#736: “Stop asking me if I’m okay!”

Hello Captain!

Long-time reader, first question. I have been having a tricky time navigating adult friendships lately. I feel like I keep getting surprised when my interactions with other adults (parents of my kids’ friends, from the neighborhood, etc.,) suddenly seem to remind me very, very strongly of junior high school. I have an amazing therapist who is helping me on my end, to learn how to see and heed the red flags of immaturity and Mean Girl stuff. Basically: I grew up with horrible siblings in a very challenge family situation and I keep “re-meeting” them in friends.

I have a friend whom I enjoy, our kids are in the same activities, our husbands are friends, you get the picture. She is very delicate in social situations, so much so that we have a friendly nickname for her, that we all call her, the Delicate Flower. She laughs, we laugh, she says it fits her to a T.

Then, something happened this past weekend that is not so funny. Her demanding, clingy, super duper amazingly high maintenance behavior went full on Olympics Gold Medal level. She was whining to me and another mutual friend about how she couldn’t get out of bed, she NEEDED a day off of “life” and to go downtown and have an impromptu, fun, frivolous afternoon. We said, sure, made a million arrangements for our kids and made it happen. We did every single thing she wanted to do (the mutual friend and I are natives to this city, she is a transplant) and pulled out all the stops of what she requested and insisted upon.

We had cocktails for the train ride into the city, I had one. She had more and…kept on drinking all afternoon, very aggressively and in really large amounts. I only had that one because I didn’t want any more, thanks but no thanks, FULL STOP.

This is when she started asking, “Are you ok?” She asked me over and over again. I kept saying, yes, of course! And truly, I was! I was having fun and enjoying myself. But she wouldn’t believe me, apparently. All afternoon, she asked me that. All afternoon, I smiled and said, YES! She kept drinking and the questions became a little more belligerent and by the time we caught he train home, she was quiet and kept fucking asking ME if I was okay. By this point, as you can imagine, I was finally NOT okay.

When we got off the train and were standing on the platform about to go to our respective homes, she asked me again, if I was okay. This time, I said, “Yes, now please stop asking me that.” She took immediate offense.

I saw her that evening at an event for both of our kids, she was very weird to me, and possibly, still intoxicated. The next day, we had a big event for several families, we were both hosting it. She showed up very passive-agressively late and didn’t help, so I did most of it. While there, she had her husband come up to me and ASK ME IF I WAS OKAY THE DAY BEFORE. For fuck’s sake. I told him yes, it was a great afternoon. When he kept asking, are you sure? I answered, “well, you know, I just couldn’t keep up with your wife’s drinking, maybe that was it! We had a great afternoon in the city, though!” and then I looked over at my husband and my friend was ASKING HIM, “was LW okay yesterday?” to which he relied, “YES! She sure was!”

WTF do I do now? We have plans to attend an event together this Friday and HOLY SHITBALLS if she asks me if I’m okay again, I will punch something. We all arrange everything around her very precise needs and desires and wants–so much that she has her nickname. But this is the dark side of that: if everything doesn’t go exactly her way, she is going to do this?? Why do I have to keep up with her? What if I have different intentions of a fun afternoon (i.e. not getting shitfaced)?

Do I handle this honestly or do I smile and nod and back the fuck away? It will be a mess if I do that but she has some seriously funky stuff going on right now which she is projectile vomiting onto me. Our mutual friend form that day thinks our delicate flower was behaving very oddly that day and that I did not do anything to warrant this (I asked, in case I was missing something.) She thinks perhaps Delicate Flower is having some major depression or something else going on.

Advice? Do I say something or say nothing and just keep insisting that I AM OK?

Signed,
I’m SERIOUSLY okay, You’re SERIOUSLY okay.

Dear Seriously Okay,

My read is that your friend has something strange or stressful going on in her life and wants attention from you. It’s possible that you have the totally scientific and real condition known as “B.R.F.” and your friend felt like you were disapproving of her drinking and behavior. It’s possible that your friend wants you ask her if she is okay. In fact, that’s what I suggest you do. Scripts:

“I am fine. Are YOU okay?”

“I am okay, but you are behaving very strangely right now. Should I be concerned?”

“It is very strange that you keep asking me that. What answer are you looking for, since ‘yes!’ clearly isn’t it?”

“Is there something we need to talk about, or something else you want to ask me?”

“I am fine, but I am getting annoyed by this question.”

“I am very well, thank you, but I think you’ve had enough to drink.”

“I am fine, thank you, but I need to talk to Hearty Perennial and not Delicate Flower right now. WTF is going on with you constantly asking me this?

She sounds to me more like a friend of proximity and circumstance than a true friend of the heart (“Her demanding, clingy, super duper amazingly high maintenance behavior” tells me that while you may enjoy her company sometimes, you don’t actually like her that much), so it’s really up to you how much you want to probe and find out why she is drinking, why she is behaving strangely, and why she is so fixated on you or whether you want to pull back on making plans with her and stick with neutral topics like your kids and the weather when you do see her. I agree with you that something is up, but I’m as confused as you as to what it could be.

—————————–

Thanks for the continued Pledge Drive donations! I really appreciate the support. Here are 96 seconds of Baby Elephants. Here are Shakespeare’s plays as three-panel comics.  Here’s Jess Zimmerman’s great piece on women & midlife crises. Here’s an orangutan family I filmed several years ago. Here’s probably the best picture I’ve ever taken. Thank you.

123 comments
  1. Maggie said:

    I have a couple of people in my life who are like this. I am naturally very quiet–not antisocial, just quiet–and not much of a drinker. I am frequently in social situations with people who are both naturally very loud and like to drink, and they keep pestering me to find out if I’m okay. And I generally answer, “Yes, I’m fine, I’m having a great time listening to the music/cuddling this baby/playing this board game/whatever.”

    After about the third time they ask me, I start answering with, “Well, I was. But then you kept interrupting the good time I was having to ask me if I was okay, and now I’m starting to get pissed off.”

    • Oooh, that’s good! LW here. Thank you for the script and your understanding. I feel much calmer today after a few more days have passed. I really was ok before the constant questions, you’re exactly right!

    • manybellsdown said:

      I have tried this with my spouse when he pulls this and then he gets all pouty. Ergh.

      • 🙂 Yes! My husband will ask me several times in a row if I am cranky. After telling him for the fifth time I am not cranky, I change my answer to, “I wasn’t cranky but I am sure getting that way. Stop. Asking. Me. Or you will never get laid again.”

    • If they continue after that, I follow up with a “No, I’m not, because you won’t trust me when I say I’m fine.”

  2. Jill said:

    My favorite redirect for situations like this is to cock my head and calmly say, “Why don’t you tell me what’s really going on.” Then wait patiently. She may deny it or say she’s just concerned about you. Remain straight faced and say, “No. There’s something else going on here and I’d wish you’d let me know.” Than say nothing and see what she says. I’ve used this all the time and the silence after asking the question makes people nervous -usually so much so that they end up blurting out the real issue.

    The fact that she said she needed a day “off from life” tells me there’s something going on with her that she hasn’t vocalized yet.

    • Anothermous said:

      I was going to suggest something like this. In the situation you were in, LW, I think the most effective way to short-circuit the loop of “Are you okay?” “I’m fine.” “BUT ARE YOU OKAY.” “I’M FINE, GODDAMNIT” (and now you’re not fine because you’re pissed off) is to ask why. After two “Are you okay?”s and two responses of “I’m okay, thanks,” the next “Are you okay?” gets met with “Why do you keep asking me that?” and a refusal to respond any other way to the question and/or engage with that question until she answers YOUR question. Clearly something is/was up with Delicate Flower, and she does not have the skills to bring that up in a constructive way. By demanding she tell you WHY she keeps asking you this meaningless question, you force her to make the choice to either stop asking or actually address the root of what’s motivating her to behave this way.

      LW, I totally get why this interaction pissed you off so much. It would piss me off too. I haaaaaate the dance of “Something is clearly wrong but I won’t say it and will sulk/huff/engage in inane behaviors rather than honestly talking about what’s on my mind and wait for the other person to ask what’s up.” I also hate the phenomenon where others will not take my answers to questions such as “Are you okay?” at face value–and those who engage in both those behaviors tend to be the same people. Someone who won’t/can’t/doesn’t honestly and directly talk about their feelings is also likely to be the person who answers the “Are you okay?” question with “Yes, I’m fine!” when that is not actually the truth. So they are likely to assume that you, too, are not actually fine because they are projecting how they would behave onto you.

      This doesn’t directly have to do with the question, but I feel compelled to note that, in my experience, this is very gendered behavior. Women tend to be socialized to not “burden” anyone with their needs and problems, and thus I’ve found that it’s other women who often engage in this infuriating dance. With a nickname like “Delicate Flower,” I’m not surprised in the least that this woman has no idea how to say “I’m in a tough spot right now, this is what’s wrong, please listen and offer comfort to me.” After all, she may be demanding and high-maintenance, but has she ever talked about WHY she wants certain things certain ways? My money’s on no. Because that’s how it ends up when people aren’t capable of talking openly about their needs and wants–you end up with the stereotype of the nagging, passive-aggressive woman, because she’s never been allowed/able to be direct in her desires, thus has to be manipulative to get what she wants.

      When I find myself getting impatient with someone who clearly doesn’t have the ability to be up front about their needs and wants (particularly another woman), I try to remind myself of this and calm myself down. Maybe that can help you too.

      • Anothermous said:

        Caveat: after reading a lot of the other comments, I have to say that if Delicate Flower is a functional alcoholic (and of course we don’t know that for sure, but just on the contingency that… maybe) then most of the above is probably moot. Good luck LW. I feel for you here, that kind of behavior absolutely makes me see red.

