#402: Do I have to sit through dinner with someone who was a big jerk to me?

Hi Captain Awkward,

At a party over the weekend, I met a woman who was so verbally agressive to me, so insulting and so poisonous, that I still feel a little nauseous today. She’s the girlfriend of someone who I’ll be seeing again and again (he, my boyfriend and I share the same small-world past time), so simply not dealing with her ever again is probably not an option.

Background: We are in our 30s. I met her boyfriend, who’s in his 50s, on a trip that my BF and I went on over the summer. I had precious cigarettes, and when I found out John was a smoker, shared with him the rest of the trip. This was a multi-day wilderness trip, and people get very close, but I wasn’t attracted to him nor flirtatious with him. He got drunk one night and confessed an attraction to me. I don’t drink anymore, and I was kind to him about it and never mentioned it again.

We saw each other again at this party, and he brought his girlfriend, who wasn’t along on the trip. She was drinking a lot, and I soon noticed that she was being pretending to be friendly but being viciously sarcastic with me — mocking my word choice, saying “oh, here she is AGAIN” every time I showed up, accusing me of being a flirt, calling me “Miss Thing” and saying that I was one of those women who thought I was just so special and deserved all the male attention. I was floored, but I was sober, it was a friend’s big birthday and I didn’t want to cause a scene. I had never met the woman, and have no idea why she laid into me like that. It was so extreme and so aggressive. I wasn’t upset at the time, just…floored. My BF told me that when we left, she said “Oh, is she upset?” as he walked out.

I just found out that this friend called my BF today to invite us over for dinner. I’m sure he feels terrible about it — it was so OUT THERE — and I know we’ll see each other again. I just can’t imagine sitting at her table for dinner. My BF thinks I’m overreacting and might pressure me to go, but I really feel icky about it. Still, I’d like John to know that I don’t hold her against him, and possibly even mend fences with her if it’s possible.

Never been up against anything like this — what should I do?

I think your friend came home from that hiking trip and either confessed his attraction to you or had a whole lot of mentionitis. STILL, that is no excuse for that lady’s behavior.

What would be the worst thing that would happen if you just didn’t go to dinner with them? What if you made the decision, right now, that you will run into this guy at Shared Pastime and be friendly and glad to see him, but that you have no obligation to get closer or “mend fences” with his girlfriend?

What if you just didn’t give any explanation beyond “Sorry, can’t make it! See you guys at (shared pastime thing), though.” 

And what if you told your boyfriend “Go and have a great time! I’m going to do something else that day.”

And if he tries to pressure you, say “DON’T try to pressure me about this. You go if you want to, but why on earth would I want to spend more time with that lady after the disaster the other night?”

And if your friend tries to persuade you, you can be pretty direct. “I don’t blame you for what happened the other night, but that doesn’t mean I’m anxious to sit down to dinner with someone who spent the night insulting me. Let’s just forget the whole thing, let bygones be bygones, and start fresh the next time we all run into each other at a party.”

Keep this mantra up your sleeve: “Not everyone has to be best friends for us all to have a good time at a party.”

What would be the life consequences to you if you just decided in your head that you don’t like that lady and don’t want to spend any more time with her than is absolutely necessary?

I feel like this whole situation is teetering on the edge of some Geek Social Fallacy, where there is pressure on you to make nice for the sake of group harmony that isn’t actually serving the members of the group (of which you are a key voting member!). And the assumption is that because you are nice and you are a lady that you’ll sit there and smile and smooth everything over and prove that whatever happened the other night wasn’t that bad. That is what Clive and your boyfriend would like you to do. Well, it sucks and you don’t have to do it.

Don’t go to this lady’s house. Don’t eat her food. Make polite excuses. Let some time go by. When you inevitably run into her again, say a minimal hello and then exit the conversation and go talk to other people. If she says terrible stuff to you, say “What on earth would make you say that? That’s really out of line” and let a horrible awkwardness descend.

I don’t know, you guys, am I being too mean? This lady has clearly demonstrated that she’s really insecure, can’t hold her liquor, and will completely verbally abuse and bully a total stranger if it suits her. She’s not a teenager, she’s fifty years old. Why would you want to get closer or spend more time together? She’s already shown you what she’s like to hang out with: NOT FUN. Just because your friend has bad taste in girlfriends doesn’t mean you have to have poor taste in dining companions. It’s nice that your friend and your boyfriend want to smooth things over, but they didn’t have to bear the brunt of her behavior. Let them eat with her and see how fun she is.

I know that socializing-as-a-couple almost inevitably means breaking bread with someone you don’t 100% love, and you smile and make the best of it for your partner’s sake. But that’s for work events or relatives or old friends – people who are grandfathered in! You don’t already regularly dine with these people or you would have met her before. You actually have a choice here about whether to become more engaged with her.

For the record, I think that if your partner hates all your friends, or you hate all their friends, or their friends hate you, then that is a bad sign for future happiness. I also think partners shouldn’t pressure each other to like or hang out with people that they obviously don’t really get along with or go places they really don’t want to go. You don’t have to go everywhere together!  Your partner can just say “Partner couldn’t make it. Lovely to see you!” and have a good time and not make a thing about it. And when people in your partner’s life are toxic and abusive, you’d be much better off shielding your partner from having to spend time with those people than pressuring them to go along to get along. I think we could do with less social coercion all around.

Trust your feelings. What you feel about the prospect of this dinner is dread. Dread is a good reason to not go to dinner with someone you just met and don’t really care about.  Dread is your friend. Dread is trying to protect you from a bad time with an unkind person. Surely your boyfriend won’t try to make you go to dinner with someone who verbally abused you just so he can feel good about hanging with his bro.

So, say that you bow to pressure (or sick curiosity) and go. You do NOT apologize. You let HER apologize. And you say something back like “Yeah, it was a rough evening and I didn’t enjoy the way you spoke to me. I appreciate the apology, though.” And then you change the subject and show her how a grownup does it.

199 thoughts on “#402: Do I have to sit through dinner with someone who was a big jerk to me?

  1. Agreed with all of this! You’re not being too mean at all.

    It really really squicks me that the LW is the one being pressured to smooth things over, when the male friend is the one who dropped the FEELINGS!bomb by drunkenly confessing attraction. Forget holding the girlfriend against John, hold John against himself! Also, maybe I’m too cynical, but I wonder if John read his girlfriend in on the plan to invite LW and her boyfriend over. Since he’s drunkenly confessed feelings to a near-stranger (while both are in presumably monogamous relationships) and standing by saying nothing while his lady love acts a fool, I’m skeptical that he has the emotional skill to host an intimate dinner party without it turning disastrous.

    1. I love the phrase ’emotional skill’ and I think this is an excellent point. I don’t see him being a good person to deal with such a delicate interaction (and by ‘delicate’ I mean ‘the kind where one person is good being civil and upholding the social contract and the other is not very nice’).

    2. Yeah, I cannot help but feel that IT’S A TRAP!, etc. Like, maybe not a trap intentionally laid, but I have a hard time believing this woman actually wants you, LW, coming over for dinner. This really does sound like an attempt on DRUNKFEELINGS Guy’s part to make the two of you smooth things over, and since I doubt this is coming from a place of sincerity on her part (and possibly even deep resentment that this dinner invitation has been issued at all), this is going to end badly. So badly.

      And will there be alcohol at dinner? Dinner with two people who BOTH can’t handle their feelings/liquor? IT’S A TRAP.

    3. I’d go a step further with this, and say that John is not a good friend and not someone the LW and her BF should be spending time with outside casual group situation as necessitated by small-world pastime.

      John made totally inappropriate drunken overtures to the LW, which was disrespectful to both their relationships. He obviously let this slip either directly or indirectly to his GF, and then sat back and watched her jealously lash out at LW. Now he wants to host an incredibly inadvisable dinner party where I can guarantee that he will continue taking absolutely no responsibility for his part in this mess. At best, this is a clumsy attempt to smooth things over by making the ladies play nice together. At worst, this is John acting further on his confessed attraction by pursuing a more intimate friendship with LW, despite the BIG RED FLASHING WARNING SIGNS that say this is a futile and potentially disastrous move. Even without the Toxic Girlfriend dealbreaker, I would be steering politely and tactfully clear of John at this point.

      1. Yes, this, absolutely. I’d want to steer clear of both of them, outside of a large group or possibly past-time setting. (And even then…)

      2. I agree with this too. I don’t understand how it can be considered appropriate to drunkenly make a pass at somebody you just met, who has a partner… who is also on the same trip. He does not sound very cool at all, but hey maybe that’s just me.

      3. I so agree.

        I don’t think that “confessing feelings” necessarily equals “making a pass,” though in this cause it probably did. I think that it is a big warning sign, though, that the LW is the one expected to “smooth things over”, when her behavior has been perfectly fine.

        It is possible that John gave his GF the impression that the LW made a pass at *him*. I have seen this happen before: guy makes pass at woman, woman rejects him (sometimes very nicely), guy spreads rumor that she hit on him and he rejected her.

        I think it is a BIG RED FLAG that the BF is telling LW that she is overreacting. He does not have her back here. He ought to have her back, because he ought to realize that John’s GF’s behavior was really out of line.

        As for why the GF laid into the LW, I have a theory based on my own experience: when I was a younger pretty thing, I on more than one occasion experienced women (usually older than myself) really hating on me for no reason at all, including making very nasty comments. I also received the accusation that I “needed to be the center of male attention”, when in fact I was just a very dorky, friendly, pretty girl, who was largely oblivious to people’s attraction to me. What I eventually figured out was that these women were insecure and made me the target of their insecurities. John’s GF is an insecure person, and she is the type of person who lashes out in her insecurity. I just avoid people like that altogether now.

    4. I begin to wonder if this is part of a pattern. There’s no excuse AT ALL for what John’s girlfriend did, and I’m not trying to make one; what I am saying is that I wonder if she’s seen this sort of drunken (or not) approach to other women from him before, hence her totally over-the-top reaction? Pure speculation, but right or wrong, I totally agree that it’s not just Toxic Girlfriend LW doesn’t need in her life – it’s Potentially Skeevy And Not Really Trustworthy John, as well.

      1. That was my first thought too…putting myself in her shoes, I wondered if perhaps this was not first cute “friend” john had made sexual advances at that she has had to socialise with. NOT an excuse for bad behavior, but maybe her (not nice, and not smart) way of coping with this is, instead of avoiding that person, to passive aggressively ice out the other woman, make her look stupid and then make the other woman out like a drama queen if she objects: “Oh, was she upset?”
        This is another *very* good reason not to go. There is a very good chance that she is feeling super icky about this too…and if she is in on this invite, it may be taking another stab at asserting her dominance over him…and doing it on her terms, in her home…with her food, her alcohol and you unable to make an undramatic exit no matter how much she needles you.
        Do not go. You don’t need to become a pawn in their emotional games, you don’t need to be defending yourself against her attempt to belittle you.
        If you DO still feel like there might be an opportunity to talk to this woman like a grown-up; set the terms yourself, and make it a situation that doesn’t involve her drinking.
        Say “We really appreciate the dinner invite, but things were a bit uncomfortable for me last time we got together, so maybe we could do something more low-key instead? X cafe does a nice brunch, maybe we could meet up there one weekend?”
        Pick somewhere close to your home, have an exit strategy that your partner is in on…maybe even a safe word that signals “this has gone far enough, make the excuse and lets GTFO”. Set a time limit. If it goes well and she apologises and you do have a good time. Cool! Quit while you’re ahead and proceed with caution. If she doesn’t apologise and behaves the same way, then you write her off and feel no guilt about it all.

