DAME’s Friendkeeper lays out how to ask a pal for a loan and has a woman weigh inconvenience against helping an acquaintance with cancer.
I’m in a bit of a quandary. I am in dire financial straits right now, and a friend of mine keeps offering to float me some money. But I really can’t bear to borrow from her. Not because she isn’t a wonderful person, because she is. But because I just can’t have that hanging over my head. I have this weird thing about it, I dunno. I feel like it could ruin a friendship, like worse than sex. So I’ve said no about four or five times. Only now that I’ve been out of work for five months, and with few prospects and so little left in my savings account, I’m kind of desperate. Do I crawl back to her and ask, “Can I have that money now?” What if I can’t pay it back for a while? What do I do? I’m seriously losing sleep over it. I am 45, too old to move back in with my parents.
I’m a Loser, Baby
You are 100 percent right to feel the way you do. There are a lot of strings attached to borrowing money from friends that are different than, say, borrowing money from your family or someone you’re sleeping with. It’s definitely a last resort (or maybe the last resort is the guy who breaks your thumbs for not paying him back). I believe that if your back is up against the wall and you have no choice, then there is a way to do it.
You’re going to have to have (to borrow a phrase from the guy who breaks your thumbs) a “sit down” with your friend. Explain your situation and your concerns about doing it. Bring up the worst possible scenarios. What if you’re out of work for much longer than you expect to be? What if her situation changes and she needs the money back? How will you feel if the two of you go out for lunch and you’re spending her money on another glass of merlot? Really go there. Because having been in the financial shitter a bunch of times, I know that sometimes you think you’re at the lowest point you can possibly ever be at, only to look back on that point and think, Wow, it’s actually worse now. Talk the whole thing through as much as you can to make sure if you borrow the money, you both have your eyes open (and you’ll keep your thumbs intact).
I’ve got a friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Well, “friend” is kind of a stretch. She’s more of a friendly acquaintance. But when I ran into her at a party and she told me of her diagnosis I felt terrible. I asked if there was any way I could help and she said she needed rides to and from chemotherapy, which I told her I’d be happy to give her. At the risk of sounding like a total asshole, I’m kind of regretting this. Right now she has chemo twice a week, but the appointment times keep changing and she usually doesn’t notify me till the morning of. I’ve got a day job and while my office is relatively flexible, springing these outings on my boss is wearing thin. And, I’m afraid this sentiment makes me a monster, but I feel like she doesn’t at all appreciate the time I’m taking out of my day to do this. When I offered to give her a ride, I didn’t know it would be a twice-weekly thing and if she was a very close friend, it would be an entirely different situation. She’s lovely, but I don’t think our friendship matches this level of commitment. But I can’t possibly tell a cancer patient to find her own damn ride to treatment can I? Especially if I want to salvage the relationship we do have. She doesn’t seem to have many close friends, at least ones willing or able to help her in this way. Can I renege on this arrangement without looking like a total jerk?
The Longest Ride
There have been a few times in my life, and I’m sure there will be more, where I’ve been *called upon* to help someone going through some crisis, and it’s rarely someone very close to me. I was in California at a big book event and met a writer who turned out to live very near me in NYC. It also turned out her dad was dying of cancer and she had a new puppy that she had to find a place for while she went to be with her father. It felt so good for me to be able to say, “I can do that.” It made a big difference in her life at a time when she didn’t need to deal with one more thing. It would be fairly easy for you get out of this—it’s more of a pain than you thought, your boss is getting rattled. But chemo is a limited time. It’s not an endless venture. I see no reason why you can’t explain to her that you need to know as soon as she schedules her appointments. You do have responsibilities at your job. Also, is there someone else who can help you out on days that you are too busy? I can’t imagine someone saying no to that.
Your initial response was good hearted and kind. The thing is, when you look back on your life, you’ll never say, “Damn, I wish I hadn’t driven that friend to chemo, it really was inconvenient.”
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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