DAME’s Friendkeeper saves a woman from insulting her writer friend and helps another just say no to party overload.
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A friend of mine has a new novel out this fall. Because I have loved all of her previous books, I made sure to get an advance copy so I could read it free of hype and trust my own judgment. To my tremendous surprise, I was incredibly disappointed with the book: flat, unmemorable characters, a vague setting, a general lack of voice and verve that marked her earlier work. And yet I know it’s going to find a huge readership, maybe the biggest one she’s ever had, because of the subject matter and from other signals I can detect. I’m a little beside myself. My instinct is to keep my mouth shut, but am I a bad friend for choosing a lie of omission? Do I tell her of my disappointment because it’s better to be honest? And how do other people, especially authors, handle matters when their friends write books that suck?
Bad Friend in Brooklyn
I don’t think you’re a bad friend at all. You didn’t like the book, there’s nothing wrong with that. And the fact that you are concerned about hurting your friend’s feeling = a very good friend. The fact of the matter is that books, music, art are subjective to taste. And if you’re a writer, artist, designer, or musician you are most likely friends with other writers, artists, designers, or musicians and there are going to be books, paintings, designs, or albums of theirs that you aren’t going to like. The big question is what is your relationship like? Are you guys all, “Your ass looks fat in that skort,” and “Why did you do that to your hair?” I know some people are honest like that. I am not one of them. When my second book was in advanced readers copy format, someone very close to me told me he almost didn’t finish it because he didn’t like things about it so much. He suggested I go to my editor and try to change these things before it was published. I took his criticism in the spirit it was intended…that he was a jealous jerk and a stupidhead to boot. The book went on to be my most successful endeavor to date, which proves to me even more that he was wrong. Not wrong to think it sucked, wrong to tell me. I guess what I’m saying is if the friend was me, I would definitely not want to hear about your disappointment. I am not sure what the point in telling would be. It’s not as if she gave you manuscript pages and asked for your help, it’s pretty much done and other people—her editor and herself—think it’s good to go. I think a lie of omission when you’re protecting someone’s feelings is not a lie, it’s kind.
What’s up with the party creep? (And I’m not talking about my weird drunk uncle in the corner.) Why does every life milestone now have to be celebrated with multiple, multiple parties? A friend who’s turning 40 is having a brunch, karaoke night, theater outing—and that doesn’t even count what’s planned for her actual birth day. Another friend’s 11-year-old daughter is having two sleepovers and a surprise family dinner. And don’t even get me started on the friend whose son’s bar mitzvah next month involves a Friday night dinner, Saturday morning service, Saturday afternoon pool party, Saturday night sit-down dinner, and then Sunday brunch. I’m exhausted. It’s nearly impossible for me to be a good friend anymore unless I’m willing to surrender entire weekends to other people’s celebrations.
On the Road to Becoming a Party Pooper
I remember many years ago when I was debating having a big wedding, a wise woman advised me to celebrate everything you can. If she was alive today and read your letter, I am sure she would amend that to say, “Celebrate everything you can ONCE.” I guess it’s fair that people should be allowed to have as many birthday/graduation/facelift parties as they want, but on the same token it’s fair that you only need go to one. Of course Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are traditionally two-day events and of course Chanukah is eight days, and there is sometimes a rehearsal dinner with a wedding, and, you know, sometimes if people are coming from out of town they want to go to all 92 of the events. When your friend invites you to the third of her five events, tell her you’d love to but you need to start preparing for next year’s party. I wonder what it says about people that they feel the need to over-party. Are they not that happy with the rest of their lives? Do they feel generally undercelebrated? But I digress. I really feel that if a person wants to celebrate every day, they absolutely should, but you don’t have to be in audience.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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