  2. I see you have a certain Hospitality Rule in your head, based on the phrase sitting at her table for dinner. You notice that it is her territory; it seems to mean something to you to share that kind of space with a person. Perhaps you also have the sense that hospitality should be returned.

    The captain is so right about how you don’t have to go do this not-fun thing. I want to add that if you would feel any obligation, it is doubly important that you let yourself choose to say no. You get to decide who you share important hospitality rituals with!

    I wonder if she was pressured into extending the invitation because she might get over her hostility if she Just Got To Know You Better. That happens!

    It’s so… I mean… what, are we puppies? How is she supposed to get to like you when you’re up in her space? How are you supposed to like her when you walk into seething hostility?

    “I am serving you coffee because it is not permitted for me to drug you and shave your head.”
    “I am drinking your coffee hesitantly because I wonder if it’s poisoned.”
    “How lovely to see you.”
    “Yes, we must do this again.”

    I think just about anything would be a better evening than that…

    Good thing you get to say no!

    1. If anything, the Rules of Hospitality are on the LW’s side. If LW is a guest in Jerk Lady’s home, it means that Jerk Lady has a bunch of extra obligations to LW, not the other way around. The Over-Idealized Perfect Host of Perfect Hospitality is supposed to make guests feel welcome, and this is the opposite of welcoming! Viewed through the lens of Hospitality Norms, Jerk Lady was a jerk, but moreover she was a bad guest at someone else’s party. Jerk Lady hasn’t apologized or made any conciliatory overtures towards the LW. (And as far as we know, hasn’t apologized to the host of that party.) Strike 1. Maybe the dinner invitation was intended as an apology of sorts, but if so, it should have come from her, not her boyfriend. That’s Strike 2. LW isn’t obligated to accept an unwelcoming invitation.

      Hypothetically, if the LW goes to the dinner party, the hosts are obligated to go the extra mile and make the LW feel comfortable, and the guest’s (LW’s) only obligation to accept graciously and not be a jerk. If/when Jerk Lady acts like a jerk to her own guests, that’s Strike 3.

      (At least, this is my own cultural understanding of The Sacred Duties of Hospitality. YMMV with your own background, of course.)

      1. That’s all true. I’ve just noticed (in myself) that sometimes I feel obligations that others don’t. I know some other people do that too. So, as a guest, I would feel uncomfortable defending myself or up and leaving if it got weird. Hosts are supposed to take care of guests, but guests are supposed to be on good behavior. I know other people who don’t go to dinner without bringing a gift.

        Sometimes the expectations are all internalized and have not much to do with whether the person we’re looking at are also following the same rules. Good or bad, I have no idea, I just know I wouldn’t want to feel social obligation to a person I never want to see again!

        1. I think the host-guest relationship is this kind of ancient thing that many of us carry, and I also had the same “Under no circumstances eat these people’s bread and salt” reaction that’s not 100% rational but is nonetheless very real.

          1. Where I come from, we still take hospitality very, very seriously. I can totally understand how the quasi-formality of hospitality norms could make it intimidating for guests to express boundaries, but for me personally, I think it’s a good thing to use those norms to shame people who violate boundaries. If I were the host of the party where Jerk Lady was so awful to LW, I’d view that as a serious violation of the hospitality that I have extended to Jerk Lady by letting her into my home. I would apologize to LW, and then JL would no longer be welcome in my territory, and that’s one of the most serious punishments I can think of. Turning down an invitation* is also a pretty serious punishment in this framework, and it’s exactly what Jerk Lady deserves.

            Ideally, these norms shouldn’t be about forcing people to be fake and nice to awful people. It should be about creating safe spaces, and sometimes to make a space safe, you have to ostracize unsafe people.

            *That is, turning down an invitation “because I don’t like you,” not “because I have a scheduling conflict.” The latter is not insulting at all, and no one should be pressured to attend an event they don’t want to attend.

          2. ” If I were the host of the party where Jerk Lady was so awful to LW, I’d view that as a serious violation of the hospitality that I have extended to Jerk Lady by letting her into my home.”

            Once, a friend’s husband went off on another friend at my party. I made it very clear to him that if he ever wanted to be invited to so much as a litter-box change at my place again, he’d apologize to my friend and keep his fucking trap shut next time.

          3. Exactly. I’m vouching for every human being at my party. If some of them are friends of friends and I don’t know them, I’m taking a leap of faith that they’re awesome enough for my other guests. If they violate that trust, they’re not welcome back. Ever. And I certainly wouldn’t accept an invitation to their home.

          4. There’s definitely some ancient standards in place – look at nearly every Roman myth ever.

            I personally twigged to the fact that a friendship was officially over when I realized that I hadn’t been invited to a formerly close friend’s house in over three months, and only then for a party. Given my previous rate of invitation, it finally clued me in that she didn’t trust me, and that she didn’t want me near anything of hers that was precious.

          5. Agree with Xenophile. Recently had a party at my place and I had invited two friends who, while both good friends of mine don’t get along. When they showed up at nearly the same time a few people expressed concern, but my attitude is that they are both my friends and if they can both be grown-ups to each other, then they can stay. If they can’t be grown-ups then they can leave, and the person not being a grown-up won’t get another invite back.

          6. About the not-totally-rational-DON’T-EAT-THEIR-FOOD thing: I have the same thing. I will scrupulously avoid eating with people I do not know or like. Coffee, sure. Drinks, sure. But food? Reserved for people I actually like.

          7. This makes sense to me! Food is intimate in ways we don’t often acknowledge. So many of our personal needs come into play when dealing with it – allergies, eating style quirks, sensitivities. Plus the whole “I trust you not to poison me accidentally or on purpose” thing. And allowing someone to watch you to eat is in itself pretty intimate. Eating is awkward!

    2. I wonder if she was pressured into extending the invitation because she might get over her hostility if she Just Got To Know You Better. That happens!

      I wondered that too. Obviously, OBVIOUSLY, it is in no way an excuse for her acting the rampant jerk to you. But I would not be surprised if the pressure is on from both sides, and that’s exacerbating things further.

      As the Captain notes, it’s very frequently expected that the women will do the social and emotional work (and it is work! hard, thankless work!) to make sure everyone gets along. This is as much true of the Geek Social Fallacies as anything else: when disparate groups (who may not even like each other) get pushed together because Friendship Is Transitive, it is very frequently the women in the group(s) who are expected to run around smoothing things over and keeping everything afloat.

      This is, of course, even more reason to decline. (Not that you needed reason beyond “I don’t want to,” as that is a complete answer in itself.)

      1. Agreed. Sometimes an overwhelmingly bad first impression is your intuition warning you that someone is bad news, and you should just trust it and act accordingly.

        A couple of years ago some new neighbors moved in across the street from us. I went over to say hello and left with an 100% negative, run-do-not-walk-away vibe from the wife. It was so bad I was physically nauseous afterward. My husband and her husband decided we all needed to get along because we’re neighbors! and launched a joint pressure-fest on us to get together again and get to know each other better. Major mistake. After making a huge effort to be nice to her, things did not get better, and the end result was that I was pressured into letting a malicious, manipulative bully into my world, one I had to see every time I walked out my front door.

        LW, I say listen to your instincts on this one and walk away now.

  3. Wow. She does not sound like a nice person.

    The problem here is *her* actions. She did things that weren’t nice. And when people do things, there are consequences. And the primary consequence of the thing she did (being mean to you) is that you don’t like her and don’t want to spend time with her. There are other consequences too, like her BF probably won’t be happy about it and parties may be awkward and other people who witnessed her behaviour may no longer like her, but they’re not really your concern, LW.

    She’s a grown-up. Her actions have consequences and she needs to deal with that. You’re allowed to not like this woman because she is the person who did unlikeable things.

    I love the Captain’s scripts, but I would add the following to the script in the event that your BF tries to pressure you to go:

    “I don’t think the way she treated me was OK. Do you?”

    And let it be awkward (another phrase that needs to be embroidered on a cushion).

    Best of luck LW, I hope you don’t have any difficulty avoiding the dinner of dread.

    1. “I don’t think the way she treated me was OK. Do you?”

      I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head with that one. Whether they mean to or not, someone pressuring you to socialize with a person who was deeply unpleasant to you is signalling that your discomfort is trivial, and less important than their desire for everything to be hunky-dory. That isn’t okay.

  4. No, you do not have to go have dinner with this snake in the grass. And that’s the nicest thing I can think to call this woman. Who plays these mean girl games that we are meant to get over in high school at the age of FIFTY? Someone who is immature, insecure in her relationship, and feels threatened by you, and who never, ever grew up. She didn’t give you a kidney or anything, she made you feel completely unwelcome at a public event, in front of your friend and your boyfriend. And what mystifies me is that your boyfriend KNOWS what she pulled, and he still says your overreacting. Tell you what, BF, I’ll invite over the guy who lives to make fun of everything you say and do, tell you he’s not THAT bad, and when you complain, tell you that you’re overreacting. Oh, that’s not fair? Seems fair to me, after all, that’s what you’re trying to do to ME.

    Then again, my advice may not be the best, because I tend to lose my filter when someone tries to pull mean girl games on me. The last time someone tried to be all, “Oh, you just think you need ALL the male attention in the room,” with me? I was not nice in the slightest, and pointed out the obvious differences between being friendly and attention whoring…..and proceeded to point out that I was engaging in the first, and he in the second. So, while I would likely not go, and would have been evil at the party and pointed out that no one likes to talk to someone who is acting like a Queen Bee who’s been hitting the venom too hard, and would be more than happy to tell my husband exactly why? I would recommend that you not go, and tell your BF, “You have the right to think that I am overreacting, and I have the right to think that only a jerk would choose to subject me to someone who very obviously hates me and chooses to be nasty to me. You pick which one you’d like to be.” Or something a little less in-your-face (there is a definite lack of sugar coating filter with me).

  5. So, say that you bow to pressure (or sick curiosity) and go. You do NOT apologize. You let HER apologize. And you say something back like “Yeah, it was a rough evening and I didn’t enjoy the way you spoke to me. I appreciate the apology, though.” And then you change the subject and show her how a grownup does it.

    I love this. Especially “And then you change the subject and show her how a grownup does it”. Absolutely perfect.

    Don’t LW’s feelings matter at all? Why does this new friend’s girlfriend see LW as a threat (at least, that’s what I’m reading into it) when she did not at all return those feelings? If that relationship fails, it won’t be LW’s fault at all. She’ll have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    1. When I was in high school (because wow, that woman’s behavior reminds me of high school) my best friend was a boy. His girlfriends always hated me, even though he and I had been friends for years and we weren’t at all interested in dating each other. Some women always see their boyfriend’s female friends as a threat, even when there is none.

      1. Christ. my BF’s best friend is a girl who also happens to be one of MY best friends and I still have to smack the green-eyed-monster on the nose with a newspaper every once in a while, even though I know I have NOTHING to worry about.

    2. It doesn’t really matter WHY the Rude Girlfriend was rude and we probably never will know. John acted out of line in the first place- LW AND her BF were on this trip, so John clearly knew LW was already with someone yet still did the DRUNKFEELINGS- so maybe he let slip to Rude GF that he liked LW, maybe he had mentionitis, or I wouldn’t be surprised if he twisted the story and made it sound like LW was attracted to him.

      It doesn’t really matter what caused the jealousy and if it’s founded or not- it still should be handled better and LW should not have been verbally abused.

  6. I don’t think this advice is too mean. LW, you shouldn’t feel obliged to spend time with someone who makes you feel crappy. Having dinner with people is supposed to be a pleasant experience. Being with this person is not a pleasant experience for you, so that would sort of defeat the entire purpose of the dinner.

