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August 22, 2013 2:33 PM   Subscribe

How to politely react to your friend's terrible engagement! (Without lying) (SLYT)
posted by wreckingball (141 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had to watch the video because your tag said "mediumracist" but now I get it and I think it's pretty funny (and not racist).
posted by jessamyn at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you invest in a sound recordist.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:48 PM on August 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've done all of that and the z-snap.
posted by dabitch at 2:48 PM on August 22, 2013


You know that line "speak now, or from this day forward..."

Hmm. Well, I guess it can wait a day or two.
posted by ocschwar at 2:52 PM on August 22, 2013


That was great. It needed to end, though, with "You guys are so sweet.....will you be my bridesmaids?!?" Cliffhanger!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:53 PM on August 22, 2013 [30 favorites]


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you invest in a sound recordist.

I don't know, I'm pretty sure I've met sound recordists whose favourite book is The Fountainhead and use "feminist" as an insult.
posted by wreckingball at 2:53 PM on August 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Nodding approval. Lately, with friends in weird relationships getting engaged, taking mediocre job offers, etc., I've been responding, with a bit of a lilt, "So, how do you feel?!?" It's been working well to deflect my usual, unhideable whiskey-tango-foxtrot reaction. Highly recommend.
posted by mochapickle at 2:53 PM on August 22, 2013 [43 favorites]


Friend of mine saw this and is having an existential crisis because it's exactly how her girlfriends reacted (and yeah, her husband is terrible), so you know it's authentic.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:57 PM on August 22, 2013 [91 favorites]


GESTURES AND SOUNDS! GESTURES AND SOUNDS!!
posted by scody at 3:01 PM on August 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


As long as that piece of shit is making you happy, I'm happy!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:03 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, I am SO glad he's the right one for you. We never thought there would be ANY right one for him!
posted by Samizdata at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to watch the vest-tugging gesture at 0:48 on a loop forever.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:09 PM on August 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


Greg Nog: "I want to watch the vest-tugging gesture at 0:48 on a loop forever."

Seconded.

Also, he has an Ayn Rand g-string? Really?
posted by Samizdata at 3:11 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


See - I'm all for truth. The whole line about Fountainhead? STRAIGHT UP SAY IT YO!

(I did something similar when someone gave my then partner an Ayn Rand reader for a Christmas present. My response "Who the FUCK gave her an Ayn Rand book???" I felt bad because it was her mom who is usually all liberal and stuff, but I guess just didn't know better, but... no excuses. ever.)
posted by symbioid at 3:15 PM on August 22, 2013


This is nothing - try "how to react when your theater friend was just in a show that sucked".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:22 PM on August 22, 2013 [38 favorites]


My wife once responded to a friend who was having a baby with a man not the dad of her three year old: What an amazing family you will have! I thought this both true and kind.
posted by shothotbot at 3:30 PM on August 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


This is nothing - try "how to react when your theater friend was just in a show that sucked".

I just quote Walter Matthau when he was invited to the premiere of a Jack Lemmon film that was terrible. When it was over, he leaned over and said "Can you get out of it?"

Or Chevy Chase's call to Paul Shaffer after the premiere of "A Year at the Top": "Paul, we have always liked and respected you, and we want you to know we still like you."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:38 PM on August 22, 2013 [28 favorites]


This is nothing - try "how to react when your theater friend was

" you didn't screw up once!"
posted by The Whelk at 3:43 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


"how to react when your theater friend was just in a show that sucked".

This one's easy - you just tell them everyone else in the show sucked, but they were totally brilliant, far outshining them all. It's what they want to hear anyhow.
posted by Miko at 3:44 PM on August 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


You people are far better friends to theater people than I am.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:45 PM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am on my phone and was going to wait until home to watch this, but Ayn Rand g-string you say?
posted by corb at 3:50 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


...Okay, while I feel totally cheated on lack of Ayn Rand g-string, I am forced to say that this is uncomfortably close to how I react to all of my friend's terrible engagements. I hope none of them watch this video, but it is amazing!
posted by corb at 3:54 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]



Ha ha. I've had to do this. The guy was awful. I just couldn't get the word congratulations to come out. She was so happy. I think my response was something along the lines of 'Omg. That's amazing,' followed by 'sounds and gestures.'

(They never got married. He cheated on her which was bad and good at the same time. )
posted by Jalliah at 3:55 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


how to react when your theater friend was just in a show that sucked

"That was really something!"
posted by scody at 3:56 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


The "state the facts" tip is some pro-level tactfulness that applies to a lot of awkward situations.
posted by straight at 3:58 PM on August 22, 2013 [41 favorites]


What a baby!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:58 PM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


"That was really something!"

I would add, "So now that it's over you wanna go get a drink to celebrate?"
posted by Jalliah at 3:59 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


" what was the director thinking , they totally used you wrong!"

"But he's my best friend..."

"Let me buy you drink, you where great!"
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on August 22, 2013


What about attending a gallery opening of a friend's work that isn't very good.

" you must be so overwhelmed right now!"
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


See, if people had broken it down into pieces like this for me, instead of just getting offended and saying "Jeez, have you ever heard of the word 'tact'?!" and stomping away, I would have... a lot more friends. A lot more friends who make terrible life choices, but maybe I wouldn't be so lonely.

State the facts! *scribbles in notebook*
posted by Mizu at 4:02 PM on August 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you invest in a sound recordist.

Are you sure it isn't just that the person in the glasses just doesn't project her voice? At all?

Nodding approval. Lately, with friends in weird relationships getting engaged, taking mediocre job offers, etc., I've been responding, with a bit of a lilt, "So, how do you feel?!?" It's been working well to deflect my usual, unhideable whiskey-tango-foxtrot reaction. Highly recommend.

HA! My sister is a pro at this.
posted by gjc at 4:04 PM on August 22, 2013


Is there one for How to React To Your Friend's Shitty Band?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:05 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually use "State the Facts" and "Focus on trivial details" for a lot more situations than engagements. They are very, very useful. Don't forget to add a helping of "You must be so excited!!"
posted by corb at 4:06 PM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


What about attending a gallery opening of a friend's work that isn't very good.

Okay now this one I've got:

"The way you've used color in this is so unique to you!"
"Making this must have been a process; do you want to tell me about it?"
"You really took advantage of this space!"
posted by Mizu at 4:06 PM on August 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


" the light in here is really working!"

It's good because it's not falsifiable
posted by The Whelk at 4:08 PM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Greg Nog: "I want to watch the vest-tugging gesture at 0:48 on a loop forever."

Seconded."


That's Sasheer and she's wonderful!
posted by Eideteker at 4:09 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is there one for How to React To Your Friend's Shitty Band?

"You guys were great, but I think the sound guy really fucked up the mix" always worked for me. Unless the sound guy worked for them, then maybe try it anyway.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:11 PM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


That was hilarious.
posted by rtha at 4:13 PM on August 22, 2013



My sisters response to my engagement was completely without tact. It happened really quick and when they got the phonecall they didn't even know I was seeing anyone.

