DAME’s Friendkeeper makes us feel better about being money-conscious and explains how to lay down house rules with a guest who’s worn out her welcome.
I’ve got a money question for you. I’m a freelancer. Financially speaking, I’m not destitute, but by no means am I balling. And since I never know when the checks will come in I try to be extra careful with what I’ve got. But one of my friends is making that hard. She has a very cushy corporate job and the big pay that goes with it. She’s always wanting to go out to dinner or go shopping or go on impromptu weekend getaways—do you know how expensive a Friday flight from New York to Maine is? VERY! I don’t care how delicious the seafood is—that I just can’t afford. She knows my situation, but when we do go out, she’ll pick an over-my-budget place and then insist we halve the bill. It’s embarrassing for me to have to keep telling her I can’t afford what she can, but it’s super stressful to keep quiet and keep up. Do I have to scale back on our friendship until I have the means to be more spendy? What if I never do?
This is a very common problem and you should not feel embarrassed. The fact is, it doesn’t really matter that you’re a freelancer and your friend is a hoo-haa. Very wealthy people eat leftovers, too. And many freelancers I know owe a gazillion dollars to Amex because they had to have these amazing Versace boots. People are allowed to choose how they spend their own money. However, the fact that your friend knows you’re watching your money and ignores it is a problem. It’s insensitive because people who have less money tend to feel embarrassed about it as it is, even though you chose to be a freelancer which is great, it means you have a special talent and you also get time to exercise and read my column! You should not be allowing her to choose the restaurants—if she continues to suggest expensive places over your protests, tell her this: “I have a budget. I have X amount of money for the week. If you want me to go here, I will have to eat cat food for the next six days. And not Wellness cat food, generic cat food.” You shouldn’t have to explain this more than once, if you do, than your problems with her are not about financial incompatibility.
I live by myself in a pretty cool city that out-of-towners love to visit. For the most part, this works out great for me. I get to see friends who are passing through and family members don’t mind coming to me. But lately my friend Sarah* is starting to feel less like a guest and more like the roommate I never wanted. Since she moved to a new city earlier this year, she treats my one-bedroom apartment like her pied-á-terre, coming to stay with me at least once a month (sometimes more—she’s even kept her same local therapist!) and often giving me only the slightest heads up (a “see you soon!!” text message is not enough). She now has a key thanks to my unpredictable work schedule, so I half expect to just find her digging through my closet for something to wear or helping herself to whatever’s in my fridge when I come home at night. The thing is, she’s not even coming to see me, she’s just coming cause she misses her life here and she’s using my home to fill that void. It’s not like I have a guest bedroom she can stay in. I’m constantly tripping over her air mattress and don’t even get me started on the hairballs she leaves in the shower. I love her, I do, and I’m a pretty easy-going hostess, but I just can’t with these constant takeovers. I’m one hairball away from changing the locks. Please help!
(Never) Home Alone
I have one word. No. And you said it…she’s not coming to see you, she’s using your place as a flophouse. Think about what you can handle, and set limits. Once a month seems like a lot to me, but maybe that’s okay with you. I would sit down at a table with her with your calendar and tell her it has to be planned in advance and this is what is okay for you and what isn’t. If you have trouble saying, “I need my own space,” tell her you’ve got other people coming. My aunt has a house in Montauk and people use it all the time so she posts a HOUSE RULES thing on her fridge—of course she has to redo it a lot because some crazy kid is always adding “9) Suck my dick.” But then you can just refer to the list. “Ahem, Number two clearly states that if you use up the ketchup, you must replace it!” I live in Manhattan and when I was in my youth, I dealt with this a lot. I had a studio apartment with a pullout couch, you actually had to go out into the hall to change your mind (wink) and I’m a little messy myself so the people who came thought, “Oh she’s messy, it’s fine if I just ball up my wet towel and leave it on her bed.” And guess what, no it was not! I know it happens to a lot of people—a friend of mine in Paris was constantly having unwanted visitors, one of our mutual friends was going to stay with her so she could see this exhibit and I suggested it would be a nice gesture to take her host to a lovely dinner as a thank you and she said, “Are you kidding? Do you know how much my plane ticket cost?” So you know, there are people who just don’t get it—or they don’t think about these things until you point them out. But you must! Because you’re walking around with a crick in your neck that I can feel from here, and my guess is she feels fine.
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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