    On the Captain’s last paragraph, about what to do if you do end up going to this dinner (or if you end up in another situation where you’re forced to have a conversation with her), I totally agree that you shouldn’t apologize. I probably wouldn’t bring it up unless she does, and, while I don’t suggest being mean or rude to her, I don’t think you need to be overly warm or nice either. And if she does apologize, and you manage to say what the Captain suggests saying, I think you deserve a gold star for badassery.

  7. i would be willing to give the girlfriend another chance if she reached out on her own to apologize. not that the LW needs to, but it might make her feel better about things if she truly wants a friendship with John outside of the activity.

    either way here, LW should think about what SHE needs, not what will “mend fences” – she didn’t do anything wrong at any point. it’s on the party pooper girlfriend to make this right.

    1. If the girlfriend reached out with an apology, I would respond with “Thanks, the other night was really unpleasant and I didn’t appreciate the things you said. But we can start fresh at the next party if you like.”

      I STILL wouldn’t go to dinner. There’s no reason to get closer!

      1. You know, sometimes it is a kindness to everyone to avoid situations where people are most likely going to be the worst versions of themselves. Not that you’re responsible for them or their keeper (and not that you should avoid group activities that you enjoy), but–it’s a different way to think about this kind of one-on-one thing, you know? It doesn’t have to feel like or be perceived as a cruel snub or retaliation or something. Just, “You know, there’s a lot of unresolved stuff going on here, and I think it might be kinder to everyone if we just don’t do this. Live long and prosper, see y’all around.”

        1. So much this! There are some people I wont play competitive board games with because we can barely get along just talking about food or something stupid. Why on earth would Settlers of Catan make this tense relationship better?

          1. There are a handful of people in my board game group who I try to avoid. It can get awkward when I don’t manage it, like them time I got stuck in a game with three of them and they started saying nasty things about another group member, who wasn’t present – and happens to be a close friend of mine. That was fun. *sigh*

            (I did speak up, and their response was basically “Yeah, but she is like that, you have to admit!” No, I don’t, fuck you.)

        2. sometimes it is a kindness to everyone to avoid situations where people are most likely going to be the worst versions of themselves

          This is really true and smart, and thank you for saying it so clearly! There are people who I love who I don’t play games with, or watch TV with, or go out to dinner with because their worst qualities come out in those situations. It is far, far better to hang out with them in situations where their best qualities come out instead.

          And once in a while, it has been the case that someone could not be their better self around me at all, at which point it was wisest to just step back rather than keep trying to ‘work it out.’

        3. Exactly. I think so many people have been trained (or have trained themselves) to think that they’re failures of some kind if they’re not cool and easygoing about everything all the time. It’s okay to accept that some situations are really unpleasant and you’re just not up to dealing with them.

        4. I think I’m going to embroider this entire paragraph on a pillow. I needed to have learned this ages ago – it would have saved me a lot of grief this year.

        5. This is so true! Sometimes it’s not even that a person is necessarily awful, but personalities collide to bring out all of each other’s worst qualities. It’s nobody’s fault, but I wish our society were more understanding of this and had better mechanisms to distance oneself without being perceived as rude.

        6. I am 100% in this line. If she apologizes, you can *contemplate*, very *slowly*, moving past the awful first impression and her totally odious behavior. Otherwise? I do believe “civil, like an orange” is about what my demeanor would towards her, i.e. polite, but cool and distant, with no delusions of any fondness or interest in this woman or anything more than simply knowing how to behave like an adult.

  8. I have that dread right now but it’s not over a dinner party, it’s over my BFF’s wedding. She finally picked a date and while I think I could handle the wedding itself (with her friends I don’t get long with and family on both sides of the wedding who actively dislike me) I’m dreading being the person to coordinate shower(s) and the bachelorette. Last time I was in a room with Mother of the Bride she refused to acknowledge me, even when I spoke to her directly. I doubt my status as Mad of Honour is going to earn me any love.

    1. Anyone else hoping that ‘Mad of Honour’ is not a typo?

      And really good luck with that. Fully grown adults acting like spoilt children = not a fun time. Eep!

    2. So, here is a bonus answer inside the comment thread.

      Is the date of the wedding more than two-three months away? If so, respect your dread. You can say to your friend, “Friend, I am so honored that you asked me, but I’m feeling very stressed out about this and would prefer if you ask someone else to be the Maid of Honor and let me just celebrate your wedding as a guest. I hope this won’t disrupt your plans too much, but it’s the right decision for me.

      Your friend might not be psyched, but if she is your friend, she’ll understand and get over it. Being a bridesmaid is a FAVOR that you do for your friends/family. Forever and always, you get to say no to this request.

      If the wedding is coming right up, and you think you can grin and bear it, just get through it the best you can. Keep the expectations on yourself really low.

      1. so much this. This whole “asking you to be my maid of honor/bridesmaid is a huge mark of esteem and you should be grateful!” thing is such a trap. MoH/bridesmaid is a lot of work and saying no early is way better than saying yes and doing it halfassed or hating your friend by the end.

        1. So much this, seconded.

          The awkwardest time I ever had at a wedding was when a friend I hadn’t seen or spoken to in about a decade asked me to be a bridesmaid. Her reasoning was that I was important to her when we were close friends, and I respect that… but man, I didn’t know anyone there but the date I brought at the bride herself.

          I tried to turn her down, but she insisted and offered to pay for the dress and all, and it was like “Well is it really worth crapping on her wedding plans just to avoid being uncomfortable?”

          I’m still not sure I know the answer to that. But Maid of Honor duties definitely add a burden. Besides, wouldn’t the bride prefer that her special parties were planned by someone who was totally into it and could really work with everyone make it awesome – rather than someone who feels like a pariah to the very people they’re planning the party for? That’s not a fun party to plan.

          1. I was SO EXCITED when she asked me to be Maid of Honour. We’re friends for over a decade, we’ve been roommates and friends, drifted apart and gotten close again. This is the only friend I would even consider doing this for and I thought we could make it work. But she’s moved since the engagement and we’ve spent less than 10 minutes together when she’s visited the city we used to share. The wedding now involves travel and who knows where she wants the pre-parties (how many parties does one need?!) and as much as I want to make this an amazing celebration of her, I can’t imagine I would enjoy a second of it.
            And I’m sure her sister-in-law would jump at the chance to do all the things I hate.

        2. Yea, it’s definitely an all or nothing job. I don’t want to let this friend down but I also hate that I could be putting my life on hold for a party for a person who can’t make time for me. I was really excited when it was offered but I’m having anxiety every time I see the cover of Bridesmaids and I don’t have a cute cop to make everything better.

      2. Thank you for your wise counsel! I suspected it would be along these lines which is why I haven’t tried to email in. It’s also what I want to do (bow out) but I’m not sure how to handle it. That’s on me though, and I’ll be seeing the friend this month and sitting down about this. I’ve asked what her expectations are because I’m putting my vacation plans on hold in case I need to save lots of money and give lots of time. When I know them, I can make a plan.
        Truth be told, I’m really reluctant to be an unpaid wedding planner for a friend who can’t even make time to see me and who will never return the favour (because I’m not getting married or at least not having a weeding). And typing this all out makes it so clear what I should do.
        Anyway, thanks as alays for your brilliance. It is appreciated.

    3. I agree with the Captain. You have no obligation to endure a person who refuses to acknowledge your presence. An alternative to saying ‘no’ (although you should probably just say no and you are completely within your right) would be to explain this (the mother thing) to your friend and ask for another person or two more people to work with you, in equal conditions, all as ‘maids of honour’ so the responsibilities can be shared and you don’t have to deal with Toxic Mother.

      I still don’t understand this tradition of getting somebody to plan parties for you, though. Is it an American thing? My parents would have never expected their friends to organize parties and outings and things for their wedding. Getting married was their decision, so they organized it. Isn’t that more sensible? :S

      1. I don’t know if it’s solely American, but there is a huge etiquette Thing about whether you can throw parties to celebrate yourself in certain cultures, America having multiple, sometimes mutually incomprehensible cultures. The blog Etiquette Hell is a good representation of that point of view, which seems mainly to originate in the idea that asking anyone for presents is never allowed. So you’re not supposed to ask anyone to throw you a party for your wedding (which kind of makes sense to me), but it’s also not okay to do it yourself because you would be asking for presents. I throw my own birthday parties, so I am beyond the EHell pale and I’m fine with that.

        1. How bizarre, from an Oz perspective! Every birthday party I’ve been to, my own included, were held by the birthday-person. Can’t imagine it any other way unless it was a (shudder) surprise party.

      2. This is in Canada but I think it’s definitely a North American thing. That said, my mom’s (second) marriage was SO low key that if I were to do the wedding/marriage thing, I would follow her example. Or run away and not invite/tell anyone. Or skip marriage altogether and just adopt cats.

        The bride and I were joking (I hope!) about all the books and Pinterest boards and crap related to weddings and I said, “I bet there’s a book on the Maid of Honour’s job” and she turned to me with a sincere look and said, “there are.” I should have run then.

    4. Do you have to do all the elaborate showers and bachelorette things? Maybe check with the bride and see if she actually wants that, and if she does then go low key – out for dinner and drinks somewhere, or a picnic in a park, or something, and skip all of the “here are your L bridal plates lol” stuff that can get tied in. I did dinner and drinks for a friend’s shower and it was quite nice.

      It’s hard to say how that will go without knowing everyone involved but if people are flat-out refusing to acknowledge you face-to-face I can’t see everyone being thrilled about two/three more events where they all have to socialise.

      That said, I do recognise that weddings have a lot of unspoken assumptions from many parties and people (even just people on the guest list!) aren’t afraid to let you know when you haven’t lived up perfectly to their expectations, so it’s really hard to know how it will go. Good luck with it.

      1. I’ve asked the bride to let me know her expectations so I can know what I’m getting into (or out of) but she hasn’t clarified yet. It sounds like she wants a bachelorette (she’s a partier, so booze and stuff. I thought brewery tour maybe? But I think she wants a night of it) and it sounds like we need a shower to cover all the family that won’t go to the bachelorette. Both events would involve coordination on my part and friends and/or family that I don’t get along with. She also mentioned early on that she wants to do it very DIY so there will be many crafts to make and transport.
        The cost and logistics are getting to be a concern too. At first the wedding was going to be in the city where I live so minimal travel and time off work. Now it’ll be in a rural area that I don’t even know how to get to (maybe Greyhound, probably have to rent a car or carpool with people I don’t get along with). The bride & groom’s new home is small so I’ll have to fin accommodation. There’s the outfit and flowers and who knows what else. Plus I’m looking to change jobs and not sure how stable that will be. I’m already cancelling my vacation plans for next year (or at least putting them on hold) in anticipation of being too broke, cash and vacation-wise.

        Ugh, just typing it is stressful. I need to talk to her. and I need details.

        1. Whatever you get from the bride — and you can quit without the bride’s approval, you know — if you stay you can ask the SIL to help or even do most of the stuff. It’s pretty common to co-host.

          And all the stuff about what the different roles have to do? It’s all bogus. It’s up to each couple and their friends to figure it out. For some people, the honor is worth the work; some people really like the work; etc. But for some it’s just not worth it. (And for other couples, the honor doesn’t involve much work at all. You don’t have to DIY forty-seven hundred cute little thingies to have a good wedding!)

          The wedding industrial complex wants to tell us all otherwise, that there’s these rules and roles and all, and it has to be just perfect and very expensive, but it’s just not true.

        2. DIY, when it’s really “I will volunteer my friends to make time-consuming gee-gaws” is a trap. She’s basically saying “I will trade YOUR FREE TIME for what could have been solved by my money.” You don’t have to make geegaws.