Me: "So I have some surprising news. I met this guy and we're getting married.

Sister 1: Big lengthy silence. "Are you kidding? Are you pregnant or something? " Who is this guy? Why is he marrying you!

Sister 2. Big lengthy pause. "What the fuck? You're joking right?"

Me: No I'm serious.

Sister 2. "What the hell Jalli. Please tell me you're not pregnant."

Me : No I'm not.

Sister 2. You better not be lying to me. Fuck. What the hell? Are you sure you're not pregnant?


Ah sisters. Love 'em. We have good laughs about this now.
"
posted by Jalliah at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mizu: "What about attending a gallery opening of a friend's work that isn't very good.

Okay now this one I've got:

"The way you've used color in this is so unique to you!"
"Making this must have been a process; do you want to tell me about it?"
"You really took advantage of this space!"
"

Don't forget: "These remind me of the solids in Uccello"
posted by chavenet at 4:21 PM on August 22, 2013


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."
posted by The Whelk at 4:24 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What about attending a gallery opening of a friend's work that isn't very good.

Point at a random area of one piece in particular while making a circular gesture (GESTURES AND SOUNDS!) with your arm. "This is an interesting passage right here."
posted by scody at 4:24 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


The line I cribbed from a friend: "You must be so excited!"
posted by suetanvil at 4:24 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I want to watch the vest-tugging gesture at 0:48 yt on a loop forever.

I'm partial to her take on Gestures and Sound myself.
posted by wreckingball at 4:26 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope no one I know in person watches this because I do those with everything. I also use 'Ah!'

There is nothing you can't avoid saying with the right inflection on the right monosyllable. Also 'My goodness!' is always safe, as long as your tone rises on the 'good'.
posted by winna at 4:31 PM on August 22, 2013


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

"It really made me think."
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:34 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


try "how to react when your theater friend was just in a show that sucked".

My girlfriend, who works in theater, told me about the Six Block Rule. You're not aloud to discuss the (de)merits of any show unless you're 6 blocks from the theater. If you're friend persists, tell them its bad luck, right up there with saying 'Macbeth'

What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

Tell them you can't wait for it to come out on Nook so you can read it.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:35 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of my favorite thing to say to friends who did a bad job onstage:

"That was so fun, you should have been in the audience!!"

(It usually takes long enough for them to figure it out that I can get away.)
posted by xingcat at 4:35 PM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

"I had no idea you had this in you"
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:37 PM on August 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

"That description of the bald cypress left me breathless!"
posted by 1367 at 4:38 PM on August 22, 2013


Subordinate I fired actually asked for a letter of recommendation. Sure. Why not? I wrote: "I can recommend this person with no qualifications whatsoever."
posted by hal9k at 4:45 PM on August 22, 2013 [28 favorites]


Congratulations, how wonderful!
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:02 PM on August 22, 2013


Friend's book SELF-published, asks what you thought.

The only way to win is not to play. Either leave town and never speak to them again, or gouge your own eyes out and pray that they don't splurge on a createspace.com braille edition.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:06 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."
Advanced. Forthright. Significant.
posted by bonaldi at 5:07 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend recently asked me how he should respond to news that somebody is having a baby when all he wants to say is, "that seems imprudent." We settled on "Good Luck!"

And as for the theatre thing, well... it's a little different from being in a band or having a gallery or what have you - it's collaborative and everyone involved generally has an idea where the show stands. In all of my years in theatre nothing was as appreciated as loving honesty.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:08 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now, THAT'S a baby!
posted by AJaffe at 5:14 PM on August 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


How to politely react to your friend's terrible engagement! (Without lying)

Yet without any actual honesty either. If friends can't be relied upon to tell you the harshest truths, especially about the big stuff, then they're not friends.
posted by troll at 5:18 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


perhaps, troll (heh)

But some situations require a gameplan in order to handle them most deftly.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:20 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If friends can't be relied upon to tell you the harshest truths, especially about the big stuff, then they're not friends.

I mean, the video wasn't talking, "He physically/emotionally abuses her" territory, or even "He's a chronic alcoholic who drinks away all his money" territory. The friends don't even give any particular reason why they wouldn't be happily married forever. Saying, "I just don't like your fiance" is not a harsh truth, it's a selfish one.

(Ok, the "medium racist" thing is borderline, but it's a comedy bit so I'll say it's on the "annoying but still generally socially acceptable" side of the line).
posted by muddgirl at 5:22 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I struggled when someone was excitedly gushing to me about their new tattoo when I honestly thought it was really badly done. It looked like it was drawn by a 10 year old. If I had a magical ring I would have disappeared.
posted by Daddy-O at 5:24 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ugh, my mother uses this sort of approach to "congratulate" me about anything I ever did, but is not subtle enough about what she's doing. Or, you know, I'm over-sensitive, or something.

"You got that job? Wow! You got that job! You'll be working for that company! That will be an experience." Or "You sewed those curtains yourself?! Look at those curtains! They are curtains that you sewed yourself! That's really something. You must like those colours."
posted by lollusc at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2013 [27 favorites]


I am usually pretty good at being happy for people and what they're excited about even when I'm not excited about it myself. At least I try to be. I will be your band's biggest fan or a promoter of your publishing venture or whatever. Even if I'm not that into it. Because you're my friend and I want to support you.

(Lately, when people have announced engagements --women and men! -- my first instinct is usually "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?" but I know that has absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.)

I get this in spirit if not really in actual practice (yes, I get it's a joke). I think you can absolutely be 100 percent supportive of people's choices while not really agreeing with them.

(Now if people are actually really terrible -- like abusive or whatever -- that's one thing. But if they're people you're just not into, that's another. Same if friends are writing poetry you don't dig or making boring indie rock or whatever.)
posted by darksong at 5:27 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Typically people aren't anywhere NEAR as good at this as they think they are, so I was totally skeptical.

I thoroughly lost it at MARRIAGE IS FOREVER.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:34 PM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've found that a good way to get out of awkward situations like these is to shit your pants.

It creates a new awkward situation requiring more immediate attention.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:38 PM on August 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is why we announced it to our friends via Facebook. I didn't want to see the look in my friends' eyes.
posted by aabbbiee at 5:39 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Holy crap. Do not watch this why trying to brush your teeth, esp w elec toothbrush.

That was waaaay funnier than I expected. I had no idea I already do this kind of stuff. I must be hella polite. "You must be so excited!!! (Sounds and gestures)" (Oh god are you serious is my face betraying my true feelings)
posted by sio42 at 5:53 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I struggled when someone was excitedly gushing to me about their new tattoo when I honestly thought it was really badly done. It looked like it was drawn by a 10 year old. If I had a magical ring I would have disappeared.

Oh, Lord. I told a friend I liked how her tattoo looked both like a tree and like she has blood poisoning.