  3. In terms of what her behavior is about, it could be a generalized anxiety thing. I have felt the impulse to do this, and I have seen friends of mine behave this way. Specifically, when I’ve thrown a party or organized an activity, but my anxiety is spiking for other reasons, I have felt an overwhelming need to make sure everyone is having a good time. Add in the lowered inhibitions and short-term memory issues that can come with drinking to excess, and I can easily see how she would keep asking, although involving both of your husbands seems pretty strange. In other words, it may not be anything you’re doing at all.

    All that said, what the Captain writes above still stands. The why of this person’s behavior is less of an issue than whether your friendship with her is important enough to you to be worth figuring it out.

    • Jaynie said:

      My mum does the same thing, I suspect for anxiety reasons. In addition to totally random “are you okay?” type pestering just because I’m quiet (which is a good 90% of the time) she will also mention that she liked some mutual activity we did and if I don’t immediately jump in and say yes, me too, she will say “didn’t you?!” In a way that implies she thinks I mustn’t have. I do try to be patient since I love her and I have my own anxiety issues, and I know what it’s like to feel that unless you check, you have to assume the worst case scenario about everything, but you do eventually just want to say “can you please assume everything is fine unless otherwise stated, rather than making it not fine by treating a casual conversation like a hostile interrogation?” But any time I’ve tried to talk to her about it she gets defensive. Ah the joys of an anxious introvert and an anxious extrovert trying to communicate their needs!

      • Cactus said:

        you do eventually just want to say “can you please assume everything is fine unless otherwise stated, rather than making it not fine by treating a casual conversation like a hostile interrogation?” But any time I’ve tried to talk to her about it she gets defensive. Ah the joys of an anxious introvert and an anxious extrovert trying to communicate their needs!
        Oh, you just described my interactions with my MIL perfectly.

        As for the anxiety behavior stuff: YES. Anxiety kind of runs in my family. My mother, middle sister, and I all exhibit the same anxiety-associated behaviors.
        I am the only one who has ever gotten any treatment for it. (Years of therapy, nearly two years on an SSRI, and occasional marijuana usage since 2011.) It’s really frustrating to see people exhibiting the same behaviors that they routinely dismissed as crazy in me

    • Muddie Mae said:

      I could totally see this, particularly since IME an anxiety attack comes with a strong urge to drink. Alcohol is actually an effective if not recommended treatment for anxiety. It works, but it’s probably not the best choice for obvious reasons.

  4. I got the same sense the Cap’n did about LW’s lack of affection for this person. If we can get it in a retelling, what’s the DF perceiving on the day LW is out with her after LW “made a million arrangements” to provide what DF “requested and insisted upon.” I’m sure LW made all efforts to be a good host/guide and keep the feeling to herself but maybe DF is more perceptive than LW thinks. Maybe DF perceives what I think – that this delicate flower nickname isn’t quite as empty of judgment as it is sold as. Maybe DF doesn’t think it’s all that funny but laughs because what else is she going to do about it?

    • mamacitaconpistoles said:

      Yeah, I think it could be altogether possible that DF’s bestworst answer is “I am fine, DF, but you are being a pain in my ass.” Because if she’s in a bad place, that kind of evidence gathering is a thing a person might do.

      Also, unless you all have vaguely mean sort of humorous unconditional love nicknames… I would wonder if she resents it, and thinks you resent her.

      It’s OK not to like someone, and to keep interactions disengaged accordingly. It really is. And maybe DF really needs other, new friends.

      If you *do* like DF, it might be a good time to re-up overt expressions of that like.

    • Lina said:

      I was thinking this too–DF is more upset by the nickname/judgement than she let on, and now something has happened in her life to exacerbate these feelings.

  5. Kerry said:

    I agree – saying “let’s go out!” then getting immediately, energetically plastered sounds like she’s got something stressful going on and that’s how she’s dealing with it. Has it happened more than that one time? As for asking if you’re okay over and over again, that sounds like classic Drunk Person Syndrome, to me it doesn’t read as unusual in the context of someone who’s been knocking back drinks all afternoon.

    • Kerry said:

      Also, I don’t know how helpful or kind it is to keep calling her ‘Delicate Flower’ to her face, even if she is laughing along with it.

      • Ditto. Rhe whole tone of the letter was understandably frustrated. And it’s fine to vent (everyone has a high maintenance friend!) but i think now is either a time to reel that shit in before it gets hurtful or take a step back an reevaluate.
        I have a friend who’s the same in that shehas these exasperating behaviours that rile thewhole friendship group and often i have to mentally shake myself and remind myself that this is superficial and actually that shit is starting to get mean, when really it’s nothing at all and so i’ll go back to making more of an effort to hold her corner a bit with my other friends, who in turn ease off again too. We’re not mean people, LW, and i’m sure you’re not either, so it’s healthy to take a look at where that line between venting and meanness starts as it’s SO easy to cross into hurtful territory. Venting is fine, gentle teasing is fine while its not resentful, ‘bitching’ is bad basically.

        This lady sounds toxic for you, sure, as she’s taking way more than shes giving for you emotionally right now and in how you click. I’d dial down the friendship if you need to without guilt. But it sounds like she’s got something seriously wrong with her happening in her life and she might need you and your friends more than ever too, so if you do care for her and want her to stick arou dyou need to think on it. The captain’s advice os very sound. Redirect her questions back to her. If it blows up it blows up. But if not it might help in getting her to share or getting you to make a descision on why the heck you hang out with her in the first place too.

        • I agree with the last paragraph, only I am a lot meaner. Unless she is has been an amazing friend in the past and you guys have serious friend capital, I would cut her loose. If she needs a therapist, she can pay for one. But I don’t have enough time in my life for the people I really like and want to support. I am not going to go out of my way to provide emotional support to someone who brings nothing to my life.

  6. Matthew said:

    Alcohol in quantity obliterates any expectations or conventions with respect to communication. LW might consider this in light of the sober behavior LW has observed over time in the course of LW’s friendship. Though, I’m only speaking from within my own particular experiences with the addictions of loved ones. And on that note, from LW’s account, I find myself wondering whether the friend might have an addiction and/or abuse problem (2 different things).

    • I think there is something there, because combing back through memories of previous comments from her, I remember her telling us she and her husband stopped drinking for a few years for “health reasons.” I have seen her intoxicated a few times, but at parties–I just figured she had a little too much to drink. This wasn’t a party, it was (I thought) just a fun afternoon spent walking around the city, seeing the sights. But the drinking was super compulsive and unlike anything I had seen from her before.

      • TR said:

        I would really hesitate before jumping to any sort of alcoholic/addiction conclusions. One incidence (especially in a time of stress) doesn’t mean that it’s a problem in her life.
        I know that I, for instance, will often choose to do physically risky things as a form of stress relief – and am much more okay with with a higher risk:benefit ratio because it truly does work for stress relief. But, after one or two outings, I feel better; it doesn’t escalate nor does it continue.
        She might be like that with alcohol – one or two really drunken nights as stress relief when responsibly arranged but still not have an actual problem.

      • AutumnFire said:

        When her husband asked you if you were ok, and you said fine, I might have followed it up with your honest concern that his wife drank very heavily and that you are very concerned about her. I don’t mean this to sound as if you’re tattling on her, but as her spouse I would hope he’d be interested in finding out she has a problem and helping her get the help she needs. If it was a one-time heavy-drinking episode, fine. He can be the judge if there’s something more to this. At least you would have warned him and they can take it from there.

  7. sara said:

    I think when your friend is asking “Are you okay?” she means “Are WE okay?” and it seems pretty clear from this letter that your honest answer is no. Even before the constant questioning about your okay-ness (which, for sure, sounds super annoying), it sounds like things haven’t been truly okay with this friend for quite some time. You’re resentful of her high maintenance/controlling behavior around planning social outings and events, you find her clingy, and it doesn’t sound like you particularly enjoy being around her when she’s drunk (I’m not sure how often this happens).

    Now, it’s your call which, if any, of these issues you want to raise with the friend and try to resolve. As Jennifer notes, this might just feel like too much drama around someone you don’t much like anyway, and it’s perfectly within your rights to simply step back from the situation and disengage a little (or a lot). But, if you do want to repair the relationship, I would STOP LYING. When your friend asks if you’re okay, be honest about it — “You know, it seems like you’ve got a lot going on right now, and I’m happy to talk things through with you, but I don’t always know how to respond when I’m around someone who’s drinking heavily.” -or- “I want to be here to support you, but the delicate flower thing is kind of getting old…I feel like I need more give and take in our social outings.” (or however you are feeling) She may respond really badly to this, in which case you kinda have your answer as to whether things are repairable. Or maybe she is able to rebalance somewhat.

    I have a friend who is a bit delicate flower-y, but she is able to a) resist the urge to complain if she knows an event is really important to someone else and b) judge whether she can handle certain events and decline if she knows it’s not going to go well. On my part, I am careful to disclose if I know we might be in for a drama-filled event, so she has fair warning of whether she can handle it or not (i.e. “Some of us are going to an outdoor concert and would love it if you could join! But I will warn you that there is likely to be lots of pot smoke and the only toilets are portapotties, so it’s totally cool if that seems to be not your scene.”) Over time we have figured out a pretty good balance of her not ending up in situations where she feels truly miserable/trapped and me not feeling completely subject to her whims/complaints/etc. But, it did take some time/negotiating and openness on both of our parts, as well as us valuing the friendship enough to want to work through it.

    • Kerry said:

      I think when your friend is asking “Are you okay?” she means “Are WE okay?” and it seems pretty clear from this letter that your honest answer is no.

      Yesssss. That’s beautifully, incisively put.

    • Wow, not lying at all. I told her, “Yes, I’m okay, but stop asking me.” When her husband (!!) asked, I told him, “I think maybe it was just that I wasn’t keep up with the party train she boarded.” (Also: I was in the middle of hosting a party for 65 people when he was asking me this, not exactly the time to “get real”, y’know?)

      I am calmer after a rough two days of this silliness and I am now ably to approach her to see if something bigger is going on with HER.