          Talk to her. You can back out anytime!

        3. In my opinion, I don’t think you need so many details, though you can definitely use that as the reason to talk to your friend. I want to echo what’s being said up and down this thread: You are allowed to NOT be a bridesmaid/MoH and STILL be a friend.

          The Captain was one of my three attendants, but if she’d said at any point “I can’t deal with this responsibility, I need to just be a guest” I would have understood and probably asked someone else to step in. It’s an honor to be asked, but it’s not an obligation to emotional, financial, and temporal servitude.

          In ANY situation, if someone is asking you for more than you’re prepared or able to give, you have the moral authority to say “NOPENOPENOPE!” Lay out for your friend what you’re willing to contribute, and if that doesn’t match up to what she envisions, gracefully decline. It’ll probably get messier and feel more awkward than that, but you are in the right!

        4. All the jedi hugs! It sounds like you’re handling it well so far: asking for information, thinking of possible party plans. The situation is still stressful but please give yourself all due credit for how you have been dealing with it so far.

          You’ve already tried to talk to the bride, unsuccessfully, but talk to her again (unfair, I know) and tell her you’re stressed because of other life things, you’re not sure what she’s expecting but here are your plans (*insert easy-for-you plans here*) and then put the burden of figuring out her perfect plans back where it belongs: with the bride. If it is that important she will get back to you and you can negotiate from there. (Definitely negotiate! You don’t have to giftwrap the stars to be a good friend. It’s okay to point out that you can’t breathe in the vacuum of space.)

          So on the easy-for-you party front, I think a brewery tour sounds like a great idea. If she wants a night of it I suggest going brewery -> dinner -> “and then we’ll go out dancing if people want to keep partying” (this is code for “at the end of dinner, we’ll discuss possible dancing venues and the group can organise itself from there”). Maybe have a venue suggestion at hand, but if they’re old enough to go out drinking they are old enough to take responsibility for themselves and their entertainment at that point.

          For the shower, bring-a-plate afternoon tea? Ask the other bridesmaids/family members to help you make sandwiches? I like afternoon teas for these things because they are necessarily time-limited, and I really feel that low-key is fine here, particularly if you’re doing a bachelorette as well.

          As for the coordination, I really cannot emphasis enough that you do not have to organise the perfect occasion for everyone. Have a bit of a chat about possible dates, sure, but then just give everyone enough lead time (a couple of weeks?) and let them sort their own calendars out from there. If people miss the shower, the bachelorette *and* the wedding, they can always take the bride and groom out for dinner later on. Really, what is the worst that happens if you invite people and they don’t come/don’t bring something they said they would? There are slightly fewer people there/there is slightly less to eat. Fine. Not a huge disaster either way. Haters to the left etc.

  9. This is not too mean. Alcohol or not, this lady was trying to upset you. You can’t set boundaries with someone like that fast or firm enough.

  10. This situation is just another reminder that actions have consequences. This woman went to a party and was a major B. And now you’re supposed to smile and pretend that’s cool? Uh, No. She made a choice to behave the way she did, and now she’s going to have to deal with the consequences, that you are upset, and do not like her. You don’t owe her anything, and if your boyfriend and her boyfriend have a problem, they should take it out on her for being such a nightmare to you. She owes you an apology, and you owe her nothing.

    There is a certain pressure as a person with a liberal mind to want to like everyone. You don’t want to judge people for their gender/disability/race/sexual orientation/weight/height/etc. But that’s not what is happening in this situation.

    There is nothing wrong with disliking people because of the things they say and do. Those are the reasons you should dislike people. This woman earned your animosity by being horrible to you, unless she manages to earn your forgiveness you have no reason to be amiable.

  11. I’m gobsmacked that your boyfriend is trying to get you to go along with this. Is he actually the kind of guy to pressure you to go make nice with someone who behaved terribly toward you and isn’t even his parent or his boss? Or are you afraid that he will because you’ve had boyfriends who pulled that kind of junk before? He’s supposed to have your back. He’s not supposed to try to get you to spend time with people who hurt you.

    1. Very much this. This. This. Red flag. Red flag. RED FLAG!!

      I suffered through a broken situation because someone expected me to be friends with his wife, and she tried very hard to go along with it. (This was relationship broken: add more people. I was the added one.)

      I do not expect, nor do I want, my friends and paramours to get along 100%. Nor do I want to have an expectation that I get along with the paramours of my friends, or friends of my paramours. Ideally, the number is quite north of 85%.

      So if I’m expected to try to “smooth over” any problems I might have had with someone, especially someone who did something nasty, said something nasty, or worst of all, was passive aggressive about something (one of my triggers courtesy of the bad situation I was in), I will look at that person with a very, very jaundiced eye and be rapidly reevaluating their place in my life.

  12. If it was me, I wouldn’t go because I don’t give people like that second chances. But you say: “I’d like John to know that I don’t hold her against him, and possibly even mend fences with her if it’s possible.” If this is truly the case then you could go and see what happens? But I really don’t think this is going to better (in fact I think it will get worse and she will continue to dig at you but maybe I’m wrong and she is better when sober and eating food? I don’t know). Unless she gets A LOT better and apologises for her behaviour you have to ask yourself how far you are willing to go to keep your boyfriend/John happy.

  13. Yeeeah, I am agreeing with the Captain here. It’d be one thing if there were a pre-existing relationship with this woman and then it went up in fiery flames of burning fire at that one party, but–you met her once. She was roundly horrible the entire time. You do not owe awkward dinner party faux-polite pretend-there’s-no-conflict times to her!

    If she, herself, wants to apologize, she can woman up and actually send an apology. Or at the very least send Foolish John over to say, “Wow, I am so sorry about X, and so is she, she’s just feeling awful about how she treated you at that party but is too embarrassed to come say so in person, especially since she doesn’t want to impose if you’d prefer never to see her again, which we both totally understand.” Because that is one of the ways adults deal with a significant other having done something terrible to a new acquaintance and then realizing it later when more sober.

    Did the dinner invitation include that? Doesn’t sound like it. Then I’d stay the hell away from that woman. Not in the “leave the party if she enters it” sense–unless she does that every single time–but a dinner invitation? Hell no. If she’s that damn sorry, she can send a nice restaurant gift card attached to the apology letter.

  14. You know? Don’t let John off the hook here. He may very well be doing what some manipulators do–get their partner all freaked out and watch them implode so they look like the stable and nice one in comparison. (I’ve seen this a LOT. I’ve also been on both sides of that and it sucks.) He might not, but you may see why as you read below.

    I think John and his girlfriend could very easily be put into the category of Do Not Associate With Besides Saying Hello At Events and Moving On.

    I think part of the problem is with your boyfriend. I hope he gets his head on straight.

    Here’s my thinking:

    1) John sounds kind of like bad news. He knew that a) you’re his friend’s GF and b) he has a girlfriend himself oh, and c) THIS IS THE FIRST TIME YOU HAD EVER MET HIM and yet he thought it would be appropriate to confess an attraction to you. Holy fuck I cannot even.

    2) That your BF doesn’t side-eye John’s behavior is–if not a red flag, a bright pink one or one with a red border. Because lemme tell you something, if one of my friends (and who was in a relationship to boot) hit on my boyfriend, you bet your ass I’d side-eye that. I sure as fuck wouldn’t dismiss it.

    3) That your BF doesn’t side-eye John’s asshole girlfriend and that he thinks you’re “overreacting.” John was being jerky himself but that’s not your fault and this shithead GF needs a ticket to the clue train. If John can’t act right, that’s on him not you. And BTW, she’s rude. Again, I’m being repetitive here, but if I had a boyfriend and anyone was rude to him I would let them know in no uncertain terms that it was Not Okay. I would not tell my boyfriend that he was overreacting. That’s bullshit.

    4) That your BF not only doesn’t have a problem with John or his girlfriend’s behavior, but that he might pressure you into going to dinner with them. I hope this is not actually the case. I hope that he tells John, “You know, you already went over the line, and my GF was gracious about it. I don’t know what you said to your GF, but she was a real shit to her, and that’s not okay with me. Frankly, you two need to work your shit out before you expect us to socialize with you.”

    I’ll refrain from any assumptions around alcohol consumption other than to say that John and his GF may have an issue and/or use drinking as an excuse for their behavior.

    These two sound like bad news.

    1. Yes yes yes. This reminds me of when my best friend and her husband were telling me about all this couple they were “friends” with, who sounded like manipulative, passive-aggressive nightmares. When they finished, I asked, ‘Why are you friends with these people again?’ and pointed out all the ways that this couple had done nothing but take advantage of them and stress them out, according to their own stories. They were both kind of shocked to hear it from an unbiased third party, and I could tell I’d gotten through to them, but for awhile they still tried to insist that no, these people were their friends, because they’re both the type of people who hate to be thought of as rude to the point where they let themselves get walked all over. They kept saying “But they’re so nice!” until I mentioned that ACTING nice and BEING nice are not the same.

      Friends should bring fun and happiness and feelings of support to your life, not stress and anxiety. Everyone has hard times and bad moments, but it sounds like these two are bringing the drama, and if that’s not something the LW wants, she doesn’t have to put up with it.

    2. Don’t let John off the hook here. He may very well be doing what some manipulators do–get their partner all freaked out and watch them implode so they look like the stable and nice one in comparison.
      Totally agree with this. How did his girlfriend even come to know he was attracted to you? I feel like there might be some deliberate shit-stirring behind the scenes here.

      And that (maybe I’m reading too much into stuff now) John’s relationship with the LW’s boyfriend is based a bit on “these silly ladies have their silly lady squabbles, but we’re above all that, so of course we can be friends.” And I wonder if the invitation to dinner is so John can try and make you say/imply “you poor dear, being married to this crazy lady, but I know you’re an innocent victim here.”

      Regardless of whether there’s secret evil machinations or not–I just feel bad for the LW. She’s got someone she never provoked attacking her over something she never asked for. Go to dinner with the two people who put her in this situation? Cripes.

      So yeah, adding my voice to the ever-growing list of people saying that I would not blame LW if she never wanted to breathe the same air as these people again. I don’t think that “mending fences” or soothing John’s feelings are her job at all.

      1. Man, the more I think about this from a feminist perspective, the more I come to suspect John is positioning himself as the Rational Man tragically caught between Irresistible Temptress Woman and Irrational Harpy Woman, and the angrier I get.

        1. Yeah, and he’s trying to create the Irresistible Temptress Woman out of a shared pack of cigarettes and a polite and firm, “No, thank you.”

        2. Indeed. Something I’ve observed as I’ve gone through life — there are people who turn into jealous heat-seeking missiles when their partner looks at someone else because there’s a history of their partner doing more than looking.

    3. This! If the men in the situation try to ignore LW’s boundaries and feelings, tell her that she’s overreacting, that it’s just catty female competition for the attention of the menfolk, LW can point out how much they’ve enabled the situation. It sounds a lot like that trope of men blaming drama on women as an excuse to not set boundaries. Then when a woman does try to set boundaries, she gets accused of causing drama. #petpeeve

    4. I agree with all of this, and I’d further note: it’s possible that the pushback you get if/when you say no will take the form of ‘oh, those ladies with their lady drama and their silly overreactions! it’s too bad you can’t be rational like us menfolk.’ (Albeit probably worded more subtly.) That’s a really, really common way to try to pressure women into ignoring misbehavior, casting it as hysterical drama.

      It can be helpful to sort of mentally translate that kind of thing. It’s not drama, it’s legitimate conflict. It’s not overreaction, it’s ‘not wanting to be insulted to my face.’ And ‘oh, those ladies with their silly desire to not be insulted and belittled to their faces!’ has much less of a sting, because, I mean, it’s a reasonable reaction. It’s not drama. It’s just insisting on not being mistreated. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.