This thread is making me realize there is something wrong with me.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:54 PM on August 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

A handy one, that's pretty in good in all these sorts of situations, is "What an accomplishment!" Or "you've really accomplished something here!" It doesn't render a value judgment, but it does recognize the work they've put in. At the same time, I generally do honestly feel this way about my friends' creative work. Completing something really is an accomplishment, whether or not it's fantastic on its own terms.
posted by Miko at 5:54 PM on August 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


I've probably used the 'tell people the same thing they just told you'. You must be so excited! This must be such a happy time for you!
posted by capricorn at 6:00 PM on August 22, 2013


Miko: A thousand times yes. Like with what I was saying about theatre: the acknowledgement of the effort put into something can mean more than a value judgment in a lot of cases.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:06 PM on August 22, 2013


And as for the theatre thing, well... it's a little different from being in a band or having a gallery or what have you - it's collaborative and everyone involved generally has an idea where the show stands.

Not necessarily -- look at Spiderman, and how hell-bent Julie Taymor was on keeping the mess of a script just the way she had it.

I'm reminded of something from college - I used to work for the graduate musical theater department in the office, and the students and faculty were invited to see a preview of Miss Saigon once, and the creators would then visit the university the following day for a sort of Master Class.

Because it was such early previews, there were a lot of problems with it. It was....bad. Like, early-stages-of-the-SPIDERMAN-show bad. And so they all came back from the theater realizing "holy shit they're going to be at our lecture tomorrow and they'll know we saw it and we're going to have to say something."

They told me that they all collectively decided that, if asked, they would say that the show was "stunning." Granted, what they meant was that it was stunning how bad it was, but they didn't need to know that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:09 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why we announced it to our friends via Facebook. I didn't want to see the look in my friends' eyes.

I used to scoff at announcing big news on Facebook, but then I got pregnant and the first few people I told personally asked, Was it planned??? Fuck y'all. Facebook it is. Give everyone time to type and re-type their reaction until all that's left is, OMG CONGRATS!!11
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:16 PM on August 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


From now on, I'm going to respond to "You must be so excited!" with "Well, bless your heart."
posted by grouse at 6:18 PM on August 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've always operated on the assumption that being friends with someone is implicitly endorsing them to the rest of the world that they are an OK person. And getting married to someone? A definite endorsement. If this lady was dating a racist and Ayn Rand fan, I would most likely not be friends with her to begin with just because of that. But if she announced her engagement? Wow, no. I'm done. What's the next step here? Attending their wedding? Inviting them to barbecues? Now I'm socially involved with this guy, and endorsing him too.

The insincere smiles and fake excitement allow the friends to do their social duty as supportive friends while maintaining their own moral and ethical standards in private. This is bullshit, it's just compromising on your ethics because you are afraid to upset people. That's not something to celebrate. Not only would I judge this woman for her husband's views, I judge her friends for their moral cowardice.

Today we have social norms where it is expected and encouraged to lie to your closest friends. Is it any wonder that we condemn whistleblowers and accept lying from our presidents and elected officials? They only want us to be happy, after all.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:34 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


My friends with terrible boyfriends usually got engaged before I had really met the guys in question. Maybe they knew me a little too well.
posted by emjaybee at 6:40 PM on August 22, 2013


Maybe they are all planning to friend-dump her by never returning her phone calls. Maybe that'll be the next how-to video.

Today we have social norms where it is expected and encouraged to lie to your closest friends.

Today? Basically always. They wrote whole etiquette books on how to politely lie to friends, family, and acquaintances.
posted by muddgirl at 6:40 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife, when an awful co-worker got an awful haircut:

"It suits you!"
posted by notsnot at 6:41 PM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


To your friend's shitty band:
"you look like you're having fun up there!"
We call seeing friends' bands "Obligation Rock."
posted by Saddy Dumpington at 6:43 PM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


I've always operated on the assumption that being friends with someone is implicitly endorsing them to the rest of the world that they are an OK person. And getting married to someone? A definite endorsement. If this lady was dating a racist and Ayn Rand fan, I would most likely not be friends with her to begin with just because of that. But if she announced her engagement? Wow, no. I'm done. What's the next step here? Attending their wedding? Inviting them to barbecues? Now I'm socially involved with this guy, and endorsing him too.



Did you happen to notice that this was a comedy piece? As in, comedy?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:43 PM on August 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


AlsoMike, it's hard to toss out a multi-decade friendship because your friend has terrible taste in partners. Have you never dated someone unsuitable, that your friends later told you they were concerned about? Perhaps you are a paragon of good judgement, but many of us have regrettable people in our dating histories. Usually, you hope your friends wise up before they marry the schlub; they hope the same for you.
posted by emjaybee at 6:44 PM on August 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


AlsoMike: "Today we have social norms where it is expected and encouraged to lie to your closest friends."

This is the way it's always been.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:44 PM on August 22, 2013


..oh and "How are you getting from the ceremony to the reception?" is a valid question.

I was groomsman to a couple that had a limo (coincidentally, the a/c broke, on the hottest day in April ever seen in this fair city) from the house, to the photo locations, to the ceremony/reception place...and then no way to get from the reception to the hotel.

I own a rustbucket two-seater, an unreliable 70 Impala, and a pickup. My wife has a Civic.

We wound up borrowing my mom's SUV and my wonderful wife cleaned it out while we were making toasts at the ceremony.

Details.
posted by notsnot at 6:45 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If friends can't be relied upon to tell you the harshest truths, especially about the big stuff, then they're not friends.

But surely if your friends are going to be honest about disliking your partner, they should have been honest for some time before the big announcement.

That is, by the time you're saying "Hey, I'm planning to marry that racist Ayn Rand enthusiast you all avoid most of the time!," you already know, either tacitly or explicitly, that your friends don't like him. They've had time to be frank before the engagement and will have time to be frank before the wedding. The moment of your announcement does not need to be a time for frank rejection of your happiness.

Ugh, my mother uses this sort of approach to "congratulate" me about anything I ever did, but is not subtle enough about what she's doing. Or, you know, I'm over-sensitive, or something.

My mother goes into disaster-maintenance/fault-finding mode immediately upon hearing any news, good or bad.

New job? That schedule sounds punishing.

Pregnant? I sure hope you don't have that awful chronic morning sickness.

New car? I hope the brakes work okay, sometimes they don't, you know.

Getting married to your beloved? Some venues are booked a year in advance and you can't get an outside caterer.

New puppy? Sometimes they POOP EVERYWHERE, and if your puppy hasn't POOPED EVERYWHERE, just give it time.

I'll tell ya who POOPS EVERYWHERE, Mom, and it isn't a puppy. I now give her explicit indications when news is happy and should be greeted happily or not at all. "Hey, Mom, I have some exciting and happy news! I'm [exciting thing]! I'm very happy."