      • Saturngrl said:

        I think what Sara was suggesting is that the tone of your letter came across as frustrated and over the Delicate Flower routine, and even aside from the weird Are You OK? campaign you sound dismissive of her (totally understandably!). So, if she is really asking “are we okay?” then perhaps saying yes isn’t quite the whole truth. Maybe you are OK as the status quo goes, but that status quo seems to include exasperation and distancing (via the nickname), and maybe she’s too anxious or destabilized right now to laugh along.

        Or, you know, maybe she is an addict who worries that she alienated you with her heavy drinking. (This hypothesis is also rooted in the interpretation of “are you okay” as meaning “are we okay?”

        • Saturngrl said:

          Oh, and if you generally are okay with planning around her needs and are just frustrated about the way this trip went, it’s worth considering whether any of that frustration might have shown itself on the day in question. In which case the answer might be something like, “we are okay, I am fine. I found it really upsetting that you kept hounding me about whether I was okay — funnily enough, that question soon made me feel not okay, because it kept putting me at arm’s length, and it felt like you were suggesting I was lying. So, in the absence of that question, I really an fine, and love you just as much as ever.”

        • Anothermous said:

          Eh, it’s not the LW’s responsibility to suss that Delicate Flower’s “Are you okay?” may have really meant “Are we okay?” Delicate Flower asked a specific question and LW told her the truth with regards to that question. Maybe the truthful answer to “Are we okay?” is actually “Not really” but that’s not what the LW was asked. If Delicate Flower was looking for the answer to the question “Are we okay?” then it’s on her to ask the right question, not on the LW to magically intuit what she really wants.

          • Mary said:

            Not a responsibility, but if you want to maintain the friendship, then it’s useful to know that “Are you OK?” is not *that* unusual a code for “Are we OK?” If people I care about are behaving in ways that suggests that something is up, it’s not my *responsibility* to put in the effort to divine that, but if I care about them then I’m going to.

          • Thank you!

            And please keep in mind, this frustration was *in retrospect*–I really was having fun that day! But couldn’t figure out why she kept asking me if I was fine–other than it escalated with her drinking and she got into a strange, slightly belligerent mood which I had never seen before. And to those commenting on her nickname: SHE uses it, to say things like, “Oh, you know DF can’t go there because it will be too loud” which I totally get because I can be introverted in the same way. This was a whole ‘nother side of her that I had never witnessed before.

            The frustration really hit when she wouldn’t speak to me the evening after the afternoon trip and the next day when she had her husband ask me repeatedly if yesterday was okay and when she also went up to ask *my* husband the same thing. I really, really do not like triangulation or indirect communication, it makes me very uncomfortable.

            I am calmer now and can see that this actually didn’t have anything to do with me, but it has to do with something (I don’t know what) that she is going through. I’m going to see if I can reach out and help her (but I’m not going to accept this weird projection for my own sanity).

  8. tehomet said:

    One possibility is that Delicate Flower is an active alcoholic whose repeated questions about whether the LW was okay was really a mask for her anxiety about drinking heavily in front of someone in her social circle, i.e. she wants to go and get drunk and she doesn’t want to lose face over it. Obviously one cannot say for certain over the internet, but with her love for controlling situations and people, her desire to escape her life, the way she loves (or at least, seems to need) to be the centre of attention, her emotional fragility, the fact that her self-esteem is low enough that she permits her friends to call her a well-meaning but slightly unkind nickname, her quickness to take offense, and the fact that she got very drunk very fast, certainly ring a bell labelled ‘possible addict’ for me. Whether she’s suffering from addiction or not, there’s certainly something going on with her and, although her behaviour on this occasion was pretty irritating, if the LW felt like taking her aside and seeing if she could do with some help, that would be a kind thing to do. Often the questions we ask of others are the ones we want others to ask us.

    • ashbet said:

      Very true, all of this!

      I’m laughing wryly here, because I call MYSELF a Delicate Flower on occasion — but, in my case, it’s a major medical condition that requires wheelchair access and temperature control and various other accommodations, so I try to be flexible about my friends’ needs, and I want to make sure that they *aren’t* in situations where they’re going to get resentful if I need to head back to the car or if I’m having major pain and need to stop for a while. I hate having so many non-negotiable needs, but this is a disabling condition and my home life is pretty well structured around dealing with it, so I’m aware that going out with me may not be as spontaneous and carefree as going out with other friends.

      (OTOH, I do think that I have good things to bring to friendships and relationships, and I’m always glad when my friends are willing to put up with some amount of wheelchair-wrangling or drink-fetching, in exchange for sharing my company at an event. I appreciate the hell out of my friends and family, and I do my best to be kind, generous, supportive, and understanding in return.)

      I really do think “Are you OK?” is code for “Are WE okay? Are you okay with me?” And I think it’s an anxiety thing (which may have been exacerbated by the drinking.)

      I know that when I’m worried that I’m somehow being difficult or being a burden, I have the impulse to ask my partner the same thing. (I’ve learned to bite my tongue on it, because it annoys the HELL out of him if I ask more than twice — but it’s a pretty good indicator that either I’m not okay somehow, or I’m worried that he’s not having a good time. He has social anxiety, and I’m an extroverted social butterfly, so I want to check in to make sure he’s not getting oversaturated — but I also need to have faith that he’ll speak up if he needs something.)

    • Guava said:

      Yes, my ‘potential addict’ alarm bell was going off here too. At the very least, it sounds like she’s drinking heavily to escape a stressful situation, and wanting her friends to help normalize her behavior by joining her.

    • Very kindly put. I have the calmness now to do just that. I was super annoyed when I wrote in.

  9. Guava said:

    I’m a person who can’t drink as much as I used to (medical reasons), and I’ve found that some people take it very personally when they are drinking around me, and I stop at one or two drinks. FWIW, I try really hard not to seem judgy, I’m not out to wreck their good time! But I do think my inability/refusal/personal boundary setting makes them feel self conscious. I’m wondering if your friend had envisioned a Heavy Drinking Day for all of you, and then took it personally when you declined to join her in those plans. Either way, all of the hand-holding and emotional babysitting you’re needing to do as a result of your decision sounds extremely draining, and I don’t blame you for being annoyed!

    • ashbet said:

      Agreed with all of this! I also can’t drink much (thanks, health condition that affects my blood pressure, plus incompatible meds!), and I am PERFECTLY HAPPY nursing one drink for an hour, or switching to soda (or Shirley Temples, if I want a fancy drink with cherries in it!)

      When I was younger — this doesn’t seem to happen anymore in my friends group, and I’m glad of it — a number of people took it upon themselves to try to push additional drinks on me, to get me to “just try XYZ,” and to otherwise police and call attention to my drinking behavior. It was fairly clear that they felt like I might be judging them (or saving up memories of them drunk, or just *not ALSO being drunk*), so they were pushing that anxiety onto me, by pressuring me to drink more than I’m comfortable with.

      DF sounds like she was expressing a lot of anxiety (possibly about you judging her, possibly about something completely different), and she just could not get enough reassurance that you were “okay,” which I think is shorthand for “okay with her.”

      Saying that she needed a day off life and then getting plastered and asking for tons of reassurance (because YOU were reassuring HER, even though she was ostensibly asking how you were doing) sounds like there’s something big going on in her life/in her head.

      I think that (when you’ve had a break to cool down from this stressful, unpleasant experience) IF you want to maintain a closer friendship, you should say that she didn’t seem like herself, and that you’re concerned about her.

      If you need to fade back to being more of a circumstantial friend, don’t let any guilt attempts drag you back into her drama — while she may genuinely be going through a traumatic life event, it’s not your *job* to take care of her. The question is where you want her to fit into your life, rather than just whether she has needs for friendship — you get to decide whether you’re prepared to take that on.

      Best wishes, and YEAH, I’d have been first bewildered and then annoyed, just as you are!

      • Thank you, ashbet, for your compassionate answer! You pretty much nailed the whole thing. I have indeed cooled down and I will definitely take the “I’m concerned” track. If I can help WITHOUT getting sucked in, I will.

    • I’m broadly in your camp, in that drinking a lot = horrible health consequences. I hardly ever get flak for it (seriously, who ARE all these people who can’t handle their friends’ perfectly safe, healthy non-drinking habits??), but when I do get questions I find that people are pretty understanding if I say, “It triggers nasty migraines.” In my case that’s true, but even if it’s not the case for you it might be a useful lie if you aren’t comfortable sharing your actual health information, especially with people you don’t know well.

      • killiara said:

        They’re probably the same people who think vegetarians are attacking their lifestyle choices simply by not eating meat around them.

    • unagi said:

      I don’t drink on the whole (one alcoholic parent is enough to ruin the ‘fun’ forever), and I’ve been subjected to this kind of pressure a whole lot in my life. Whyyyyyyy can’t I join in the fun like everyone else? Party Pooper is my nickname, even when I’m much funnier than all the barely-coherent people.

      Actually I have started paying attention to this, because the person putting the pressure on full blast is usually a raging alcoholic, no matter what their public face. They want you drunk so 1) it doesn’t look so bad that they are too 2) you don’t notice their behavior so much. It sounds to me like Delicate Flower had getting drunk as her principal agenda for the day, but didn’t feel like she could say so openly up front without disclosing something too personal. And she got miffed that you didn’t fully go along with her plan. Plus now she’s worried about what you might think/say about her condition.

      So that leaves you where? Is this a friendship you really care about? Are you willing to let her try to pull your entire social circle in this direction? You probably should give full disclosure to your husband and discuss strategy with him, as he’ll be affected if you pull away from hanging out with his friend as much in order to avoid the wife. And you might do well to discuss it with the other friend present on the fateful afternoon. But do you like this woman enough to discuss it also with her/her husband? Sounds like possibly not.. And in any case discussion of the kind has never gotten me anywhere, although I’d be pleased to hear of other experiences :-).

