your parents’ noses in it, either. Give yourself the freedom to be discreet, honest, and dignified.

And if you don’t have the emotional energy for that, then stick to small talk with Brady at school or in the neighborhood, and keep in touch primarily through phone, Facebook, or e-mail. You are nearing graduation, and your relationship will surely evolve as you move into your college or work lives. Lifelong friendships go through phases of closeness and distance – because of emotional or logistical factors – and I’m sure you and Brady can ride the waves.
When I receive a gift card or cash as a present, I believe it is only proper to tell the giver, when writing the thank you note, what I bought with it. My wife thinks that is silly, since she often just puts the gift card away in a drawer and doesn’t use it for months, if ever. Cash just goes into her wallet. We are wondering what your opinion is. Should we tell the giver what we used her gift for?

J.T. / Concord

Your wife is the kind of person who brings dismay to the hearts of givers everywhere! Letting gift cards languish and putting money into her general slush fund – people might as well make a burnt offering of Benjamins in her name. You are in the right, J.T. Gift money or cards should be used within a month, unless there is a particular reason not to, such as saving money for a vacation or waiting to see what sex the baby is. Spend the money on something special (or on something necessary, if your budget doesn’t allow for “special”) and tell the giver the story in your note.
How do you tell a high school acquaintance that you defriended her on Facebook because she “liked” the anti-gay American Family Association? “I’m glad we got back in touch but you support groups that refer to my relationship with my partner as an abomination”?

H.L. / Medford

Yes, I think that would be a succinct, civil, and inarguable summary of the situation. Nicely done.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a Cambridge-based writer with a PhD in psychology.

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