If she starts with "Have you thought about how this will be [expensive/unpleasant/unhealthy/inconvenient/destined for failure]," I redirect her. "That isn't something you need to worry about, I just wanted to share my good news with you. I'm very happy. I'm sure you're happy for me." It works pretty well, actually.
posted by Elsa at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2013 [27 favorites]


I've always operated on the assumption that being friends with someone is implicitly endorsing them to the rest of the world that they are an OK person. And getting married to someone? A definite endorsement. If this lady was dating a racist and Ayn Rand fan, I would most likely not be friends with her to begin with just because of that. But if she announced her engagement? Wow, no. I'm done. What's the next step here? Attending their wedding? Inviting them to barbecues? Now I'm socially involved with this guy, and endorsing him too.

See, here's the thing, though.

I actually nearly had to do this when my bff got engaged, because I didn't like the guy. He was crude, he was brash, he was boorish. But she loved him, and I held my tongue. And then she got engaged, and I considered honesty - but I decided that, you know what, maybe she sees something in him that I don't, and I trust her, and I'm going to trust her in this decision as well, and I decided not to say anything.

And five years into their marriage I realized that I had been absolutely and completely and stunningly and totally wrong about him. He is a solid guy, he has worked his ass off for his family, he is crazy about her. And she about him.

And my deciding to hold back on my "honesty" meant that i didn't have to hurt one of the people I love because of my own mistake in judgement of someone I didn't know as well as she did.

So the moral is - it's not just you endorsing your friend to others, your friend is also endorsing the people they love to you. And sometimes you need to take it on faith that they know what they're doing - because it's sometimes possible that you are totally wrong about their schmoopie.


If the engagement or wedding gets broken up, of course, then you can let fly with both barrels.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:52 PM on August 22, 2013 [38 favorites]


I'll tell ya who POOPS EVERYWHERE, Mom, and it isn't a puppy.

bahahahaha

The best reason to be kind about a friend's engagement to a terrible person is not moral cowardice. It's because, when this thing tanks, you want your friend to trust you. You want her not to have turned away from you years before, and be ashamed to "come crawling back."

A secondary reason is, as EmpressCallipygos says, there may just be more to the fiance than you know. I have some wonderful friends that I wouldn't marry for all the tea in China, even if I'd been asked, but I happen to know that they make excellent wives or husbands in their own way.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:58 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have a couple of wonderful friends who have had absolutely horrible significant others and you can only say so much, because you can easily become the enemy no matter how right you are. All you can do is keep an eye out for abuse, be there to listen when needed, and be there to pick up the pieces when it hopefully ends.

I've learned this from all kinds of experience. Luckily for me, my childhood best friend is as prone to ignoring me as she is to making terrible decisions, so there was only a couple years that she wouldn't speak to me because I finally lost my temper with her useless husband. A different person might have dropped me and my "speaking truth to power in re: your idiot partner" for good before we got out of high school.
posted by padraigin at 7:09 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the engagement or wedding gets broken up, of course, then you can let fly with both barrels.

Wait long enough that you're sure it's over, though. Some relationships come back to life more improbably and often than the bad guy in a slasher pic.
posted by gingerest at 7:10 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


(a) This video reminds me of how much it sucks to be a girl.

(b) I would like to submit a response you can give to someone who wrote something bad, which I actually had said to me last night: "Well, it was good that you finished the assignment." Substitute "You wrote a book! How cool is that!" if necessary.

(c) The reason why you don't tell someone they are marrying an ass is that almost all of the time, your friend won't believe you or listen. They looooooove him. They want to be life partners with him and have him provide their precious babies and their clock is ticking. Meanwhile, you're just a friend, and you're expendable, and they tend to be all "love me, love him too" (it is kind of an endorsement, yes). There is no way in hell you can logically argue with a woman who is all, "But I looooooooooove him!"

Hence why we have these reactions. If the girl can't figure it out on her own, odds are she'll dump you for not adoring him as well, and it only makes things worse to object to the arse.

"All you can do is keep an eye out for abuse, be there to listen when needed, and be there to pick up the pieces when it hopefully ends."

Yup. If you get friend-dumped for dissing him, you won't be around for when it gets really bad and she needs help.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:12 PM on August 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


And sometimes you need to take it on faith that they know what they're doing - because it's sometimes possible that you are totally wrong about their schmoopie.

And even if you're not wrong, even if their schmoopie does turn out to have the ill qualities you saw in the beginning, your friend may see aspects of them that aren't apparent to others, or may appreciate aspects that you don't. I have a few friends with partners whom I can only politely tolerate (and I'm sure some of my friends' partners would say the same of me), but I am not the one partnered with them, so I don't have to love them. I just have to love my friend and be happy if s/he's happy.

> I'll tell ya who POOPS EVERYWHERE, Mom, and it isn't a puppy.

bahahahaha


I know she's doing it mostly because she wants to helpfully point out pitfalls or disincentives before the people she cares about commit themselves to long-term projects or relationships, but the effect is exasperating. I'm really glad I figured out that I can often short-circuit her knee-jerk unintended discouragement.
posted by Elsa at 7:14 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "I'm always honest and tell my friends exactly what I think" tends to lead quickly to being the one with no friends, especially regarding schmoopies because even more painful than admitting you got schmoopie with a schmuck is admitting all your friends were right about him/her and you wasted months/years of your life with them that you could've had back if you only listened.

Spoiler alert as someone who learned this lesson painfully over several years: Nobody ever listens or learns anything and they aren't appreciative if you point it out (don't point it out).

My mother goes into disaster-maintenance/fault-finding mode immediately upon hearing any news, good or bad.

My wife does this. We turned onto our street once and there was a late-model Mercedes convertible for sale on the corner. I said, "That'd be a neat summer car." I didn't stop to look at it. I didn't say we should buy it. I observed it would be a neat summer car. By the time we'd gotten home 5 minutes later it had escalated from "Well, how are we going to pay for it? Where are we going to park it?" to "You don't even know a good Mercedes mechanic! You don't even know if it runs!" It was pretty amazing, as far as dream-crushing negativity went.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:39 PM on August 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


People don't even want to hear that "you always thought" their SO was awful. Because they will want to know why you never spoke up. It's a horrible position to be in and if I could only have friends with excellent taste in romantic partners I would, but I have no idea how to vet for that.

So then you have to be all cagey. "Hmm, I thought it seemed like maybe he drank a bit, when I noticed the fort he built out of empty beer cases, but I had no idea it was to that extent, how frustrating for you! Have some ice cream!"
posted by padraigin at 7:44 PM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ghostride The Whip: "What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

"It really made me think."
"

All those pages... So much writing. It is SO amazing you stuck to it like that. I could never do that.
posted by Samizdata at 7:50 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

Unless it's the worst piece of dreck ever to hit a bookshelf (virutal or otherwise) there has to be something you can focus in on to compliment. Some detail. Some piece of dialogue. Some description. "It's called Fifty Shades of Grey? Great title!" "You have a real grasp of the heroine's inner state." "Awesome description of those handcuffs!" Then make your exit, quickly.
posted by jokeefe at 7:52 PM on August 22, 2013


I actually nearly had to do this when my bff got engaged, because I didn't like the guy. He was crude, he was brash, he was boorish.