  10. You might try “why do you think I’m not?” You don’t have any obligation to, but the answer might be genuinely interesting.

    If you don’t want to do that, or after you do that, it’s time for the Broken Record. “Please stop asking me that.”

    “I’m fine” does not, sadly, work very well as a broken record, mostly because in the case of many, many people (me included) repeated use of “I’m fine”, actually DOES mean “I’m Fucked-up Insecure Neurotic and Emotional.”

    Plus, it sounds really really unconvincing if you’re saying it through your teeth while a vein pulses in your temple. Even if you genuinely ARE just tired of being asked.

    So, I see a couple of things going on, I think:

    1) You’re in therapy, you’re making changes. Which, yay! People are probably going to notice, sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously. And they will react. Sometimes it’s going to be pressure to change back! Because change is unsettling, and you’ve noted that the friends you have now have characteristics that you recognise as seeking out because they’re like the people you had around you in former, unhealthier times, so, really, you getting healthier is going to shake things up. And that’s okay, but not necessarily comfortable.

    And sometimes they’re just going to be kind of disoriented for awhile. You’re changing, quickly. It’s challenging.

    And, sometimes, therapy makes us messier before it makes us better. You may in fact be radiating Not At All Fine on some channels, and in my experience a person doesn’t get the nickname Delicate Flower without putting some serious work into empathy and sensitivity development.

    It’s up to you in any individual case how much slack you want to cut people, and how you want to handle things, but it isn’t going to be just like it was, because if you wanted it to be just like it was you wouldn’t be in therapy.

    2) You sound like you might be in the Aggressively Healthier phase of therapy. Which can make a person a little, um, judgy. You got help! You’re getting your shit together! What is WRONG with all these people who don’t WANT to get their shit together?

    Answer: not much, actually. Or maybe there is, but it’s their own business. Your business is to decide if you still want to be friends with them, or not. Either is fine. “I like them so I’ll just fix them a bit” is not.

    You picked these people, Mean Girl qualities and all. You don’t have to keep them, but they didn’t just break into your house and announce that they were your new friends now, either. Disengage where necessary, but with reasonable kindness where possible.

    3) Something is quite possibly going on with DF, and you are clearly not the person to take point on handling it. That’s fine. You don’t need a reason. Since she is entangled in your circle, you may want to make some effort to ensure that somebody who is willing and able to sit DF down and have a chat is aware of the situation. Then you can step out.

    • Courtney said:

      When good friends say, “I’m fine,” I usually ask, “Are you actually fine or ‘bleeding on the side of the road’ fine?” But only with good friends and only ONCE. And if the answer is along the lines of, “Yes, there is STUFF that I’m not ready to talk about” I don’t push.

      • Well, me too. I grant you that it *ought* to work as a Broken Record. But it mostly doesn’t.

      • entendante said:

        Yeah, my partner and I (both Doctor Who fans) tend to do exactly one round of “Are you actually fine, or ‘special Time Lord fine’?”* And if it’s the latter, with no explanation of what’s going on, the answer is always “Oof, sorry to hear it. Keep me posted if there’s something you need?” and that’s it. This is basically the script that stopped me from ruining all of my relationships with introverts.

        *The reference is this scene:

        (Doctor to Donna: “I’m always all right.”)

        (Donna to Doctor: “Is ‘all right’ special Time Lord code for ‘really not all right at all’?”)

          • killiara said:

            And this is why Donna Noble is the BEST COMPANION.

          • entendante said:

            Heh; weirdly, I’m not a huge Donna fan overall, but boy, does she have her moments!

  11. There have been a few times when I’ve been convinced something is bugging a friend where, looking back, it was probably 10% the friend being marginally more distracted/tired/spacey than normal and 90% ME being more tired, distracted, or stressed than usual, with a side helping of me manufacturing ways I might have upset them. It’s possible she was worried about the state of your friendship and that worry was manifesting itself in a mental refrain not unlike, “is she having fun now? How about now? Oh gosh is she mad over [trivial thing]?” That you describe her as socially delicate reinforces this idea. Combined with the alcohol, that might manifest as constantly asking if you are ok (a.k.a. not secretly mad at her).

  12. Cassandra7 said:

    This whole experience reminds me of my drinking days, when I urgently needed other people to drink as much as I did so that I could pretend to myself that I was drinking normally instead of alcoholically. And it doesn’t sound to me as if she or her husband is ready to talk honestly about–or face–the alcohol abuse that seems to be going on here.

    Not much can be worked out with a drinking alcoholic (I don’t mean someone who is drunk, though that’s really impossible, but someone who is powerless before alcohol and continues to drink, even sporadically). So all I have ever been able to think of to do is to back away.

    • Mary said:

      Hmm – my norms are England and Ireland, so fairly heavy drinking cultures and there is alcoholism in my family, but I definitely wouldn’t interpret one day’s heavy drinking as probable alcoholism. The LW doesn’t mention heavy drinking or even any drinking as a pattern in this relationship. I agree that this is exactly how alcoholics drink, but it’s also how many non-alcoholics behave occasionally.

    • Something Clever said:

      Yep, that’s what I thought, too, especially when OP wrote to add that the friend and her husband had stopped drinking for health reasons some time ago. Sounds like friend used the girls day to go off the wagon, perhaps.

  13. Superhumansamurai said:

    Ooh, I used to know a girl who sounds very similar to your friend: carbon copy similar, as far as the demanding, controlling, high-maintenance attitude in social situations. I heard her use that phrase so many times over the years and rarely because she was asking after someone’s welfare. Rather, “are you okay” is her way of alerting them to the fact that she considers them not okay, i.e. that she is displeased with their behaviour. If someone is not engaging with whatever she’s doing as fully as she is or conforming to the group vibe, she takes it personally and gets annoyed because she likes to think she’s facilitating/controlling the group dynamic. This means that anyone who is not talking much, not drinking much, not as enthusiastic about whatever items/activity WILL be targeted with an “are you okay?” and will likely receive more of them if they don’t up their participation to her satisfaction. Once I even heard her, resentful that another girl wasn’t joining in the OTT gushing about what an amaaaazing night they were having, tell someone else in a disapproving tone “i don’t think X is okay”, just to up the pressure on the non-gusher to act more like the rest of the group was acting! It’s passive-aggressive and manipulative, not to mention juvenile and bitchy. She used that tactic in her teens, throughout college and as an adult. She never grew out of it so I grew out of her! It sounds like your experience might be similar: “are you okay” as a devious attempt to exert control by framing non-conformity to her wishes as your behaviour being flawed rather than her behaviour being demanding.

    • Anothermous said:

      This is such a good point. “Are you okay” = manipulation tactic, in this context. Really good to keep in mind.

    • randomcheeses said:

      Oh god. I had a friend who used to do that. It’s was aggravating. Long story short: We are not friends anymore.

    • Holy crap, this sounds shockingly familiar. You have put into words what I couldn’t–I have seen this behavior close up many times. I love your comment “She never grew out of it so I grew out of her!”

    • This explains at least two people I’ve known over the years. THANK YOU!!!

    • Something Clever said:

      Yep, very articulately stated.

  14. Clarry said:

    “Her demanding, clingy, super duper amazingly high maintenance behavior …”

    This was your first red flag. She’s been like this for a long time, long enough for you to notice that she’s high maintenance regularly.

    “We said, sure, MADE A MILLION ARRANGEMENTS for our kids and made it happen. WE DID EVERY SINGLE THING SHE WANTED to do (the mutual friend and I are natives to this city, she is a transplant) and pulled out all the stops of what SHE REQUESTED and INSISTED upon.”

    These were your next red flags. The drinking was a bigger, brighter red flag. The badgering asking if you were okay was the minor annoyance, the single mosquito in a bed of fleas sort of annoyance. Note that people who are drunk tend to be boring as they fixate on something, can’t hear a rational answer, can’t ask a rational question for that matter. I wouldn’t pay much attention to answering the question in a way that will make her understand or make her stop asking it. I would pay attention to not being around someone who’s putting that much work into getting that drunk.

    Do you answer honestly or back away? I don’t think it matters much. I’d go with honestly telling her that hanging around her when she’s had that much to drink is not fun for you, and while I was at it, I’d say that catering to the whims of a Delicate Flower isn’t that much fun either which is why you won’t be doing that anymore. But if you’re not up for that– and I understand that it takes some strength to be that blunt– backing away is fine. It accomplishes the main goal.

    • Mary said:

      I get the impression that the LW would have been happy to do all of that MILLION ARRANGEMENTS stuff if the payback had been, “Wow, thank you SO much, ladies, I really needed that. You are stars! I feel tons better!” It’s the kind of thing you don’t mind doing for a friend every once in a while if they show their appreciation, and it cements the friendship and makes everyone feel good. But when you do all that and what you get back is MORE anxiety and neediness, then you just feel like you’ve been had.

      Straight-up question about whether to be honest: what do you reckon are the chances that it will achieve what you want? If you say, “Actually, DF*, I was happy to put all that effort into giving you a good day out, but it seems to have made you feel less secure and more stressed and that makes me feel a bit resentful. Please stop asking me if I’m OK, and trust that I will tell you if I’m not.” It may or may not be combined with asking her what’s really going on. If you don’t feel that you can have that frank conversation with her, then backing off a little and resetting the friendship at something a bit more distanced is OK too.

      [* I agree with everyone else that Delicate Flower may be a name that is not helpful right now if you are genuinely feeling a bit annoyed with her Delicate Flowerness. Nicknames work when they are kindly meant, but when there is a bit of an edge to them, the nicknamed person knows it and it can feel kind of gaslighty when everyone’s like, “Ho ho ho! It’s a joke! A joke about how annoying you are! Just a joke! Except … you’re really annoying, you know? Like, really? … Just joking!”]

      • I had a similar thought. DF might have been noticing that she was very far ahead in the drinking race that day and wanted to know why you weren’t keeping up. And then the next day, she may have been embarrassed, hence the continued asking. If you had said you were bothered, you would have given her the chance to apologize.