    5. These two sound like bad news.

      I couldn’t agree more: John and Jerkface GF have some serious boundary issues. An inability to hold one’s liquor is no excuse to act inappropriately towards another person, whether it is a FEELINGSBOMB, a FEELINGSDUMP, or IM-INSECURE-BECAUSE-MY-PARTNER-HAS-BOUNDARY-ISSUES-SO-IM-GOING-TO-TAKE-IT-OUT-ON-THE-OBJECT-OF-DESIRE.

      LW, your feelings are totally valid. Both parties have breached the social contract and your gut is telling you to keep these people at a distance, lest their own relationship conflicts and behavior flow over your walls and overwhelm you. When someone has violated a boundary and they are either unaware or unable to recognize they did so and/or were hurtful, you are completely within your rights *not* to be on point to teach them the error of their ways.

      Yes, you will likely run into them because of shared interest. But it is one thing to run into them casually, in group settings, in public places where you can actively minimize your interaction and exposure to these people versus being “trapped” in a private setting, where rules of hospitality will likely make you feel obligated to put up with more bad behavior.

      I’m a little concerned your BF doesn’t have your back on this and is minimizing the impact of the encounter. Please don’t allow him to make you second guess yourself; your instincts and your feelings are spot on and are telling you “herein lies bees” with these people.

      Maybe another conversation is in order with the BF, too about his essentially invalidating your feelings on the matter…

      1. You know, a few people have brought up the “see them in public at shared pastime when you have to, but don’t bother with the in-private stuff” thing… and I think it’s just clicked with me why that is such good advice.

        It’s a safety thing. It’s the same reason your mom tells you to go on a first date somewhere public, rather than going to his house: if you are out in public, there are other people about, and when things start to get hinky there are others around to notice and possible go “Hey, that’s not okay.” Not that you can ever count on others to intervene – and not that others should always intervene anyway – but most folks are less likely to attack you (in any sense of the word) when there are witnesses. The onlookers give you a bit of a buffer.

        Walk into an attacker’s home, however – a private space where your attacker is comfortable, on “home turf” so to speak, without all those pesky onlookers to witness and judge the bad things they do – and suddenly there’s a lot less reason for them to hold themselves in check. Which makes it a lot easier for them to get on with the attacking.

        This… ugh, now that I look back at it, it looks suspiciously victim-blamey. I want to be clear: I’m talking about Schrodinger’s Attacker here. Of course you don’t know someone is an attacker until they’ve attacked.

        I’m just saying that it makes sense not to have dinner with these folks because gee, if that was her on her good behavior at the party…. I don’t have a lot of faith that dinner will be better. I think it will be worse, and you’ll have fewer protections from it, is all.

      2. “I’m a little concerned your BF doesn’t have your back on this and is minimizing the impact of the encounter. Please don’t allow him to make you second guess yourself; your instincts and your feelings are spot on and are telling you “herein lies bees” with these people.”

        This. Who matters more to BF – LW or his mate John? Why isn’t he backing her up after she was hit on by one and abused by the other? I’m getting a bit side-eye about BF in this matter.

    6. I wish there was an “I love this” button so I could easily express “I AGREE WITH THIS SO MUCH” sentiment.

    7. “He may very well be doing what some manipulators do–get their partner all freaked out and watch them implode so they look like the stable and nice one in comparison.”

      OOOOOoooOOOOhhh! So *that’s* why I was being so batshit insane while I was in that emotionally abusive relationship!

      Total lightbulb moment here. Thanks 🙂

    8. Yeah, I’m sending some serious side-eye the boyfriend’s way. If someone had inappropriately hit on a significant other of mine, I can assure you that I would NOT be insisting that they have a dinner together. That is just not cool.

    9. Well, for point #1, there isn’t actually any indication that John thought it was somehow appropriate to feelingsdump on the LW; he quite likely knows it wasn’t and that is why he only did it after drinking too much when the brain-mouth filter stops working. Sometimes people get drunker than they intend to and say stupid things; this does not necessarily make them bad people or mean they do not understand that the things were stupid and/or inappropriate.

      However, there are ways to handle having accidentally overdone it and saying something inappropriate. The proper adult way is something like (a) acknowledge that you shouldn’t have said/done that (b) apologize sincerely (c) do not do it again (d) do not repeat what you said to any third parties, especially ones who will make a thing out of it and (e) probably put some distance between yourself and the person you said stupid shit too, or at least don’t drink around them. It is *not* (a) don’t apologize (b) never mention it to the person in question again (c) tell the person who will get the absolute most pissed off about it (d) make the person from C and the person you stupided to hang out (e) refuse to acknowledge when they don’t get on well and (f) make them hang out more while pretending there is no problem or that it is not your problem.

      So I definitely think this John dude is bad news and we should all be giving him the serious side-eye, but I’m hesitant to put that all on the initial act of stupid, it is more that he seems to have decided it is now other people’s problem and is not taking responsibility for it or trying to mitigate it at all.

      1. I’d normally be in agreement with you on that. However, the fact that he confessed an attraction to her when he’d basically just met her on that trip is ooky. I mean, not for nothing, but I meet people I’m attracted to all. the. time. And even with copious amounts of alcohol in my system, I don’t tell them that I find them eminently fuckable. There’s a boundary issue there.

        Also. Maybe John’s a good sort who made a terrible mistake. But–his girlfriend could be a good sort who had a bad night/reacted badly to something and took it out on LW. Neither really means that the LW or anyone else owes them the benefit of the doubt.

        Right now the LW is focusing on the GF because the girlfriend was rude as hell. But John was stunningly inappropriate–and it wasn’t due to some long-festering attraction that he’s been grappling with that finally spilled out after doing shots. He’d basically just met the LW. This is a red flag to me.

  15. You don’t have to go. And you shouldn’t. There is no law that you have to be buddies with everyone in your social circle.

    You are a nice person. It’s natural to get the urge to smooth things over when they’re uncomfortable but let the awful no good very bad feelings just sit there. SHE created the conflict. If she’s had an epiphany about her offensive ways and wants to apologize, she can contact you. Don’t go into the lion’s den. Don’t split up and go into the creepy basement full of Evil Bees. If you do go, be nice to her if she’s nice to you but don’t trust her. Feel free to have intricate fantasies about her getting smacked in the face with a fish.

    Remember that it’s HER own insecurities she’s projecting onto you. My guess is it’s easier to be rude to you than confronting her partner. Kind of like a girl-on-girl fights on talk shows where the guy has cheated but no one is angry at him. Don’t play that game. Their relationship-issues aren’t for you to worry about. And on Wednesday we wear pink.

  16. (he, my boyfriend and I share the same small-world past time)
    Yup, that feels like Geek Social Fallacy territory.

    I met her boyfriend… on a trip that my BF and I went on … He got drunk one night and confessed an attraction to me.

    So you were there… with your boyfriend, and he choose to drink and confess an attraction to you. That’s some great behavior on his part right there! (yes, yes, you could say “but he was drunk”, but he chose to get drunk, so no, that’s not an excuse)

    I just found out that this friend called my BF today to invite us over for dinner. I’m sure he feels terrible about it…

    Why are you so sure? I’m not sure that he’s even aware of it. He got drunk, said something wildly inappropriate, and it was never spoken of again. His GF got drunk, said wildly inappropriate things… why wouldn’t he assume that it would never be spoken of again?

    LW, you seem very generous in spirit and willing to believe the best in people. I think that’s a noble trait, but I also think it’s a bit unjustified here.

    John’s behavior on the trip (getting drunk, confessing to you alone when your boyfriend was absent) was not OK. John’s girlfriend’s behavior (JGF?) in being sarcastic and bullying was also not OK. And neither of these not-OK behaviors were in response to anything you did, which means you don’t have any fences to mend.

    It’s quite possible that John and JGF are into drama. It’s very likely that there are some unresolved issues in their own relationship, and if there are, it’s extremely likely that they may act out by proxy. (meaning you and your BF) It’s OK to walk away from this one.

  17. Life is finite; don’t waste your time making nice with someone who demonstrated in your very first interaction with her just how awful she can be. If she reached out to me directly to apologize like caryatid suggests, I might consider smoothing things over for social Shared Pastime reasons, but otherwise, I’ve already got too many people I would rather see to waste a night on John’s Mean Girlfriend.

  18. Also, if BF and/or John gives you (further) flak about declining to hang out with Vicious Nightmare Woman, tell ’em “Nuh uh. You forfeited the right to ask that of me when you stood by gape-mouthed as she verbally pissed all over me. On top of which, your inability/unwillingness to see my perspective on this when she’s not even here totally undercuts any faith that you will do better another time. So, no.”

  19. The more I think about it, the more I wonder why you’re so sure John would be mortified that his GF was rude to you, LW. Why are you willing to give him the benefit of the doubt? His behavior was completely inappropriate and just as hurtful–to you, your BF, AND JOHN’S GIRLFRIEND. I get not throwing it up in his face, but come on. His girlfriend is a rude shitheel but he’s no better. I’m wondering why you’re giving him a pass.

    1. this is totally spot on. i still stand by my original idea of maybe giving one more chance, but you know what? maybe not. it really doesn’t sound like either of them have anything to offer as decent people/friends.

  20. No, just, no. Not too mean. Absolutely not.

    I’ve noticed that as we get older, there’s a social obligation to tolerate things we don’t like – ie nasty passive-aggressive behavior that doesn’t read as outrightly awful. Like, “Well, she didn’t incur the genocide of a 1000 baby chinchilla-puppies to make some shoes so c’mon, come to dinner! You’re totally overreacting!” LW is being smart by paying attention to the gutfeels. It’s not like she’s seething and ranty and will throw spoiled eggs the next time she sees this woman in public – she’s acknowledging that perhaps she doesn’t want to be subjected to crap behavior directed at her if she doesn’t need to be subjected to it.

    Bad behavior = dog shit. We can see it and accept it exists, but we don’t have to walk through it and get our shoes all stinky if we don’t need to. Especially if we know the source.

    1. Yep, like it’s some sign of adulthood and maturity to grimace through an unwanted social engagement but would be immature and childish to just say “No thanks, but have a lovely time!” when really the opposite is true.

  21. Yeah, this is not too mean. Do not go to dinner with these people. (Can we adapt the “Don’t Fuck That Lady!” theme song to “Don’t Eat Dinner With That Lady!”, or is that too many syllables?)

    The absolute best-case scenario for this dinner is: John’s GF is over her momentary fit of jealousy and meanness, feels hideously embarrassed about it, in fact so embarrassed that she can’t bring herself to openly admit to it and apologize, and has planned this dinner to try to make up. But there are also a LOT of possible scenarios where this dinner is as Carbonated Wit described it, with the possibly-poisoned coffee and the “smiling” that is really “baring your teeth” and, if things go badly, maybe even with the open sarcastic meanness again.

    My thinking is, IF this dinner is actually coming out of that best-case scenario or a similar one — John and his GF have resolved their whole deal, she regrets her behavior and wants to get to know you, etc. — then that can be demonstrated just as well at the next party or hobby event where you see them. Where you will also have the advantage that you’re not trapped at their house with no one but them to socialize with. I would wait to see direct evidence that she’s planning to behave better (an apology FROM HER, not via John, or actual demonstrated niceness) before escalating the friendship to dinner parties.

    1. Totes – the only thing the LW knows is that this mean woman has invited her to her house (her turf) for dinner. No context. All she has is a bad behavior history. Unless that is clarified as a “Hey, I showed my ass and I think we got off to the wrong foot, lets start fresh” dinner, no dice for bff-dom or f-dom.