If he wasn't a racist or a committed believer in the virtue of selfishness, I don't think the situation is really the same. I think it's very telling that we are sliding between very different sets of concerns. You're talking about a person's moral commitments (racism, radical self interest) that affect others as if they are matters of personal taste that everyone just pursues independently of everyone else. Yes, you probably shouldn't criticize your friend's fiancé just because you personally wouldn't make the same choice. What does that have to do with what I said?

Several people have claimed that we've always told pleasant lies to our friends. That's just not true. For a long time, we made ethical commitments and a supportive friend was one who helped you live up to them and told you when you were failing.
posted by AlsoMike at 8:04 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the engagement or wedding gets broken up, of course, then you can let fly with both barrels.

Wait long enough that you're sure it's over, though. Some relationships come back to life more improbably and often than the bad guy in a slasher pic.

Oh gods, this has happened to me. A friend of mine broken up with his long term girlfriend, who treated him like crap. And I, trying to be a good, supportive friend, unloaded about her with the full salvo. All her fault, not his fault, he was a horrible person anyway and he could do so, so much better...etc.

A year later, it slipped out that they had gotten back together and had been dating long distance for like, seven months, while I had been riding the hate train the whole time.

Then, I tried to fit my entire fist in my mouth. I almost managed it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:19 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's just not true. For a long time, we made ethical commitments and a supportive friend was one who helped you live up to them and told you when you were failing.

When was this?

I've always operated on the assumption that being friends with someone is implicitly endorsing them to the rest of the world that they are an OK person. And getting married to someone? A definite endorsement.

I'm really glad I've mostly gotten over this. It's not really possible to love people honestly if you're judging them. "Endorsing" them is judging them. I have friends who have made some really, really different life choices and moral choices than I have. I don't have to agree with all of their choices to be their friend. I know that's hard to take, when it feels like your own judgments are the most important ones, but in the end, I think we all need friends more than we need endorsements.

It's been a lifelong process, and I'm not done yet, but I'm glad I at least accept that being friends with someone doesn't mean I have to agree 100% with all of their positions and choices. Otherwise I think I would have about 0 friends, and so would most people.
posted by Miko at 8:22 PM on August 22, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yet without any actual honesty either. If friends can't be relied upon to tell you the harshest truths, especially about the big stuff, then they're not friends.

The time to tell your friend that their engagement is a terrible idea is not the day they announce their engagement. Getting engaged signals that you plan to get married, but there's usually a 6 month to year plus to work out if this is in fact a terrible idea and communicate that it is a terrible idea and why it is a terrible idea. But telling the friend that you hate their significant other the day they tell you they plan to get married? That's like getting a present from someone and immediately telling them that you'll never use it. It's tactless and hurtful and if you wait a little while, you can probably manage to say it in a subtler way.

The one time I had this happen to me, it was so obvious that it wouldn't last that I just gave my congratulations and waited the month and a half it took to fall apart.
posted by maryr at 8:36 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, how did that turn in to an AskMe response?
posted by maryr at 8:37 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, Lord. I told a friend I liked how her tattoo looked both like a tree and like she has blood poisoning.

This thread is making me realize there is something wrong with me.


Nah-some of us just aren't as concerned about tact. I was presented with a generic, ugly armband tattoo once, And I said "oh, what is it?" he said "it's tribal," so I asked "What tribe?"

EOC.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:39 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


As I said above

But surely if your friends are going to be honest about disliking your partner, they should have been honest for some time before the big announcement.

For example: I have a friend whose fiancé makes transphobic or sexist or otherwise improper and offensive jokes, then waves off objections with "I was kidding, take it easy!" and "Can't you take a joke?" She already knows I don't respect his values because she hears me speak up against them often.

Because I am consistently honest with him, I have not yet had to be brutally frank with her. She doesn't ask if I like or respect him because she can see from our interactions how I feel about him and how he feels about me. (I think he's a bigot; he thinks I'm a harsh killjoy.)

When they announced their engagement, however, was not the time to air my feelings. I have aired those feelings consistently before their engagement and since. The moment of their announcement, it was appropriate to say simple truths like "You're obviously very happy, you're glowing!" and "That's all very exciting!" Those are true things: they were very excited.

I don't want to add lies like "You're perfect for each other!" or "I think he's swell!" and I don't have to make a point of reminding her "Hey, I think this guy has some really awful, immoral qualities" as she is showing me her engagement ring*. She already knows I think that, and she hasn't forgotten.

*A metaphor: I don't wear diamonds, for a variety of moral and social reasons. But I'm not going to bring that up at the moment a friend excitedly shows me their new diamond ring.
posted by Elsa at 9:11 PM on August 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ok so I shared this video with my best friend, and she loved it. Minutes later she showed me a piece of furniture she had just bought that I thought was a bit odd, and the best I came up with at first was "that is a complicated [thing]!" (attempting to compliment her...furniture-assembling prowess? I don't know). Then I realized that having just watched this video she would certainly know what I was up to, so I overcompensated by gushing a lot about what a cute [thing] it was. Gah.
posted by naoko at 9:32 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I once congratulated a teenage friend of the family on her unplanned, ill-advised pregnancy because I knew she was happy about the baby despite the circumstances. She was six months pregnant at the time and said I was the first to actually congratulate her. That still makes me sad.
posted by cali at 9:57 PM on August 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I once congratulated a teenage friend of the family on her unplanned, ill-advised pregnancy because I knew she was happy about the baby despite the circumstances. She was six months pregnant at the time and said I was the first to actually congratulate her. That still makes me sad.

I knew I was an actual grown-up when my reaction to my friends telling me that they were pregnant changed from 'Hmmm. What are you going to do?' to 'Congrats!'. There was an edge case where I actually asked, 'So, are you happy about this?'
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:40 PM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is nothing - try "how to react when your theater friend was just in a show that sucked".

I just had to do this ON THIS VERY NIGHT! It was excruciating. I have no recollection of what I said - I think I blacked out.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 11:22 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


30 Rock has you covered:
Oh my god. You looked so beautiful.

The lighting was really neat.

Ethan and I both thought the programs were really easy to read.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:53 PM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


What about " friends book published, asks what you thought."

Oh wow, you're going to be the next E. L. James.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:19 AM on August 23, 2013


If friends can't be relied upon to tell you the harshest truths, especially about the big stuff, then they're not friends.

that's what's great about friends with no tact. they tell you what everyone is thinking but afraid to say. worth their weight in gold, if you ask me.
posted by camdan at 1:18 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tact is not lying.