        But if DF had just stopped asking, you’d probably chalk up her behavior that day to a particularly bad day that doesn’t get repeated very often. Her embarrassment and the constant “are you okays” are telling you that her behavior that day is somehow more than a fluke. She may know that too.

        You get to decide how close you want to be with DF in the future, but probably if you end up even being marginally close you might want to/need to occasionally emphasize that you actually mean what you say when you say it.

  15. sophylou said:

    Agree with those who are suggesting that “Are you OK?” maybe also means “Are WE OK?” I also wonder if what she was looking for was for the question to get turned around, a la “Yes, I’m OK. Are you?” which might give her an opportunity to start talking about whatever is making her need “a day off from life”?

  16. Clarry said:

    Following up my own post quickly because I forgot the most important part: Stopping hanging around with high maintenance annoying drunk people is the number one top thing you can do to start negotiating adult friendships the way you want to. It’s like once those people are gone, all this space opens up, and actually enjoyable interesting low-maintenance mature together truly-fun people magically appear to fill it.

    • Words of wisdom to live by! And this can never be said enough, especially if you’ve been trained to “out up with” outrageous behavior in your family–no matter what!–it’s always amazing to hear that there is *actually* another option!! You are awesome.

  17. bunwat said:

    I heard “are you OK” as code for “why are you not drinking?”

    And the reputation is because you kept answering the literal question she actually asked and not the coded question she meant.

    • Cassandra said:

      This is my gut feeling. “Why aren’t you drinking?” + a little “please ask me if I’m okay”

    • Me too.

      And either she’d explained exactly to her husband or she hadn’t, but he chose to use her formulation.

  18. bunwat said:

    Argh. Repetition not reputation!!

  19. mamacitaconpistoles said:

    Hi LW,

    I was a bit nippy in my first comment, and I am sorry.

    I’ve been thinking though. If you’re the nice person you seem to be* it might not be obvious. The Delicate Flower nickname, when affectionate, is Advanced Gentle Teasing. IME you have to be really close to a friend for that to be more honey and less sting.

    Part of the tricky thing is, other, not nice people, call people things like that, and they’re using the nickname as a weapon. And, they might mistake gentle teasing from you as nastiness towards people like DF.** Worse, they might use your gentle barb as cover for much nastier intentions towards DF or others. I mean… You’re nice, and you do it so they must allowed too, right?

    Sooo… a good step to not being available for mean girl shenanigans friendships is to not go there. Like, your tight bestie maybe. But in casual settings, don’t do it. Don’t be cover for people who behave this way from malice. An added bonus? You’re giving up some of that tight friend behavior that ensnarls you in this relationship. Venting is important and you need to take care of yourself. For the next while, don’t vent where you Little League.

    Your friendquaintance sounds like she is really challenging to deal with, in ways she needs to be accountable for. I’d be at the end of my rope. If you aren’t able to be a good support for her right now, then back away. That is A-Okay. I’d be close to that option. It happens A Lot with friends or addicts.

    Sometimes tapping out is the best thing to do.

    *not wanting to get trapped in mean girling = good sign there.

    **added complication, DF is not on her.A-Game, and vulnerable people are good mean targets. They can also be mean themselves, which makes them hard to like.

  20. twomoogles said:

    I am a sufferer of BRF and I feel your pain. I will often have people interrupt whatever I’m doing to ask if I’m OK–I get the impulse to do this, but asking more than once is frustrating. The thing is, if I say “yes” to the first time, then one of two things is happening. 1) I really am OK! or 2) Something is bugging me, but I don’t want to talk about it right then/to you/ever/at a party/while drinking etc etc. I really doubt frequent repetitions of “are you ok” has ever actually been helpful. Heck, I’d even be cool with “ok, but if something’s bugging you I’m here for you” or something along those lines. After awhile, I start to hear “are you ok” as “you are doing something that is not OK with me”. And “you look tired” is also not helpful.

    • I am a sufferer of BRF. I also had a partner whose parents assumed my answer of ‘fine’ meant ‘not fine,’ or ‘piss off’ but never told me that interpretation. So I spent YEARS being frustrated because I’d be fine and they’d constantly badger me about how poorly I was doing, or ask my partner what was wrong with me. They’re the reason I now tell people I’m adequate. Which shuts people up, hilariously, to be told that I’m ‘adequate’

    • Kay said:

      Also a sufferer. My husband was very comforted when he actually came across a meme on BRF and I was like THIS. Because it was like, I’d be looking out the car window thinking how pretty the weather was and he’d go “are you mad?” Me: “No! I’m fine.” And then a few minutes later, “Are you sure you’re not mad?” Me: “Nope, really. I’m just thinking. I’m good.” Then, a few minutes later, “Really, are you mad?” and then Me: “WELL NOW I AM.” The BRF diagnosis has helped us out a lot 🙂

  21. erica said:

    “You’ve asked me that question a few times this afternoon. What makes you think I’m not okay?”

    Sometimes there really is something concrete that’s given them this impression. If you can get them to tell you what it is, maybe you can offer alternative explanations for your behaviour, or discuss whatever may have made her expect you to not be okay?

  22. Anisoptera said:

    LW I kind of agree with others who are interpreting her “are you OK?” as “are you annoyed with me?” or “why aren’t you drinking with me are you judging me?”. It sounds like you were somewhat annoyed right from the planning stage of the day, and that you weren’t super impressed with the drinking, and maybe she picked up on that? And of course the more she asked the more annoyed you became and the more there was to pick up on…

    Don’t get me wrong – it sounds like your annoyance was perfectly reasonable. I’ve had “friends” like that who have to have everything be about them and are not at all shy about asking for all sorts of stuff. There’s definitely a type of person who comes on strong like this right from the start, and at first it can feel really flattering because they must really like and trust you if they’re sharing so much of their life and asking for your support! Then it gets really wearing, and eventually you realise it’s not reciprocal and that it’s not that they like you that much it’s just that they want things and you were the one who responded…

    Also in my experience of such super-self-cantered people they’re actually pretty quick to spot you pulling back (despite not noticing anything else about you) and they come running after you for reassurance and insistence that you’re not irked.

    This may not be the case with your friend? I have no idea how your friendship normally plays out, but you sounded hella annoyed in your letter and about stuff that’s legitimately annoying.

    • CJ said:

      “There’s definitely a type of person who comes on strong like this right from the start, and at first it can feel really flattering because they must really like and trust you if they’re sharing so much of their life and asking for your support! Then it gets really wearing, and eventually you realise it’s not reciprocal and that it’s not that they like you that much it’s just that they want things and you were the one who responded…”

      Whoa. Does that sound familiar.

      • Jenna said:

        I had that one friend, and then someone asked me, “do you ever hear from her when she doesn’t need a favor?”
        And the answer was no. She only EVER called when she wanted a favor. It was disappointing to realize.

        • Anisoptera said:

          Yeah I woke up to my version of this person after a couple times I had a really bad day and wanted to talk about it (like she talked about hers) and she kept changing the subject back to her. Then one day she wanted to catch up after work and I said no because I had other plans (largely to spend some time alone but whatever) and she made up a fake crisis that she needed my advice on which turned out not to be a thing at all when I dropped everything to meet up with her… When I was her friend I was always tired of socialising and never wanted to go out – when I stopped being her friend all this mental energy and time opened up in my schedule for hanging out with people who actually reciprocated and I actually liked or whanted to get to know better. Which was a big deal because I’m a massive introvert and don’t have that much energy for such things at the best of times.

          I definitely endorse spending less time and energy on people like this. Even when I was friends with her I was always cross about stuff she did all the time. I think I stuck with it because she was always arranging for us to meet and I wasn’t quite sure how to say no and sometimes felt a bit lonely and like socialising might be a good thing.

  23. calamitywitch said:

    When it was necessary for me to live with my grandmother and uncle, every day they would ask me how I was. I would say I was fine, and it was completely true. I’m a very happy person. But my grandma would always respond with “Are you really?” and my uncle would go “Well, you don’t sound fine.” It was the same when they asked how my day was. “Good.” “Are you sure?” “You don’t sound like it was it good.”

    With my uncle I tried to change my tone so I sounded more enthusiastic, and that usually worked, though I always sounded fake beyond all get to my own ears. With my grandma, I ended up saying “Actually, I have a bit of a headache,” or “My lecture today was so boring,” because she would easily accept those answers. I was literally making up bogus complaints just so I wouldn’t be accused of lying.

    Anyway, my only real point here is that it was AWFUL. It was exhausting and frustrating and I could only stand it because I knew I wouldn’t be living there permanently. Maybe it’s that my emotional state/well-being is the one thing in my life that I am definitely the lone authority on and having that questioned constantly was bewildering, but it made me go from very happy person to habitually dishonest stressball in about two weeks.

    The “Are you okay?” is definitely code for “Why aren’t you drinking?” where I live. Thinking about it, it’s lady code too, dudes tend to hassle people with the actual question. Still, that’s something I’ve only experienced from randoms at parties, not people who know me.

  24. Tesseract said:

    Hi LW, I don’t know if this will help you, but I accidentally discovered a tactic to get people to stop asking this question. I was getting it a lot, partly because I have bitchy resting face, and partly because I was genuinely not OK. But I was trying to keep up a professional facade with coworkers and therefore didn’t want to discuss my problems with them.

    Rather than insist I was ok, I said “Why do you ask? Have I said or done something that makes it seem otherwise?”

    What I meant was “Tell me how you knew I wasn’t fine so I can stop whatever behavior is giving me away”. I was surprised to find that people are very uncomfortable with explaining why they were asking. They usually mumble something unintelligible and walk away, leaving me mystified but happy with the outcome in any case.