      (Also re: theme tune – maybe “EW that lady!” Also – another tangent, the words theme tune / theme song always make me think of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOL5fdysqWY)

      1. She doesn’t even know that. All she knows is that JOHN says she did. As somebody else pointed out, we have no idea if Ms. Snippy issued the invite or for that matter even knows about it. I would comfortably bet on the possibility of her not knowing, and John planning to tell her only after LW and Boyfriend accepted. “What, they’re friends! And I already invited them and they already said yes.”

  22. “What on earth would make you say that? That’s really out of line”

    Oh I so wish I’d had these words! Was in a similar circumstance, met my husband’s cousin for the first time at a dinner party she gave for various adult family when she moved into [local area] and she was unexpectedly a royal bitch to me. She didn’t speak to other female in laws at all, but commandeered her male cousins etc as a queen bee – we all in our 50s! I refused to socialise with her, my husband agreed (but not initially) she was a bitch but said that was just who she was. Finally, a year or so later I did go to another of her soirées and she was much more restrained but then said to me “you keep taking that HRT, it’s making a difference!” You see the men just don’t get the insult in there, but a SIL immediately spoke to me on a completely unrelated topic and we ignored bitch troll beautifully. I have not socialised with her since but am perfectly polite and sweet if we meet, but keep it short and move away.

  23. This woman’s behaviour was out of line, but I also want to add to the small chorus of voices warning you about this John character. As the Captain said, mentionitis or even a confession was a likely trigger for this woman’s animosity towards you. But you have no idea how that conversation went down or what John said about you.

    I had a woman pull similar crap to John’s girlfriend with me once and it turned out one of her friends had told her a bunch of lies about things I’d been saying about her behind her back. Granted, the mature thing to do would have been to speak to me first, but I can understand her trusting her longer standing friend and then being hurt/angry/not liking me on hearing those things.

    For all you know John’s girlfriend got angry about the mentionitis and so John retold the story with you being the flirt that he had to turn down, or some other bullshit fairy tale that minimizes fallout for him in his relationship. (I can’t imagine him saying, ‘so girlfriend, when I was at a social thing without you I found an awesome hot chick I really fancied and so I cornered her alone and confessed my feelings, but then she shot me down. You guys should totally hang out.’)

    Not only does she already trust him because he’s her boyfriend, she also may not want to question that trust if she’s insecure about his fidelity. Bingo, you’re the horrible temptress.

    Tl;dr? She was super rude and I totally agree with giving her the stink eye, but do also watch your back around this John fellow.

    1. Yes, she might have some ideas of how much truth was in John’s story. It’s much easier to blame the Evil Temptress than to confront John about the real story. Maybe she’s very naive or maybe she doesn’t really believe him but is choosing to cling to slivers of hope against hope. She could be fighting for her relationship with J and doing what she needs for it to survive.

      But that still doesn’t excuse her behaviour. I feel like looking too much for a reason she’s acting this way doesn’t help that much. The LW should just pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.

      1. Absolutely agree with you that none of this is an excuse – shitty behaviour is still shitty behaviour. All I’m saying is that thinking about the reasons for this woman’s outburst might help the LW to see the red flags around John AS WELL as the ones one’s around his really not nice girlfriend.

      2. I don’t think this is looking for a reason why she’s acting this way. I think it’s more a matter of recognizing that John’s a pretty toxic drama generator himself and that LW would do well to steer clear of him. I’d watch my back around John because whoa–holy inappropriate bullshit Batman. He performed a drunken FEELINGSDUMP on the LW (when he knew the LW had a boyfriend–whom he’s friends with–and when he knew he had a girlfriend). He did this the first time he met the LW. It’s not like they’ve known each other for years and he’d developed a crush and said something regrettable but has otherwise been a standup guy. This trip was the first time he met her.

        So yes, his GF is an asshole. But the LW is letting John off the hook here, and that’s a mistake IMO. John’s going to stir up more dramz and continue to act inappropriately. If John and his GF broke up tomorrow he’d still stir up the dramz.

          1. You absolutely raised a good point, and I do think his GF is a raging shitheel. I just think those two are meant for each other. 😉

            BTW I *love* your icon!

  24. I think it’s pretty telling that Mutual Friend and Boyfriend are pushing the idea of this dinner, but there’s no outreach from Mean Lady. The invitation would feel different if it came from her along with a real apology along the lines of “I was completely out of line at that party, and I’m terribly sorry. I would love the opportunity to try and make my abysmal and embarrassing behavior up to you with a lovely home-cooked dinner.” You would still be justified in not wanting to go and not going, but at least it wouldn’t feel like a sham “let’s all be friends!” dinner where you can just expect more of the same vitriol from her while everyone else picks at their appetizers and pretends everything is fine.

    Don’t go. Life’s too short to waste time making nice with people who are horrible when you aren’t absolutely required to do so (for the sake of keeping your job/family peace/etc.).

    1. TOTALLY. The fact that the invite is coming from John and not his girlfriend raises red flags for me too.

      I was in a similar situation once, except that I had slept with (John) many years before I ran into him at a party with his new wife. I didn’t realize that he had grown into a lying, cheating asshole of a husband who bragged to his wife that he’d slept with me – and so I was taken aback when she was blisteringly rude to me at the party.

      He called a week later to invite me to an “apology” dinner at their house. While he was on the phone with me, she picked up the other line and started yelling at him for inviting “that bitch you slept with” to their house and they got into a screaming match ON THE PHONE about how “we’re going to invite her dammit!” and “over my dead body!”

      I have a life-threatening food allergy. Needless to say, I did not go.
      Don’t go!

  25. Originally I was on the side of ‘Go to dinner but make sure BF is cool with the two of you leaving at a moments notice’.
    But this is such a weird situation. There must be something else going on for a grown woman to act out with such hostility towards you the FIRST time you meet. Her behavior seems so irrational, I would probably end up going to dinner to try and sort out the mystery and end up having a horrible evening.
    So go if you really want make sure you have an escape route planned. But I am on the side of staying home. Let BF tell them you had a prior engagement if he decides to go without you. Give the woman a bit of space, see if you get an apology.
    If the friendship with her partner is really that important to you, there will be other chances mend fences with them when she’s become more rational and you aren’t still reeling from being verbally attacked.
    But there’s definitely no reason for you to apologize.

    1. “There must be something else going on for a grown woman to act out with such hostility towards you the FIRST time you meet.”

      This same sort of situation happened to me once. I was in my mid twenties, the couple was in their 60s, the husband and I knew each other through a community organization, and as we got to know each other, I discovered he’s a well established professional in the field I was trying to break into. We met once at his office after work hours: I was picking up a book he offered to loan me, and then he gave me a tour of the lab and showed me how to operate a couple pieces of lab equipment. A few weeks later, I met the wife for the first time at a party and she was catty as all hell to me. I have no idea WHAT was going on with them, but I returned the fellow’s book that week and minimized contact.

  26. You can’t mend fences with this woman, because there never was a fence in the first place. All there is is rudeness, and if you do ever become friends with her it will be a whole new fence that you have to build from scratch.

    You don’t have any responsibilities toward this fence, because this fence is a lie.

    1. Totally agree, and on a tangent “this fence is a lie” reminded me of that Friends episode when Chandler confessed to having feelings for Joey’s girlfriend and Joey said (I’m paraphrasing) “You’re so over the line, you can’t even see the line from where you’re standing. The line is a DOT to you!”

      LW, the line is a dot to Mean Girlfriend. And the fence is a lie.

    2. Oh my glob, exactly my feels on this. This is a case where I feel like it would be better to run screaming in the opposite direction!

      If someone is THAT RUDE when you first meet them, take it as a beautiful gift: yiu know that, hey, this person can be THAT RUDE and feel no guilt as you give 0 fucks about their feelings and dance away into the sunset.

  27. I feel like I’m watching a horror movie and LW is reaching for the basement door and screechy music is playing and I want to cover my eyes and yell, “Don’t go in there!”

    Don’t eat these people’s food. Remember Persephone. She ate the pomegranate seeds and got sucked into Hades’ drama for all eternity. Get out now.

  28. It’s just social stuff, why the dread? I might enjoy the chance to be witty without worrying about being mean. But that’s just me.

    Also, has anyone noticed that the comments seem to be feeding off each other, and getting more exaggerated?

    1. Slaxor, nice to meet you, so sorry you can’t stay.

      See, sometimes you can tell right off that someone is bad company, and you don’t have to hang out with them at your blog/dinner party.

      1. I love that you so often follow up your excellent boundary-setting advice with practical demonstrations. “Let me show you how it’s done, with the aid of this handy troll.”

        1. I find myself put in mind of Xena, Warrior Princess, casually grabbing a passing troll by the face and pile driving it into the floor as a handy illustration to a conversational point, without even missing a beat. YES, CAPTAIN. SO MUCH YES.


        I prefer to think of the comments as less “feeding off each other” than “rising and falling along a theme and, together, reaching a satisfying emotional crescendo, not unlike a symphony.”

        1. It’s pretty much like a book club or brainstorming session or anything like that. Almost no one is able to read something and then respond to all the subtleties and intricacies in it straight off. You just start with the broad strokes and then people bounce off those and get gradually more detailed. Something someone says connects some more thoughts for you and you have a realisation so you say that and someone else goes “ooooh, yes and–“, etc. It’s, like, a completely normal conversational pattern?

          1. Yup, a completely normal conversational pattern for reasonable and respectful human beings, unlike, say, ‘being witty without worrying about being mean’! I mean, WTF I don’t even…

      3. I read Slaxor’s comment like, ‘OMG I can’t believe the Captain let that one through!’ – and then saw CA’s response and cried tears of pure joy. PWNED.

  29. Here’s the thing: people write to the Captain and other advice columnists all the time to ask how to end friendships that have gone toxic or how to get themselves out of a constant run of social obligations. (“They had us over for dinner, now we need to invite them!” “We always have dinner with them on Saturdays!” etc.) You have a chance to cut that process off before it even begins. You never have to write in asking, “how do I get out of this?” if you never get into it to begin with.

    1. I love this perspective. If you’re dreading it now, how much more will you dread it when it’s become A Regular Thing and there’s all this inertia to deal with? Cut it off now, when there’s not yet momentum in the direction of Hanging Out With These People. If you haven’t really made friends yet, you never have to break out the African Violet.

  30. It might be worth finding out if they’re being invited so that this woman can apologise though. If she really regrets it, she might not be so bad.

    1. But why even put yourself through it?

      You don’t owe people your precious valuable time while they try to make things up to you after they’ve behaved badly. It’s okay to just say “You know what? No.” and move on without having to engage further. Really, really it is. Not everyone has to like everyone.

      I’m seeing a lot of comments looking for a way that this could possibly work out. The answer is “Don’t work it out. Don’t spend precious time you’ll never get back with someone who verbally abused you. Don’t get closer to the couple where one of them gets drunk and spouts feelings and the other gets drunk and spouts insults.” It can be that simple. You can 100% avoid Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf dinner party that’s on the horizon.

      Also, I’m seconding the comments that this John fellow is kind of a knob.

    2. I had some similar thoughts- especially given the mention that she couldn’t hold her liquor. there’s a chance she got drunk and uninhibited and wasn’t being herself.

      also, “having dinner with somebody” does not mean that it’s going to become a regular thing and you’re committing to be friends forever and a lifetime of dread. if this woman is feeling apologetic, it’d be great to spend a night puffing up your self esteem from her flattery; if the woman insists on being acidic, you get the chance to voice your unhappiness in front of a group and storm off.