That was the whole point.
posted by kyrademon at 2:28 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've always operated on the assumption that being friends with someone is implicitly endorsing them to the rest of the world that they are an OK person. And getting married to someone? A definite endorsement. If this lady was dating a racist and Ayn Rand fan, I would most likely not be friends with her to begin with just because of that. But if she announced her engagement? Wow, no. I'm done. What's the next step here? Attending their wedding? Inviting them to barbecues? Now I'm socially involved with this guy, and endorsing him too.

I say this quite genuinely: it is important to remember on these things that you are that person for someone else. Do you seriously think that someone's taste in books damns them as a human being? Then you had best hope there's no one out there that feels the same way, but happens to have different tastes in reading material.

I feel like it's one of those essential parts of growing up that you realize that people can be decent human beings and Wrong About Things. If you're saying you would drop a friend if they dated an Ayn Rand fan, your friendships must exist on some pretty shaky soil and in a sense completely outside of how most people define friendship.
posted by corb at 4:30 AM on August 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Corb, I think the implication is by dating a racist and Ayn Rand fan you are implicitly endorsing them, i.e. implicitly endorsing Ayn Rand and racism, i.e. you are totally OK with both of those things. AlsoMike is saying they would not be friends with someone who is totally cool with racism and Ayn Rand.
posted by schroedinger at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2013


I feel like it's one of those essential parts of growing up that you realize that people can be decent human beings and Wrong About Things.

I've spent quite a lot of time in bars, nightclubs and raves. Several times I've befriended or been befriended by guys who, at some point, tell me how they like to hit on drunk girls because they're easy, or that they try to get girls drunk because they put up less of a fight when they try to get them in bed. It doesn't matter how well I know them; from then on, I steer clear of them and keep my friends away from them. There was one guy who I considered a friend and even respected a lot, but I saw him cross a line into what I consider sexual predatory behavior, and I was done with him.

I know you guys are afraid that drawing lines like that will make people not like you. I have not found that to be the case. My friends appreciate that if I'm giving them a ride home, they won't be sharing a ride with a creep. They won't have to worry about finding themselves in a fist fight because some guy gets off on that kind of thing. That's because I treat my friendships as endorsements, and no friend of mine is going to be slipping GHB in their drink. And if you have a party, it won't end with the cops at their door because of one of my friends' drunken behavior, and none of your stuff will mysteriously have gone missing by the next morning.

Now, you're telling me that as you've grown up, you've gained the supposed wisdom of moral flexibility, and are now able to accept people making different moral choices without making it into a big thing. That doesn't strike me as mature or wise at all, it sounds to me like you'd turn a blind eye to a friends' sexual predatory behavior in the name of social harmony and because you're afraid people won't like you.

You're probably thinking, "Well I live in the suburbs! No one around here gets into fist fights and gets date raped." But it does happen, you just don't hear about it because you've created an atmosphere that prioritizes social harmony over morality. Talk of morality is excluded from your social world, it threatens to dissolve the group, so victims don't come forward, knowing that they will be punished for threatening the group by demanding a moral response.

If you're saying you would drop a friend if they dated an Ayn Rand fan, your friendships must exist on some pretty shaky soil and in a sense completely outside of how most people define friendship.

Isn't it interesting that you deleted the part where the friend was dating a racist? This type of conversation tends to follow a predictable route. One person says that you should draw moral lines, another person responds by saying "Oh I get it, you want to rip your friends a new one because you don't like their sweater? How immature!" There's a persistent effort to take moral questions (e.g. racism) and reframe them as issues of taste. Adhering to a Randian egoistic moral framework is understood as a personal taste in literature. Presumably date rape is a just weird personal quirk, and GHB an unusual aperitif.

The idea of friendship as containing a moral component is not as strange as you seem to think. It has a long history in the Western world. The French Renaissance writer Montaigne said "Those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship, for to undertake to wound and offend a man for his own good is to have a healthy love for him."

In Eva Illouz's book Why Love Hurts, she uses Jane Austen's Emma to illustrate a similarly different conception of love than today's mainstream:
The only person who loves Emma is also the only one to see her faults. To love someone is to look at them with wide-opened and knowing eyes. And, contrary to what we would expect today, such capacity for discernment (and awareness of another’s flaws) does not entail any ambivalent feeling toward Emma. On the contrary, [Emma's friend] Knightley’s own excellence of character makes him forgive her faults, discern (what will later prove to be) her own “excellence of mind,” and strive to improve her character with fervor and even passion. Understanding Emma’s faults is not incompatible with being thoroughly committed to her because both emanate from the same moral source. Knightley’s love itself is supremely moral not only because he makes the object of his love accountable to a moral code, but also because to love Emma is intertwined with the moral project of shaping her mind. When he looks at her anxiously, it is not lust that burns in him, but rather his desire to see her do the right thing. In this particular conception of love, it is not the unique originality of the person that we love, but rather the person’s capacity to stand for those values we – and others – revere. More interestingly: far from feeling humiliated or diminished by Knightley’s rebukes, Emma accepts them. In fact, we may speculate that she respects and loves Knightley precisely because he is the only one to hold her accountable to a moral code that transcends them both. So committed to this moral code is Emma that she accepts what we would call today the narcissistic wounds inflicted by Knightley and his challenge to her good opinion of her self, in the name of a definition of virtue that she shares with him. To be loved by Knightley is to be challenged by him and to rise to the challenge of upholding his and her own moral standards. To love another is to love the good in him and through him.
These values still exist—people still read Jane Austen—they just don't make up the dominant cultural narratives of friendship and relationships that get rehearsed on Metafilter. Your reminder that I should think about the fact that other people may find me morally lacking falls flat. You imply that I am hypocritical for judging others (for, let's not forget, being sexual predators) because you assume that I would hate to be judged myself. But that's a false assumption. I am like Emma in believing that being held to a moral code is a true act of friendship and love.
posted by AlsoMike at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now, you're telling me that as you've grown up, you've gained the supposed wisdom of moral flexibility, and are now able to accept people making different moral choices without making it into a big thing. That doesn't strike me as mature or wise at all, it sounds to me like you'd turn a blind eye to a friends' sexual predatory behavior in the name of social harmony and because you're afraid people won't like you.

No, it sounds like you are promoting a false equivalency between liking an author's books and rape.

I would never suffer a rapist in my friends circle, because I don't think rape is just Being Wrong About Things in the same way, say, taste in literature, or religious views, or politics are. Rape is one of those things generally accepted by most human beings, even ones who vehemently disagree with each other about other things, as a bad thing. However, yes, I believe that liking a book does not mean you necessarily must conform to every belief of an author. For example, I am quite fond of the Ender's Game book and its sequels. I also dislike Orson Scott Card's homophobia. Does liking the books make me a homophobe? Perhaps by your lights, but I don't think most people would share your views. Hell, even if someone walked around with a complete collection of Gor novels, it doesn't mean those are their personal views about humanity.