    Since this is a common reaction even when the recipient isn’t fine, I suspect it will be even more effective when the interrogator has no reason to think something is wrong. Even better, it might prompt her to speak more clearly about whatever’s bugging her (assuming that’s what you want).

    • Private Editor said:

      “Rather than insist I was ok, I said ‘Why do you ask? Have I said or done something that makes it seem otherwise?’”

      I think… I think you just medaled. Wow. *takes notes*

  25. Fierce Passion said:

    I wanna emphasize the idea that DF may not really be into being called DF to her face. More than once as an adult, I found myself as “the mocked one” in a regular social group with really no idea how I got into that role, and no idea how to get out of it. I’d try to laugh it off, because there didn’t seem to be any other option. And when I could, I’d do a slow fade.
    Just because she’s also calling herself that,doesn’t mean she actually thinks it’s funny. So I think you should figure out just how “joking” you are with this nickname. And seriously consider knocking it off.

    • Aurora said:

      This is my fate in life. For some reason, I’m the person who is considered most teaseable in any group, so everyone does it. I think because I tend to get confused as to whether people are joking or not, especially if they’re deadpan about it. In the end…I don’t know if there’s an escape from that, but for all the mockers/teasers out there, KNOCK IT THE FUCK OFF IF SOMEONE ASKS. Lord, it’s like people think “oh, it’s just friendly teasing, don’t be so uptight” is permission to do shit that makes someone deeply uncomfortable.

      • sharivan said:

        Oh, me too! I am extremely earnest and it is…not great.

  26. DameB said:

    So, I have this theory. When we are kids, we primarily socialize with people who we go to school with. In school, we’re forced into relationships with these people, whether or not we have any interest in them. The only things we KNOW we have in common are our age and where our parents chose to live.. Then, in middle class America at least, we choose our colleges and hang out with people who choose the same majors. Then as 20somethings, if we’re lucky, we choose our own towns/cities with people who have similar values and then find friends and we really enjoy spending time with these folks. Our freedom of friendship is a powerful thing and allows us to create a safe space to allow us to really discover our true selves.

    Then, if we have kids, we’re suddenly forced to socialize with people based on the fact that their kid and our kid are about the same age and have similar activities.

    It took me a while to realize that these people, my daughter’s friends’ parents, can be a new category of friend. They are more like ‘friendcquaintances’. I like some more and some less, but our relationship isn’t based around mutual affection or interests or caring. It’s based around playdates and dropping kids off at aikido and the small talk that you do at birthday parties and at PTA meetings. They CAN develop into real friendships, but they don’t have to. Once I had that revelation, and stopped trying so hard to make these into real close friendships, everything got much easier for me (And, I suspect, for them. They were very confused by my geekiness.)

    My kid has a big group of friends and I like their parents fine, but I’m not close to most of them. (One of them is a BFF.) We do family socializing and they come to my family parties and I go to theirs and I’m happy to chat and hang out while the kids are playing, but my personal alone-with-my-friends time is limited (cause I’m a parent) and so I choose to spend it with people who I chose to be friends with.

    I don’t know if this is helpful at all, but I thought it might be a useful way of framing the situation.

    • Guava said:

      This is so true. By my early 30s, I felt pretty good about my ability to find friends whose friendship style was compatible with mine, and got pretty good at avoiding people who put up obvious red flags. After I had kids, I was so hungry for friends for my kids that I let a few terrible choices for parent friends get way too close before I realized how far in I was. And it’s tougher to pull back when your kids have now gotten really attached to their kids. I wish I had learned this lesson earlier.

  27. Aija-Marjatta said:

    I’m really not a fan of people who can’t take someone for their word. If you ask me “Are you OK,” and I say, “Yes,” that is exactly what it means. There’s no weird double-speak going on there, it isn’t “code” for “no please keep badgering me until I tell you my deep, dark truth.” I feel like society has this strange expectation that women are masters of passive-aggressive conversation and that everything they say has multiple meanings, which is absolutely infuriating.

    I think it gets even hairier when someone (like it sounds like OP’s friend might be) is one of those passive-aggressive conversationalists themselves, and thus assumes that all other people think and talk the same multilayered, complicated way they do. They don’t understand when someone is just straightforward and honest, and can’t accept that the initial answer is the truthful one. It’s frustrating, and it’s a real good way to drive a wedge between themselves and the person they’re not trusting for their word. I’ve gotten fed up with people in my own life for never trusting that the answer I give them the first time is the truth.

  28. Aurora said:

    There are two reasons I’ve been Annoying “Are You Okay” person. One is that my instincts often tell me more about a situation than my conscious mind, and for example if I’m playing a tabletop with many people, I can tell when a player is sad or bored even if they say they’re fine. So I will keep bugging them until they tell me the truth, and it always comes out. Some people just refuse to stop being the social martyr and valiantly suffering in silence until you get right up in their face.

    The second reason is that when I’m depressed, any vague sense that someone isn’t having the most fun in their life with me means I’m doing everything horribly wrong and they hate me. DF seems to be in this category. She needs help, like of the professional kind, because right now her Jerkbrain is telling her that if everyone isn’t smiley and thrilled and happy all the time, they hate her and the situation is awful and terrible. I don’t know what she needs help *with* specifically — that’d be armchair diagnosing, and I’m not a doctor — but long-running problems like this seem to be in the domain of therapists and psychiatrists. Maybe bring up to her that she seems in a tough place, or that she seems like she needs more support than friends can give, and if you really like her a whole lot you can offer to help her find someone. A Stage 5 clinger can’t really be changed just by friendly support.

    Another option, if you’re the kind of person more willing to bridge-burn, is to confront her and shock her into stopping. Delicate people get shocked by things others would just sort of shrug off, so cornering her and telling her to knock it off will almost certainly jolt her. This is only if you’re willing to risk her breaking down, yelling at you, and never talking to you again; it’s a sort of all or nothing thing that will either get her to notice or totally ruin your situation. But do you really want a friend who makes you walk on eggshells all the time?

    • Aija-Marjatta said:

      That’s all well and good, but you have to leave room for the possibility that your instinct/gut feeling about how someone REALLY feels deep down beneath their “social martyr who is valiantly suffering” appearance could be wrong, and repeatedly not taking someone’s “I’m fine” for the truth can feel to the other person like you do not believe them or trust them at their word.

      I’m a generally quiet person, and even when I’m having a ton of fun with friends I enjoy sitting back and letting everyone converse. I will pipe up when I have something to say, but sitting quietly and playing the game in a group where I just happen to be the quietest one at the table does not mean I’m bored or sad. It just means I’m not as talkative as the people around me. I have to admit if someone kept repeatedly asking me if I was OK in such a situation I would probably get pretty ticked off.

      • “So I will keep bugging them until they tell me the truth …”

        And if the truth turns out to be that one of their loved ones is in ICU after a serious accident and not expected to pull through what exactly do you do to help them get through the night once you’re wrecked their carefully-cultivated calm?

        I’m an extrovert, and even quite good at discussing feeelingz, and yet.

        Sometimes “I’m fine” means “I am currently dealing with a truly unspeakable situation, which is still ongoing, and this is neither a convenient time nor a suitable place for me to lose my shit, even if the details were your business, especially as me losing my shit before this mess is handled is going to lead to a noticeably worse outcome so would you kindly stop poking at me.”

        Just … don’t.

        • Geranium said:

          Sometimes “I’m fine” means “I am currently dealing with a truly unspeakable situation, which is still ongoing, and this is neither a convenient time nor a suitable place for me to lose my shit, even if the details were your business

          Such a good point. Thank you.

          • It’s like… You know That Person who notices you rolling your shoulders and comes up behind you and tries to rub your back without your permission and digs their dirty great knuckes into the place where you have a nasty painful muscle knot? Or have they blessedly died out at last?

            It’s like That Person, only they’re poking at your actual brain.

            Don’t be That Person.

        • alwaysanswerb said:

          And sometimes it’s not even anything so dire; it could just be “Yes, it is true that I am maybe not as gregarious as you are used to seeing and it might be because I am having less fun, but it is not for any tangible reason and so I am choosing to keep quiet rather than be the wrecking ball to this gathering”

        • Something Clever said:

          Oh yes, for sure. Some people just love provoking drama for their own entertainment, too.

    • Mary said:

      >> So I will keep bugging them until they tell me the truth, and it always comes out. Some people just refuse to stop being the social martyr and valiantly suffering in silence until you get right up in their face.

      Orrrrr…. maybe they aren’t fine but they don’t think that you’re a close enough friend to want to discuss it with you?

      • twomoogles said:

        Yes, this! Sometimes I might be mildly aggravated with another player at the table, or going through some bad shit in my own life, or getting really into my character, etc..or a bunch of other things that I really don’t want to say out loud just then. (It’s almost always BRF with me though ;))

        I do totally get the thing about *knowing* something is wrong but the other person acting fine. My anxiety can really act up in these situations, and I become convinced they are mad at me. I also want to be the social smoother-over, and make things be OK and make sure everyone’s having a great time yay…and I do get anxious if they’re not. But I still try really really hard to stop at one check-in, because I find repeated asking that question doesn’t actually help.

        Lately my friends and I had a really fun time out somewhere, then on the way back my best friend got super quiet and seemed not OK. But, two other people were in the car with us and it really wasn’t the time to start on the “Are you okays” so I didn’t, even though I’m 99 percent sure something was bugging her because of how well we know each other. It could’ve been one of a thousand things, and so I just managed to deal with my anxiety that she was mad at me (or at least didn’t manifest it by asking he about it) and then figured if things are weird with us later we’ll talk…and the next day things were fine and back to normal.

      • And/Or it’s just something going on totally unrelated and there’s nothing they can do but ride it out. To demand they barf up all their internal feelings because you perceive something – accurately or not – is no less cruddy than demanding strangers smile on the street “because they’d look so much prettier.”