      1. I can’t agree — drunk and uninhibited means you have lost your social censor, not that you have been taken over by an alien. It is not unreasonable, having seen how unpleasant someone is when their self-censor is off duty, to decide you don’t care how pleasant they can fake being when sober.

        There is also no reason to think the GF in this instance is truly repentant and preparing to grovel or flatter. Nor, thank god, that the LW is desperate enough to feed her self esteem on something so tainted, or that she would relish the opportunity to be dramatically vicious for an audience. If that’s your notion of enticement….!? No.

        LW should do everybody a favor and decline the invite!

      2. Wouldn’t storming off cause more drama and upset than cheerfully and firmly declining? And as far as bait goes, the flattery of someone trying to grovel their way back into your good graces sounds pretty gross.

        1. Especially since grovelling actually isn’t usually about how awesome the wronged person was. It’s a manipulative act on the part of the offender: “I will do what is socially necessary until you are nice to me again! This evening does not end until you validate me as a person!”

      3. People, when drunk are more themselves, not less. Alcohol doesn’t change your fundamental personality, it just removes your inhibitions. (I’ve mentioned before the Awesome Grandma who told me never to marry a man I hadn’t seen drunk, for exactly this reason.)

        If this woman is feeling apologetic, she can damn well apologize. Apologies can be delivered without dinner parties.

      4. Storming off only works if you CAN leave. If you came with a partner, and the partner doesn’t have your back, attempting to storm off can be a miserable walk home.
        I say this as someone who was once very stuck and miserable at a party that I desperately wanted to leave, because I wasn’t the one who drove, and I wasn’t willing to make THAT MUCH of a scene.

    3. If that’s true, they can find out when they decline. “Oh, I’m sorry you can’t come–I feel just awful about what happened, and wanted to make it up to you.” See? That’s how you find out!

      If you want to apoogize to a person for something you did wrong, make it as comfortable for that person as possible. Don’t ask them to inconvenience or expose themselves; don’t put them in a position that looks threatening or unsafe. Don’t require them to act a certain way just so you can apologize.

      If this woman wanted to apologize via dinner party, she is 100% capable of apologizing, then issuing the invitation, and not the other way around.

    4. If this really is the girlfriend’s intent, the adult thing to do would be to call up the LW and say something along the lines of “I feel really bad about the way I acted the other night and I acknowledge that it was out of line. I apologize and would like to make it up to you. Can I invite you and [boyfriend] over to dinner? I’d like to start over.”

      As it is nothing like that has happened so I don’t think the LW should feel bad at all about rejecting the invitation. Even if this DID happen I don’t think she should feel bad about rejecting the invitation. She has no idea if she’s walking into another abuse rally or a reconciliation and she doesn’t owe it to anyone to find out.

  31. I have to add to the chorus of ‘don’t go to dinner!’ Even if this woman did magically realise that she was a total jerk to you and wants to smooth things over (which seems unlikely given that there is no evidence of her involvement in the invitation, aside from it happening at her house), dinner at her place is not the vehicle for that. Ultimately, while she was clearly very rude, she (hopefully) had some reason for not liking you and reacting to you in that way. Having you in her house for an evening, where it is more difficult for everyone to extract themselves from the situation, is not the way to patch things up.

    A more appropriate way of doing it, to my mind, would be to go for coffee or something equally low-commitment where it’s very easy to say ‘ok, I have [event] to get to now, thanks for the coffee’ and either/both of you can decide to ABORT FENCE-BUILDING without any realistic expectation of it causing drama. At a dinner, on the other hand, it would be much easier for her/John to freak out at you for wanting to leave early (I can just picture the ‘oh we tried to have LW over for dinner to patch things up and she just STORMED out, she is so RUDE’).

    tl;dr Don’t go to dinner. If you really want to patch things up with this woman, a lower-key event would probably make it easier on everyone concerned.

    1. Sure, but don’t go to coffee, either. There is no need to patch things up with this lady! The path of least resistance is actually admitting that you don’t like her and making decisions based on “I don’t like her,” like, NOT hanging out.

      1. Obviously, LW is perfectly within her rights to decide that this lady is not worth the effort. Coffee is just a suggestion for if she decides that she does want to give it another shot, which it seemed that she might from her letter.

  32. She doesn’t want to mend fences with you. If she did, she would be contacting you herself. If, by some chance, she wants to but is feeling awkward and ashamed about it – so what? She made you feel worse than awkward at that party. If she truly wants to make amends, then she needs to be the one to step up and admit to her wrongdoing. LW, you deserve no less than that.

    That’s not to say that you owe her anything but civility, even if she apologized. You do not have to be her best friend in order to interact in the same social group. All you have to do is not be a jerk, and keep from interacting with her as much as possible.

    Refusing to be or act intimate with people who have treated you poorly is not rudeness, but adultness. It’s okay to hold people accountable for their actions. It’s okay to not forgive someone who hurt you. It’s okay to not be okay with people who are not okay with you.

    And it’s okay to disagree with dear friends who want everyone to get along. Sometimes that’s not reasonable.

    Her behavior is not about you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to expose yourself to it. Refuse, be clear why, and continue respecting yourself. I guarantee that you’d have a better time watching paint dry than you would at that dinner.

  33. Even if she is going to apology profusely, sincerely and in full that still sounds like an awkward, not-fun evening: “So I would really like to apologize for being horrible at that party”. “It wasn’t pleasant, but I appreciate the apology.”


    “So yeah, have you seen the new series of Peep Show?”

    “We don’t watch TV.”

    “Oh, okay.”


    “This is really nice”


    “Lovely. Especially the sauce. Very peppery”

    “Oh God, is it! I knew I put too much pepper in !”

    Etc etc

    [Sorry for the five act play, I got carried away]

  34. I might disagree.

    Many of the previous comments assume a whole lot of messed-upedness that may not be there. If that’s the case follow their advice. Here’s mine.

    TL:DR version

    If you’re on a good place right now take a chance and have some fun with the situation. Use the social pressure to take the high road and get something you want out of it. Worst case you learn if BF will honor commitments and support you. Most likely she’s passive aggressive almost to the point you tell your BF to get diarrhea. You have a foul evening but get a better evening out of it later and from here on out you take credit for giving her another chance.

    I like to talk version:

    Your letter gives me the impression that you’re generally in a good life place. Is that correct?
    Do you and your BF have a healthy and stable relationship that’s working well for both of you?
    Have you had fights in the past that you successfully worked though?
    Have you been in this relationship for a while?
    Are you both invested in this relationship and planning that it continue?
    Is there good and easy going reciprocity in your relationship? (i.e. do you do favors for each other without a lot of resentment or entitlement?)
    Is John a basically decent guy who just got drunk once and told you he had the hots for you?

    If all of that is a solid yes than I think you should consider doing your friend and boyfriend a favor but being clear about the terms.

    You: “She was really mean to me for no reason and I’d rather just minimize contact with her going forward.”
    BF: “I still think you’re over-reacting….etc”
    You: “Silence while you listen to all his reasons. Think about them consider them, and if you don’t change your mind from his pure perfect sweet reason….
    You in friendly voice: “You’re not doing a very good job listening to me and supporting what I want here. This must be oddly important to you. No don’t interrupt, let me finish. I’m not sure why this is a thing for you. But since it’s important I’m willing to go and give her a chance as a favor to you. But I want four things. First, we agree that this is a last chance deal. If I don’t like her after tonight no more pressure to be friends. She and I can just be polite acquaintances. This holds even if it just turns out she’s just not really my cup of tea. No major reasons needed and you support me. Second, if she’s blatantly mean to me again I’ll give you a sign and you’ll say you’re not feeling well and we leave. If it’s early we grab a movie to watch at my place. Third, you owe me a decent evening. I want to <> and <> next <>. Finally, if I have a crap time and want to vent on the way home you agree with me and help me trash her. ”
    BF: “blah blah blah. Yes I agree to your terms and conditions.”
    You: “Cool! Let’s <>.”

    Just my 2 cents

    1. “If you’re on a good place right now take a chance and have some fun with the situation. Use the social pressure to take the high road and get something you want out of it. ”

      It seems to me that what the LW wants is not to have dinner with Awful Woman. And hey! She doesn’t have to.
      LW gets what she wants JUST BY NOT GOING TO DINNER.

      I just cut like, nine steps out of this super-complicates social manipulation “I put myself in an awful situation so now you have to do something I want” scenario. BOOM.

        1. yeah, too wordy.
          Wow not what I was going for.

          I guess I just think that If it’s important to BF that she go to dinner maybe she should go as a favor to him. Maybe not, depends on what else she has on her plate. But if she goes she should be clear up front that she’s doing a favor for him and that she expects he’s going to back her up if it sucks and the ‘pay back’ is a nice evening some time in the future with BF. If it doesn’t work out, than at least she tried. Which may count for a lot to BF if she thinks he’s going to get all upset if she doesn’t go.

          I was thinking more along the lines of “You can borrow my car. Will you wash it and gas it up for me?” Than something complicated.

          1. If BF is asking a favor, then he has to be prepared to accept “Sorry, not this time” for an answer. Although a more tactically sound way to phrase that might be, “Look, I’m dying to know what’s up but I just can’t face another night with either of them right now. You go and find out what’s going on, OK?”

          2. The thing is, just because he’s got it in his head to want something doesn’t mean it is necessarily something she should feel an obligation to indulge, even as a “favor” for which she negotiates some form of recompense. She gets to veto things that would be unsafe or traumatizing no matter what. So the fuck what if BF thinks these people are cool and wants to show how cool he and LW are by exposing her to their abuse?

            The more “important” it is to BF to cozy up to the Icky Couple, the less comfortable I would be with the idea if her going in there with only him at her back — because really, almost the only things I know about BF are that he is pursuing a relationship with a guy who hit on LW despite knowing she was with BF and being with GF himself, and that he thinks she’s overreacting by saying “nope, never want to have any more to do with that Nasty Piece of Work.” Not confidence-inspiring.

          3. I’m guessing LW and BF already have nice evenings together that aren’t reliant on this weird and creepy idea of favours!

            Why is BF’s desire to go more important than LW’s desire not to go?

  35. Even if GF was perfectly civil, LW has no obligation to go to this dinner party. My husband is friends with a bunch of perfectly lovely people who get together and get very dirty while wearing beat up clothes. Since I don’t want to do either, I routinely turn down invitations to hang with them. It’s no big deal. People get to choose who they socialize with, for any reason, at any time.

  36. Random thought, but who’s going to do the cooking at this dinner party?

    Suggest a conversation might have gone like this:
    John: Oh yeah meant to say, I’ve invited friend and his wife over for a meal
    John’s GF: You’ve WHAT?!
    John: Yeah thought it would be nice
    John’s GF: You SO have the hots for LW! You just want to play footsie under the table! Well you needn’t think I’m slaving over a hot stove blah blah blah blah

    Yeah. Don’t go!

  37. Adding to the chorus of ‘Don’t Go To Dinner!’. LW, I feel like you’ve fallen into thinking of John as a friendly acquaintance via Six Degrees of Boyfriend’s Hobby and that therefore you owe him and his super-aggressive girlfriend some level of consideration and understanding. But, as Sheelzebub mentioned upthread, both of these people have behaved appallingly and without basis THE VERY FIRST TIME EITHER OF THEM MET YOU. That’s not a social mis-step, that’s folie a douchebag.