You are correct that being racist is, indeed, a moral question. However, loving someone racist is not, I would argue, a moral question. I think a lot of us have people we love, particularly older people, who also happen to be racist. Does it make us racists and thus beyond the pale because we still love them? No. In fact, in your own definition of what you think friendship is supposed to be, you cite loving criticism as important, not ostracism. People cannot change their views through ostracism - they can through loving friendship.
posted by corb at 6:53 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now, you're telling me that as you've grown up, you've gained the supposed wisdom of moral flexibility, and are now able to accept people making different moral choices without making it into a big thing. That doesn't strike me as mature or wise at all, it sounds to me like you'd turn a blind eye to a friends' sexual predatory behavior in the name of social harmony and because you're afraid people won't like you.

Well, yes. You've chosen a really extreme thing here that I think few people would disagree with you on. It is good that you don't support sexual predation.

At the same time, the generality of your statement - that having a friend means you endorse the friend and his/her views - goes much too far for me. I have plenty of friends who make different moral choices than I do. They vote differently, have different takes on parenting/punishment, have different takes on the ethics of consumption, sometimes have terrible taste and like things I hate that are bad in my view. In the end, these kinds of differences are not worth splitting friendships over. Part of letting go - understanding the boundaries between ourselves and others - is allowing people to make their choices, even when you disagree with them - and still being able to accept them as a friend. I have a good friend who used to date someone who's got a fairly noticeable racist streak. I made it clear to my friend that I don't like it, don't understand why he puts up with it, and don't want to be around it, and therefore I ended up no longer doing anything with them as a couple. That didn't change my friendship (despite my honesty), and it didn't change my friend's relationship (despite what I consider his callous indifference to this - there are other personality issues that made the relationship compelling for him despite its many flaws). In the end, the choice of who he dates is not mine to endorse. All I can control is what I am willing to do about it.

Of course there's a line there. Nothing in that requires you to be friends with a dangerous person, a sociopath, or an asshole. In fact, I am not friends with anyone like that. But for those people with whom I'm already friends, there's no social contract requiring me to blurt out my biased, blunt truth about the way I see them, their relationships, their career choices, their taste in fashion or anything else.

I happen to know a bit about Western culture and history. There is certainly a moral tradition in discussions about friendship. While that moral tradition sometimes includes holding friends accountable in serious moral choices, it also involves values of not inflicting needless hurt, knowing where one's life ends and another's begins, and holding one's tongue when no one has asked an opinion.

Also, I'm not the biggest fan of referencing novels to prove factual arguments about past social history. They are dramatizations, after all. "Moral codes" like the one referenced have varied with social class and culture - it's not like they always existed in the past, and then we hit the Great Decadence and now they're gone. They're part of the vicissitudes of social life. And even when there were more overt, courtly/religious social codes, it's also clear that people threw them over left and right when they felt like it.
posted by Miko at 6:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Now, you're telling me that as you've grown up, you've gained the supposed wisdom of moral flexibility, and are now able to accept people making different moral choices without making it into a big thing. That doesn't strike me as mature or wise at all, it sounds to me like you'd turn a blind eye to a friends' sexual predatory behavior in the name of social harmony and because you're afraid people won't like you.

I think your argument took a flying leap into a chasm between your first and second sentences, here. There's a big difference between "different moral choices" and "sexual predation" and it's a weird thing to elide over the full spectrum of those choices.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


AlsoMike, I think there is a difference between being friends with someone who is dating someone who likes Ayn Rand and a rapist. A big difference.

Why is it always with the rape comparisons around here? Jesus.
posted by grouse at 7:09 AM on August 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


For me, there is no all-or-nothing endorsement happening in my friendships. I have a friend whose partner is pretty damn proud of how many websites have banned them for trolling. I think trolling is wrong, but I am not going to kick my friendship to the curb because of my friend's partner's behavior in this case. Nor is *not* unfriending them an endorsement of their partner's behavior. Life is not so black and white.
posted by rtha at 7:58 AM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sort of relevant: It's OK to Not Like Things
posted by Miko at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Lately, when people have announced engagements --women and men! -- my first instinct is usually "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?" but I know that has absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.)

OMG Yes. I keep having this problem when people announce that they're pregnant. Whyowhyohjesuswhy....???!!! I hope I have schooled my face into something resembling at least neutrality before I launch into what I hope is a believable "CONGRATULATIONS!! YOU MUST BE SO HAPPY!"
posted by small_ruminant at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


If friends can't be relied upon to tell you the harshest truths, especially about the big stuff, then they're not friends.

Some of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned in my life came from making my own utterly spectacular mistakes. I was able to rebound from those mistakes as well as I have in part because I had the loving support of my friends and family who chose to judge me in silence rather than throwing things up in my face. I wish I was as good as that as they have been.

Some of my biggest regrets involve not being as supportive as I should have been. The result of those mistakes was hurting people I cared about sometimes to the extent of alienating them. Although I'm not perfect at it by any means, these days I try to just be supportive regardless of the situation and let them know I will always try and be there for them.
posted by Kimberly at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also, Eideteker, thanks for the link to Sasheer's page- I never would have known about her otherwise.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2013


Heh. This was pretty funny, but one of the best things about growing up in the midwest is that non-specific comments are the expected outcome of any of this. "Oh, so, that's a thing you're happy about, eh." "Oh, so, you'll enjoy a marrying then." Neither approval nor disapproval are ever given.
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 AM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Man Back with Woman his Best Friend Spent Week Criticizing

weird bonus - the inset picture is of my roommate of that time.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:41 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are correct that being racist is, indeed, a moral question. However, loving someone racist is not, I would argue, a moral question. I think a lot of us have people we love, particularly older people, who also happen to be racist. Does it make us racists and thus beyond the pale because we still love them? No. In fact, in your own definition of what you think friendship is supposed to be, you cite loving criticism as important, not ostracism. People cannot change their views through ostracism - they can through loving friendship.

I think there is an enormous difference between loving your racist old grandma and choosing to be friends with a racist who really ought to know better.
posted by naoko at 2:22 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


And another difference still between choosing to be friends with a friend of a racist.
posted by Miko at 3:38 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would never suffer a rapist in my friends circle, because I don't think rape is just Being Wrong About Things in the same way, say, taste in literature, or religious views, or politics are.

None of the people that I cut out of my social circle were rapists. They just expressed views (in one case, acted in a way) that took a more casual attitude toward consent than I am comfortable with. The reason I'm bringing it up is that after I did that, some people disagreed with me using the same logic of social harmony that I'm reading here. If you asked them in the abstract, they'd say the same thing as you are, that they'd never suffer a rapist in their circle of friends, and yet when it came down to it, they made excuses because they couldn't face the prospect of disrupting social cohesion.

So my experience of people who prioritize social harmony is that when push comes to shove, they stay silent and keep the peace rather than speaking out.

I've finally raised a situation where you claim you would take any kind of moral action at all, and that is an actual convicted rapist in your social circle. Anything short of that, you'd apply the principle of conformity to social expectations because that makes people happy. And maybe in that case, you would.