        There are folks who play at being unhappy in silence while being loud in other ways, for sure, but one person’s “social martyr” can often be another person’s “just quietly coming along.” The folks playing passive-aggressive games can be called out by saying “the way you keep sighing loudly every time someone else speaks doesn’t come across as actually being okay, but if you don’t want to talk about it that’s all right.” Everyone else should be shown the courtesy and respect we owe other adults by accepting them at their word when they tell us there’s not a problem.

      • Amtelope said:

        Yes, I wish people wouldn’t do that kind of pushing. The options here are a) there’s nothing wrong, and you’re annoying a person who’s just naturally quiet or frowning because they’re trying to figure out how to kill a dragon; b) there is something wrong, but the person doesn’t want to tell you, in which case pushing them to tell you is the opposite of what they want; c) there is something wrong and the person won’t tell you until you do a million rounds of “but, no, really, what’s wrong?” which is high-maintenance, passive-aggressive behavior that I don’t think should be encouraged.

        In all of those cases, I think going on with the game as if you didn’t notice that anything was wrong is the best solution.

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        Yeeees. Or they might even be ok with discussing it *later*, but right now they want to ignore the work drama and take out their annoyance on that horde of orcs. Or they’re just feeling kind of tired and didn’t particularly want to make a big deal out out of it except that now anything they say will be a big deal by virtue of having said it after you’ve asked them five times.

    • Drew said:

      I think that unless you’re really good friends outside of the game, you would do better to take answers at face value instead of disrupting the game session by running an impromptu solo intervention.

      I know there have been times in my life when I’ve gone to play games precisely because I had things outside the game that I was trying hard not to think about. Having someone get in my face and demand to know what was on my mind would not have been good for anyone; after two or three deflections, I tend to give a fully honest answer. “Actually, I’m playing games because I’m distracting myself from how my grandparent is dying in the hospital too far away for me to be there, so yeah, I’m not 100% here right now and thank you so much for bringing it up. Can we shut up and play now?”

      • mehting said:

        Yuuup. People underestimate how much normal activities with people can help when other not-okay things are happening. Leaving it along protects the game, the company, and also gives the person who (maybe) is not-okay the normal they’re looking for to help avoid the not-okay things. Concern isn’t always the best answer.

      • Yeah, people I barely knew asking me “are you okay? no really?” after my husband died were…well, they would have been way more annoying if I had been more with it. Sometimes it’s really nice to just take someone at their word!

    • h said:

      I know you already have a ton of responses, but I hope you won’t mind one more, because I have something to add which I don’t think has been touched on yet. Speaking as another socially anxious person, the two points you raise aren’t necessarily separate. They blur into each other. Social anxiety can make the thought that somebody else is experiencing even transitory discomfort into a much bigger deal than it needs to be. There’s times when an empathetic friend will reach out, and when someone wants to be asked more than once, and wants to know for sure that you’re really receptive to a full answer. There’s other times where it really is on other people to step up and deal with their own feelings.

      Group gaming nights often involve the latter situation. So someone is bored – maybe they want to stick the game out for the sake of the other players. So they’re bummed about losing – maybe they truly want to be a gracious loser so they don’t want that embarrassing feeling dragged out in public. Or maybe they’re hungry, or need to leave in an hour – but they can say so. Of course if you’re hosting, or even if you’re not, it’s fine to ask, “Is anyone hungry? We could order a pizza.” Or, “We’re running late, is that okay with everyone?” But those questions can be addressed to the group without putting anyone on the spot.

      A good host makes sure everyone has a good time – within limits. But when going through an anxious period myself, I’ve caused myself so much additional anxiety trying to micromanage everyone’s feelings. It’s not necessary. Lately I’m trying to let go of some of this, and just relax and enjoy situations and trust my friends to be grown-ups themselves.

    • The second reason is that when I’m depressed, any vague sense that someone isn’t having the most fun in their life with me means I’m doing everything horribly wrong and they hate me

      What I just quoted is how I know that actually, they’re not as concerned with me as with their inner selves. That is, my feeling that everything is centred on how I’ve fucked up, tells me that other people are actually centred on themselves.

      But this brings up what I’d like to say on the subject of ‘I’m fine’. It’s phatic noise. It doesn’t mean you’re swell or lousy, it means “we’ve exchanged a pleasantry, let’s go on to something else”

      If you’re actually trying to elucidate how some one feels, ask specific questions. This came up in studies of hospital personnel and patients. The patients would say “the staff doesn’t care about my condition,” the personnel would say “we ask every time we see them.” The solution was “How’s your pain this morning?” and “Are you nauseated still?” etc, rather than “How are you?” “Are you ok?” Because “I’m fine” wasn’t the right answer.

      So if you’re worried about your friends, try something like “you seem more distant than usual, is there something I can help with?”

      Otherwise you’re a) breaking the phatic expression contract; and b) not taking people at their word.

  29. Sam said:

    My first impression with the repeated “Are you okay?”‘s was that she wanted you to ask her back. Then she can drop a feelingsbomb on you without guilt.

    My second impression was since you had planned this whole day around catering to all her whims, and since she may have been suffering from anxiety, her jerkbrain was talking to her. It was telling her things like, “Look at all the things LW has done for you. She is doing all of this because you wanted it and you’re selfish and LW doesn’t really want to be here. You made her take a whole afternoon out of her life to spend it with you doing things that you like and she’s not even enjoying herself look she’s only had one drink” etc. So she’s asking if you’re okay because her jerkbrain is trying to convince her that you’re not okay because she’s a horrible person.

    Either way, I agree with several other commenters here that there is deeper problem causing her trouble.

  30. I’m just tossing this out there, because from skimming the comments I haven’t seen anybody touch on it: if someone who’s known to be a bit of a Delicate Flower is asking you if YOU’RE okay, sometimes it’s a sign that THEY are not okay and want you to reciprocate the inquiry. Like a chronic complainer who only asks how you are so you’ll give them an opening to tell you how THEY are, maybe your friend is not in an okay place and was trying to force you to be concerned about her? Especially in the context of an afternoon where she went a little off the rails, is she fishing for you to be worried about her, perhaps?

  31. I feel like maybe it’s her who isn’t okay, and she’s projecting feelings onto you. Hence when you asked her to stop asking, she somehow translated that into you not caring if SHE was okay.

    I used to have a lot of depressive episodes where I’d constantly ask my friends if they were okay because I felt like somehow it was my responsibility, or my fault if they weren’t okay. Because I worried that because I felt shitty, I was bad company and I wanted to check on them to somehow validate myself.

    Although it isn’t YOUR responsibility to make sure SHE is okay, you could maybe check with her. I like the Captain’s most simple script: bounce it right back with “I’m fine thanks, are YOU okay?” or not even wait for her to ask. “You’ve asked me if I’m okay a lot, so now I’m asking you. Is there something worrying you?” If she says no but keeps on asking, just repeat variations of the hey-what’s-on-your-mind and chances are your flower will eventually open up 🙂

  32. Fishmongers' daughters said:

    My read was that she was feeling super self-conscious about demanding a day off from life and having everyone scurry around to make plans and take her out. Like, simultaneously guilty and defensive about it. I’ve been there – I handle “boundary-setting” much better now, but I could totally see myself years ago feeling overwhelmed, reading some article about how “You deserve some ME-time!!!” and pulling something like that.

    All the “are you ok”s may mean: “I feel really demanding right now for doing this and also like it’s now my job to make sure everyone is having a good time and you don’t seem to be” (possibly just because you weren’t drinking as much as she was and to her, excessive drinking might be the only “I’m enjoying myself!” signal she recognizes).

    I like CA’s advice – getting the focus off you and back onto her might be enough. If this was a person who I cared about my relationship with, I might take her aside and say something like, “Hey, how are things going now with [whatever it was that had her feeling so overwhelmed]? Did [that situation you were talking about] improve? How are you feeling now?”

    That’s, you know, if you actually ARE concerned and DON’T just want some space. It would give her a “things are still cool” signal without turning the focus back on you.

  33. kzm123 said:

    I know I am late to the party here. Your situation feels familiar to me, at least from the point of being bewildered that adult friendships should still be this way so many years after adolescence and Why Can’t It Just Be Easier.

    I certainly get that we’re imperfect adults and those flaws leak into our friendships. We all have our foibles and traits and the friends we love work around them. Yet I believe it’s reasonable to expect a certain level of maturity in the friend relationships I have with other women. I feel like your friend has gone halfway there–she is mature enough to recognize, and laugh about, the way her insecurities require accommodations from the rest of you. But is she making efforts to address them and ease how much work you guys have to do? Is she extending you the same courtesy when it comes to your issues?

    I often feel caught between two courses of action when a friend starts this sulky behavior that lets me know that I, or someone else in the group, has done something “wrong.” One side of me says, as a caring friend, and as someone who wants to model good communication, I should probe her to see what the deal is. The other side of me says, as someone who wants this relationship to feel like an ADULT relationship, I don’t want to introduce this pout-until-you-beg-me-for-details dynamic into our friendship. She’s a big girl and I’ll give her space until such time as she decides to bring it up (or gets over it on her own). Neither course of action feels quite right. It’s frustrating.

    I guess this is a sympathetic pat. I am also in the camp that your drunk friend was projecting–I think she wants someone to ask what’s going on with her, and to work at finding answers when she demurs.

    • Thank you for such a well-nuanced answer. That is so much what I am experiencing and not articulating very well! I get so confused by non-adult behavior in adults.

      I feel like this incident woke up the napping, cantankerous 93-year old sassy lady who lives inside of me who is done dealing with immature behavior and she is insisting on speaking only with adults, thankyouverymuch. Sigh. She needs another nap, apparently.

