Use compassion when you end a longtime friendship
Q: I have been friends with C for over 10 years. More and more, though, I have been getting irritated with her, bored, and generally unhappy when I deal with her. We've been growing apart for years, due to different life choices and viewpoints, and it's gotten to the point where it's a chore to see her. She doesn't have many friends, so she is clingy to the ones she does have.
We have arranged to spend the weekend together in another city within a few months, and have already made travel arrangements. So what should I do? Wait until after our trip is over, and then tell her I don't want to be friends anymore?
A: I hope the cruelty of your parting suggestion announced itself as you typed it.
If you can't make good on your promise to show up — and I mean showing up with everything you've got, including enthusiasm, ideas, goofy tourist maps and a mind open to the possibility of putting the friendship on new and better footing — then you cancel now, while there's time for her to find someone else or change the itinerary.
You pay her fees, too, as well as any lost deposits.
When you agreed to a trip you didn't really want to go on, you blew your chance to get out of this jail free. You didn't want the awkward moment, I get it. But there's a real person on the other end of all this, who is going to feel real pain because the nonconfrontational (read: easy) way out was more appealing to you than the compassionate one. It isn't about the outcome so much as it is your input now, and the critical input here is decency.
A good guest is willing to do what's needed and more
Q: I am going to visit a good friend across the country next month. We've been friends for years but this will be my first time visiting with her new baby. As a single gay man who's never spent a lot of time around young children, I want to make sure I am being a good guest. What sort of things should I do while I'm out there? Do I offer to go to the grocery store and to make dinner? Do I try to make plans alone so that she doesn't feel pressured to entertain me?
A: I hear soft weepings of joy all around me that a house guest like you exists.
Yes to both of your ideas, and more: Be willing to go out with her and the baby. Be patient while getting out to lunch takes an hour but lunch itself lasts 17 minutes. Be flexible — different babies make different demands on their moms, and different moms want different things from their friends. Be relaxed, too. You have the right it's-not-about-me frame of mind, so trust that.
Most of all, though, be yourself. There will be times to help and times to get out of the way, but at all times, she will be the same person you've known all these years. Sometimes the kindest thing an old friend can do is to keep on being that friend.