But for most people who spend years justifying moral inaction with those exact same conformist principles, they tend to say "Hey, what's one more compromise? Why not turn a blind eye just one more time?" In almost every whistleblower situation, there's one person who speaks out and dozens or even hundreds of people who knew, but said nothing. That's because, as so many people on this thread have pointed out, there are tremendous personal and professional benefits to doing what makes people happy. There are few benefits to blowing the whistle on unethical behavior. As a rule, whistleblowers destroy their own careers, their lives and often the lives of their family. It's not like employers are lining up with job offers because they're so impressed with how you betrayed your last employer for the public good.

I'm not advocating for everyone to sacrifice all of their future happiness for the greater good. I can see how that would be a lot to ask. I'm asking for something very modest: once in a while, show a little backbone — even just a little! Show some moral courage by standing up for something. It's not the end of the world if the conversation gets a bit awkward for 30 seconds. It's not the end of the world if not every single person you ever meet adores you. Maybe just once in your life ruin a Thanksgiving dinner.

Even this is apparently totally outrageous and unacceptable. So if you can't do it—if you literally refuse to sacrifice anything at all for your moral convictions—then here's an even more modest request. As I was alluding to with the case of whistleblowers, the behaviors you take pride in are very likely complicit in covering up a large number of grotesque moral catastrophes, so at least have the decency to not pat yourself on the back for self-interested moral cowardice and tell yourself it's tact.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:12 PM on August 23, 2013


I'm asking for something very modest: once in a while, show a little backbone — even just a little! Show some moral courage by standing up for something. It's not the end of the world if the conversation gets a bit awkward for 30 seconds.

The presumption that you are making that the people you are lecturing have never shown any backbone or moral courage in their lives is pretty breathtaking.
posted by scody at 4:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Agree. Whatever this is about, I don't really think it's about the moral courage of others. Rarely do I feel so wilfully misread and uncharitably interpreted. However, we're now in such flabby territory that it doesn't really matter. You're all phonies!
posted by Miko at 6:57 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


The presumption that you are making that the people you are lecturing have never shown any backbone or moral courage in their lives is pretty breathtaking

Particularly when you're ignoring the argument I've posed twice now in this thread: that if you disapprove of your friend's partner, the time to speak up --- either to your friend or to your friend's partner in the presence of your friend --- is before the engagement and after, repeatedly, consistently.

Unlike you (as you have described above), I don't walk away from friends the first time I realize that they have (what I firmly believe to be) moral failings. I often try to talk to them about their behavior or beliefs, try to find out why they think those acts or thoughts are okay, try to persuade them otherwise, or at the very least try to indicate that my social circle isn't a safe place for them to express or act upon those thoughts or beliefs. I don't walk away; I try to change them.

I could as easily say "Hey, AlsoMike, you should really SHOW SOME BACKBONE by letting your friends know why you think their actions are wrong, by going to bat for your beliefs and your values, by speaking up instead of just walking away, by trying to change their sickening behavior..."

But to make such a sweeping statement would be really presumptuous, because I don't know the complex moral tone of your interior life from an handful of remarks in a single thread --- and for that matter, a thread where you're either skipping or ignoring my arguments about why both walking away immediately or saving your objections for a putatively happy big announcement are both unproductive and unkind.

Engaging kindly and thoughtfully with one's friends about complex moral questions, especially when it's likely to make them hurt or angry or sad or resentful, especially when it threatens their day-to-day happiness as criticizing a lover does --- calls on deep reserves of moral courage and self-sacrifice and has the advantage of often changing people's minds and behavior. Have you tried it?
posted by Elsa at 7:01 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've had friends announce a terrible engagement to me, and also attended a book launch for book that wasn't very good, a movie premiere for a friend's movie that was pretty terrible, witnessed some untalented acting performances in theatre productions, and had friends push me to give my opinion on their (I thought) ugly new outfit, badly written novel, horrible craft, or some other questionable accomplishment. It's par for the course when you're an adult.

But I think the worst situation of this kind that I ever heard of was when my friend Muriel's book club invited the author of the book they'd just read to attend their discussion of it. It turned out none of them liked it. And that the antagonist in the book was named Muriel. Oops. Tactful as they tried to be (and Muriel told the author her names was Angela), the author picked up on it and acted more than a bit like a condescending ass, claiming her book was "a wake up call", that "there's this darkness out there and we need to fight it."
posted by orange swan at 7:23 PM on August 23, 2013


I'm asking for something very modest: once in a while, show a little backbone — even just a little! Show some moral courage by standing up for something.

I'm sorry, who the fuck are you? Have we met? Would you know anybody in this thread if you fell over them?

Your conflation of "people who don't want to harsh their friend's engagement announcement to a guy they think is kind of douchey" with "people who will let rapists frolic in their social circle" is both offensive and eye-rollingly simplistic.
posted by rtha at 9:29 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm not advocating for everyone to sacrifice all of their future happiness for the greater good. I can see how that would be a lot to ask. I'm asking for something very modest: once in a while, show a little backbone — even just a little!

I do hope you're not as pompous an ass to your friends as you are here, or you'll find out you're the one getting cut a lot out of friendships...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:27 AM on August 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Yeah, let's ease way back on the whole weird strawrapist thing; it's pretty far off the map in terms of what this post is about, and is becoming a kind of ranty derail. Expand this to not accusing people of including serial killers, child molesters, Hitler, etc. in their friends circle. ]
posted by taz at 12:32 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's an ugly baby?
"Look at those tiny, tiny hands!!!"
posted by bystander at 4:39 AM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about Hitler, but he's got a truck and always helps you move.
posted by klangklangston at 10:47 AM on August 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


"It's an ugly baby! Look at those tiny, tiny hands!!!"
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:51 AM on August 24, 2013


I'm glad I at least accept that being friends with someone doesn't mean I have to agree 100% with all of their positions and choices.

I don't read "Having people as my friends is endorsing them" (something which I agree with) as meaning "I therefore agree 100% with everything they say and do". I think it means that I am saying this is a person who I think is a good person, overall, and who I enjoy spending time with. And I think that yes, someone's friends say a fair bit about them, because it says what kind of people they think are worth spending time with, and that is an endorsement.
posted by jeather at 12:09 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since it all really hangs on what individuals mean by "endorse," and it's almost all framed in hypothetics, it's it's an utterly silly, flabby, sloppy debate and has been marked as a derail, so I'll decline to reply.
posted by Miko at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, now that that's settled, lets all break out into song, shall we? Now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end... ... hey, where's everyone going?
posted by dabitch at 12:33 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is where the party ends.
posted by Miko at 6:44 PM on August 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: ""It's an ugly baby! Look at those tiny, tiny hands!!!""

Those tiny, ugly hands.
posted by boo_radley at 7:55 AM on August 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just picturing the ask metafilter DTMFA brigade doing this video. IT WOULD BE SO AWESOME!
posted by srboisvert at 2:40 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


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