  34. Leonine said:

    Okay, so the way this interaction is described is making my Spidey-sense tingle: among other problems, I think LW and DF are talking past one another. Specifically, I think LW is an Asker and DF is a Guesser. I know this phenomenon has been discussed here at CA. It’s also discussed as transmitter-oriented versus receiver-oriented communication. Here’s a link just in case: http://bit.ly/1NXnVHU I suspect that LW is transmitter-oriented (TO) and DF is receiver-oriented (RO). Here’s how I’m reading this incident: DF has something she needs support for or that she needs to get off her chest. Rather than making a direct request for support or attention–because that’s not how ROs roll–she encodes this request in an invitation to get drunk. The invitation to get drunk is an invitation to use booze as an excuse to say things she can’t otherwise say. Because ROs expect listeners to *decode*, she believes that in inviting LW to go drinking, *she has made herself clear*.

    What DF expected:
    DF: Let’s go drinking!
    LW: Sure!
    [DF drinks; LW, understanding the point of the excursion, keeps up with her]
    LW: So, what’s going on?
    DF: Well . . . I know I shouldn’t be talking about this, but I’m drunk, so I’ll tell you. [Insert issue, tearful confession, etc., here.]
    LW: Wow, I had no idea! I’m [sorry/angry/supportive/horrified]!

    But that’s not what happened. If DF really is an RO, this is how the interaction went down from her perspective:
    DF: Let’s go drinking!
    LW: Sure!
    [DF drinks; LW has one drink and quits. DF, as an RO and believing that she has *made herself clear*, decodes this as a deliberate rejection of her request for support or attention.]
    DF: Are you okay? [Translation: Why are you being like this? You know I need some support right now.]
    LW: Yep, I’m fine! [Translation: I am deliberately refusing to understand or respond to what you’re *really* saying.]
    [Repeat until they arrive at the station.]
    DF: Are you okay? [Translation: I am really angry that you are pretending that everything is okay when it is clearly not.]
    LW: Yes, now please stop asking me that.

    This last is where it gets really tricky. ROs and TOs have different thresholds for making a direct request. A TO makes a direct request right off the bat: On noticing the door is open, the TO says, “Would you please shut the door?” But for an RO, that initial request is encoded: “Oh, I’d hate for any bugs to get in.” It’s only when the first few encoded requests are not acted upon that the RO resorts to direct speech. The upshot of this is that what to a TO seems a benign, reasonable request feels to an RO like an escalation. An RO wouldn’t say “Would you please shut the door” until the listener had already proven rude or incompetent; in RO-speak, a direct request is a rebuke:

    RO: Would you please shut the door? [Translation: You are too stupid to understand what I’ve been asking you to do for the last five minutes, so now I have to speak to you as though you were a slow-witted child. How embarrassing for you.]

    If DF really is an RO, LW’s last remark was a verbal slap in the face. DF’s husband also seems to be an RO; his “Are you okay/” probably translates to “I know you and DF had a bit of a falling out yesterday. Is there anything I can do to help patch it up?”

    So aside from drinking problems and such, there also seems to be a communication-culture problem that has LW and DF talking past one another. LW, if you really want to get to the bottom of this, you might go to DF and say something like, “You know, I think I might have missed some signals you were sending me the other day. Is there anything you want to talk about?” If you want to save the friendship, it’s worth a shot.

    • THANK YOU for this lesson in communication styles! I am absolutely a TO. I think you nailed it. Also, DF is from a very, VERY different cultural background than I am. She is from the South, extremely conservative and raised within very, VERY strict religious faith. I am from an urban Midwest area, very progressive and liberal, very open and direct.

      We have managed this friendship because I am not under the assumption that we all have to be identical to one another in order to get along. Sometimes, though, I think our backgrounds, political and social beliefs hit up on each other too much. (Our third friend we were with shares the same general views as me.) DF’s views are very strict: homosexuality/same sex marriage is against the bible, God and is immoral and should never be legalized; guns are great and everyone should have one to protect their families; she says racist things and when I say, “hey, now” she laughs (She race-baited a few times that day–as she usually does when she drinks– like when I gave money to a woman who took our picture with my phone: “Where I’m from, people don’t ask for money, they just do things out of the kindness of their heart,” To which we replied, “yes, but this is how she earns money because as she said, she lives in a shelter for abused women.” “Oh, I highly doubt that.”)

      So after everyone’s LOVELY advice here (Seriously, you guys are so freaking amazing and I wish I were surrounded by such people in my real life!), I decided to ask her, quietly, if she was okay. I woke up the next morning to a long text from her saying that she has had a very “go-go-go” week getting her kids back to school and she is absolutely certain that she can not attend the charity fundraiser with me that we had scheduled for the next night. We had decided to attend together because our husbands were going to be coaching our sons and couldn’t attend. I wanted to go because a dear friend is the head of this wonderful organization and I wanted to support her, so did DF. We each paid $150 for the tickets–not a small thing!! So when she backed out via text, I replied: “Oh, bummer! Is something else going on? Is there something you’d like to talk about?” And she said, in a nutshell, with lots of flowery language, no. I know I sure don’t like to be asked the same thing over and over (!) so I left it at that.

      It really sucked, because I had to attend the event by myself. I am not a shy person, but seriously, it’s not easy walking into a fancy event where you don’t know anyone and striking up conversation with strangers. But I did it! I didn’t want to let my friend, the host, down. Whatever: I went, spent two hours meeting wonderful new people and having great conversations about things like politics, religion, current events–things that are ABSOLUTELY verboten is DF is around. DF would never have attended alone if I had done this to her. That’s what gets me: her needs are always taken first and foremost, but not asking or apologizing for her needs trumping mine and everyone else’s, repeatedly.

      My take-away is this: I probably rub her the wrong way with my “extremist” views about gays, guns and God and now I know, beyond a doubt, that she rubs me the wrong way because of her (IMHO) regressive views about the same. We can be acquaintances, but she is not a Top Shelf Friend.

      I need Top Shelf Friends and am digging through and reshuffling my adult friendships because somehow, I found myself with a bunch of super conservative (because of the town I live in) female friends and it is not working for me anymore. We can carpool together, chat at parties, but holy hell, I need women who I can have actual conversations with, love me for me and who match my spirit and interests.

      • Good luck! I think it’s important to be open to friendships where not everybody agrees, but it’s also important to find your people—the ones you don’t have to censor yourself around in order to keep the peace.

        Plus, affinities aside, it’s annoying and exhausting to be friends with people who never take your needs as seriously as their own.

      • Leonine said:

        I KNEW she was Southern! 🙂 I’m glad I could help.

    • gmg said:

      I think the insight about differing communication cultures is super valuable, but would just like to add one important clarifying point for this specific situation: Even if there were expectations on one side or the other, you do not have to match a drunk friend drink for drink in order to be a sympathetic friend. NOBODY has to drink in any situation if at any point they decide they don’t want to. Even if he/she set off possibly intending to have a fair few drinks and then got there and realized they weren’t feeling it. And I say this having more often been the drunk friend than not, FWIW. “But the LW was supposed to understand that this was drinky drink time!” needs to come out of the equation here.

      • Leonine said:

        “‘But the LW was supposed to understand that this was drinky drink time!’ needs to come out of the equation here.”

        You put that in quotes, but that’s not what I said or what I meant. You’ll note that the part where LW keeps up with DF is labeled “What DF expected.” I believe that DF expected LW to get drunk, and that is what I said. I did not suggest that LW or anyone else should drink if they don’t want to drink. I agree with your overall point, but I do not appreciate your mischaracterization of my post.

  35. TO_Ont said:

    Yes, I have more than one friend who will binge-drink a few times a year, to celebrate a particularly exciting good event or to distract themselves from a particularly stressful bad event.

    It’s not my own preferred way of handling alcohol, and I have occassionally found it stressful to be in the middle of these heavy drinking situations, but most of the friends I’m thinking of were and are basically happy and functional people. Rare binges aren’t exactly healthy, but they’re not automatic signs of a serious drinking problem or alcoholism, either.

  36. The Awe Ritual said:

    To me, at a gut level, it does feel like the sort of question a very-drunk person will fixate on. There is a small chance that DF may just have wanted to be told she was perceptive and brilliant, because there’s a school of thought out there that everyone has some terrible secret sadness, small or large, that they are hiding and sucking up and dealing with.

  37. Wayne Harder said:

    I’m kind of confused why LW isn’t more concerned about her friend? Obviously something is going on in that person’s life, my take is that she’s asking “Are you okay?” in order to get LW to reciprocate.
    I don’t know, honestly, LW comes off as a bit uncaring in this story.

    • Well, in LW’s shoes I think I might feel like I’d already tried really hard to meet Friend’s needs, dropping everything, making childcare arrangements and heading out for Friend’s perfect afternoon of doing whatever she wanted. In which case I’d feel pretty exhausted by also having to divine secret meanings and do all the emotional work on Friend’s behalf. I appreciate it’s not easy for everyone to articulate emotional needs, but it’s also not easy to be on the receiving end of manipulative tactics like these. LW isn’t the sad-friend whisperer, she was doing her best. She doesn’t sound uncaring to me, she sounds pardonably exasperated.

      I dunno. I have been a sad friend many times, I have turned up to social things while Really Not Okay, and I have sometimes acted weird as a result. I wouldn’t ever think it was anyone else’s responsibility to notice and correctly interpret my weird behaviour. Even when I really wished they would. My inability to express my unhappiness was still fundamentally mine to overcome, not theirs. Of course good friends should make a good-faith effort to be kind and supportive. I just don’t think it’s uncaring to be confused and annoyed when someone uses extremely indirect tactics to elicit support – especially in this case, where Friend has also made a large number of *direct* requests and had everyone bend over backwards to please her.

    • People don’t have infinite reserves of caring, is the problem. LW cared enough to make elaborate arrangements so that she could take a whole day to support her friend in need. The friend acted more concerned about LW’s okayness (for no reason) than grateful.

      The friend may have been asking in a bid for reciprocity, but even if that’s the case, it’s not going to be intuitively obvious to everyone.

  38. He then asked me if I’d like to “come suck his . So I hung up. Really wish there was some way to get these people to stop calling!

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