    You don’t owe these people anything: they are not your friends; they have not acted like they are friends to you. They have overstepped boundaries, been abusive, and made you feel sick by your own admission. Why put yourself under pressure to get on with them? Tell them (and maybe your boyfriend if he tries to get you to go) that you have other plans, and then go out for a drink with someone you actually consider a friend; alternatively, stay home, eat some cake, watch a costume drama, and revel in the fact that you’re not in someone else’s house braced for the worst.

  38. I think you should go to the dinner, but only if, afterwards you are given a t-shirt that says, “I devoted several hours of my life to playing nice with a shitty human being and all I got was this stupid t-shirt and a lingering sense of nausea.”

  39. I agree with the Captain, and the majority of posters. Life’s too short for spending one-on-one time with jerks. “Miss Thing?” How frakking condescending.
    This dinner party is full of evil bees. Stay home and watch your favorite movie. Or go to dinner with someone you actually like. Save the making nice for that horrid aunt or insufferable co-worker.

    1. Yes to saving energy. I only have so much patience. I came up with a new motto for myself today: I tolerate fools, but I don’t suffer them.

      There are people in life that I have to deal with who can annoy me. But, for the greater good and social harmony and because the toleration is for a limited time, I do. If I devote all that teeth-gritting and tongue-biting to someone I could avoid–then I have used up my resources on someone who doesn’t count! I could take all that energy and use it to listen to Great-Aunt Maude’s latest conspiracy theory. And I actually LIKE Great-Aunt Maude, she can just be a bit trying at time.

  40. John was icky to you at a time when you had no clear escape. RED FLAG.

    John’s GF (henceforth Jane) was absolutely awful to you, in public, around people whom you like, and has made no overt attempts to apologize to you for her behavior. RED FLAG.

    You owe these people nothing except the bare minimum of civility when events conspire to shove you all into the same place. You certainly don’t owe them a private evening in their home where you’ll spend the whole night wondering which hand is holding the knife this time. Make plans now to do something YOU will enjoy that evening, even if it is sitting in a comfy chair with a warm blanket and appreciating how very NOT at their house you are.

  41. One possible way this could play out is that if you turn down the invitation the GF will frame the situation as you rejecting her olive branch (whether or not it actually was an olive branch in the first place), therefore you’re OMGHORRIBLE, and she was right about you the first time, and she’s justified in being even more rude in the future.

    If that happens, you’ll know you DEFINITELY made the right decision not to go.

  42. I disagree with most of you commenters.

    I say go. Put on a killer outfit (one which makes you look and feel confident and, dare I say it, sexy) and go to the dinner.

    Forewarned is forearmed. Since you’re expecting her to be an utter bitch, nothing she says will come as a surprise and therefore can’t hurt you. Think of it this way: you’re not making a new friend, you’re attending live theatre.

    Laugh lightly at her jibes, and if possible, respond with a compliment about the cooking or the decor. If anything really stings, smile as if you didn’t hear it and ask her to repeat it, then after she does, give an apologetic little moue and ask her to repeat it again. If she refuses, raise your voice slightly and “No, no, please, I’m sorry I missed it. What was it again?” There really is nothing like repetition to show a bitchy or stupid comment for what it is.

    1. Okay, but again I ask, WHY FUCKING BOTHER? Why give this person another second of the LW’s attention?

    2. You’re assuming that anyone in the room is going to be enlightened (or shamed) through the brilliance of LW’s wit; while I’m sure that she is charming and eloquent, previous experience suggests that a dinner party with these people is not going to read like a Noel Coward play when the transcript’s typed up.

    3. She could do that. Or she could, you know, not spend several hours and an application of make up on trying to prove (to who, exactly?) that she’s better than someone who is really, really awful.

      Why should she try to live her life like it’s the shopping scene from Pretty Woman? “Big mistake. Huuuuuuge mistake.”

      Like, if Lady Jerkface of the Jerk Coast Jerkfaces deserved even an iota of LW’s attention or effort, this situation literally would not exist.

    4. Ditto to what the Captain, Epiphyta and Elikit said, and also – LW has been hit on by Skeevy John once already; why the hell should she dress up all sexy to go to a dinner at his place? Talk about adding fuel to the fire if Toxic GF thinks LW is after the creep, and to any fantasies he might have about LW. There’s no reason for her to go at all, but to have to go and put on a show like that? What a gross idea.

    5. ‘You’re not making a new friend, you’re attending live theatre’

      Wow. Gross.

      Horrible as John and his girlfriend are, they are still people. And the LW, who seems like a decent person, gains nothing from sinking to their level (or lower).

    6. I do not understand any plan of action that is based on “Go make other people unhappy and uncomfortable for your own amusement.” Life isn’t a sitcom. It’s not hilarious and entertaining to watch a really awkward scene play out where people are catty at each other, and you can’t change the channel if it gets too damn uncomfortable.

      If I had an SO who, on a dinner invite to a friend’s place, said, “Well, I actually hate those people, so let’s go! I’ll dress up really nice and then being really snide to them the whole evening and make our hosts super uncomfortable, that’s hilarious!” then I would rapidly stop having an SO.

      This is a bad idea. People are not performing animals who exist for our live amusement. Even mean people.

    7. Alas, I think you and I are not cut from the same cloth as the LW. I, like you, would probably take such an invitation as an opportunity to sharpen my claws, because sometimes I am just that petty. There’s nothing quite like turning the tables on someone who’s publicly humiliated you (a real hot-button of mine). I try to take the high road usually, but by god, if someone called me ‘Miss Thing’ to my face, they would get the stare of Stone Cold Fury and probably the cut direct.

      However, for most people that’s a) too much effort and b) not actually all that fun. It seems that the LW isn’t interested in sniping across the mashed potatoes for the perverse pleasure of it (and is hence a far, far better person than I), and to that end, I think I have to add my voice to the chorus of ‘Do Not Enter The House Of Evil Bees’.

      There is also, alas, the issue of BF and John’s relationship – it can be fun to let rip on someone entirely deserving, but the ensuing strain it would put on their friendship and your friendship/colleagueship with John (especially if you’re all likely to see each other regularly, yikes) could make things very awkward indeed.

    8. “Since you’re expecting her to be an utter bitch, nothing she says will come as a surprise and therefore can’t hurt you.”

      On what planet is this true? Anticipated nastiness is still nasty and unpleasant and draining.

  43. I’m thinking about how to get BF on the same page. LW should ask him about why a dinner party private foursome – at Jerkface’s house! – is the first, best, only, choice for dealing with the existing social trainwreck.

    If ‘John’ were really serious, and BF was equally serious, about wanting to re-set this disaster back to normal, civil interaction, why haven’t they suggested something easy, casual and no pressure for this process? Say, this couple as one of half a dozen couples to a BBQ or an early evening, guaranteed escape time buffet or cocktail hour type event – with a dozen or more people to DILUTE – rather than concentrate – the social pressures on both LW and Jerkface GF. Or everyone at a restaurant rather than a private home? Or going to a movie with half a dozen others and coffee & cake afterwards? Or fifty other options that would make things easier rather than harder for smoothing over previous social faux pas.

    Might help BF’s thinking. He might get to see the insanity of this invitation for what it is. I don’t think LW should go to any event set up with such a ludicrous objective in mind anyway.

    Social events are for enjoyable sociable interaction, not for an intervention.

  44. This is the LW. Thank you all, dear folks, for commenting on this. Thanks to JenniferP and Cliff Pervocracy, whose blog I love, for cutting through the BS in comments. Someone used the term “showed her ass” to refer to this woman (that exact phrase had occurred to me when I was trying to sort this out ins my head) and someone else speculated that she was being pressured by her BF to extend this invitation without her actually having to apologize…thank you for that. This may be just social stuff, but I feel as if I behaved correctly throughout and it’s been very upsetting. I appreciate the validation.

  45. LW again with a PS: Scary Woman’s boyfriend emailed both me and my boyfriend with another invitation to dinner. I will decline with grace and without guilt.

    1. Nice! And thank you for following up; I love when the LWs post to let us know how things are going.

      1. Atta girl, LW! The fact that Scary Woman’s bf keeps pressing the issue (*2* invitations now?! WTF?) validates your gut feeling that these folks have ZERO boundaries. Cut ’em both dead and don’t look back. ‘With grace and without guilt’ sounds like a solid way to conduct yourself, so good on ya all the way!

  46. I don’t think you are being mean in the least. Seriously in my view if you have what i call
    “haters” then you are doing pretty good because they only hate because of something they desire you have and they do not.. Just Sayin

  47. Slight tangent but thank you, Captain, for mentioning the notion of dread. I am getting better at recognizing it when it comes up and learning to avoid (optional) things that I can feel myself dreading.

    In this case, it is because these people are douches.

    In other cases, people may be perfectly nice but just not right for me. I’m coming to realize that if I’m approaching spending time with someone with DREAD, I am wasting the time and energy (not to mention my own) that they could be spending with someone who would actually appreciate their company.

  48. Not being too mean in the slightest, Cap’n, although that might not mean much from me since I am a cynical jerk sometimes.

    LW, you don’t owe this lady anything. She acted like a big jerk to you for NO REASON AT ALL and made a terrible first impression. Why would you want to continue hanging out with her? If she was a huge jerk and makes you not want to go to dinner with her and her boyfriend, and that makes him upset, maybe he should have a talk with his girlfriend about how she talks to his friends instead of getting upset that you would rather not run the risk of being verbally abused again.

    The person at fault here is not you, so I don’t think you have to put in the effort to make it all okay. Your buddy and his girlfriend should apologize TO YOU, not the other way around.

  49. This whole situation reminds me of something that happened to me in college.

    I had been friends with a guy for a while. Low-key, occasionally hang and play pool or grab lunch kind of friends. He never seemed interested or attracted, and I had a boyfriend so it wasn’t even on my radar as Potential Drama.

    Then he got a girlfriend.

    All of a sudden (mostly when she was right there) my jokes were hilarious! I was so funny, and sweet, and thoughtful and witty!

    Seriously, I was too awesome and my layabout boyfriend didn’t deserve me!

    And we were hugging friends now! (we had not been hugging friends before)

    Eventually I started avoiding both of them. He was acting very strangely and didn’t seem to mind that it was upsetting his girlfriend. I liked her, but she didn’t really want to hang. (I completely understood)

    Eventually I met her brother through mutual acquaintance and found out that as soon as I had decided to avoid him completely, the Jackass had found another girl to flirt with in front of his GF, and eventually ended up cheating on her with multiple people.

    She hated all of the girls, but thought that she “couldn’t do better” in BF material. (She could do much, much better)

    It really was a messed up form of mental abuse/gaslighting.

    So yes, the lady in question was way over the line, but I would keep an eye on John, and I would definitely not go to that dinner. After the crap Jackass pulled on both of us, I suspect that she is probably not even aware that she has so insistently invited you to dinner.

  50. I’ve actually been thinking about this, and the more I think about it, the more I get worried about your bf, LW. Are you sure he’s good enough for you? Wanting you to hang out with a man who claims to be his friend but hit on you immediately after meeting you, when he was alone with you in a place you couldn’t get away. My husband would end that friendship in flames. Take care of yourself, LW.

    1. The Geek Social Fallacies were cited above, and I suspect that’s what we’re dealing with re the BF. He may believe everyone in his Esoteric Activity Group has to hang out and be friends and that it’s The Worst Thing In The World if they don’t/can’t.

  51. First, Admiral Akbar called. He said that the time to attend such a party is the Twelfth of Never.

    Second, it sounds like you don’t have a John/JGF problem so much as a Boyfriend problem. He doesn’t have your back. He wants you to attend a dinner hosted by people have been highly inappropriate to you in public. I can’t see them improving in private. He said you were overreacting, which, unless you were cursing her and the four previous generations of her family, you weren’t. I think you need to have a talk with him.

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