I have a dilemma here, and I’m writing to you because I am completely unsure of what to do about this.
I had a best friend in high school, let’s call her A, who happens to be several years younger than me. A and I were super close, close enough that we considered one another sisters. A started treating me like she treats her family, which meant she treated me horribly. After several incidents, including yelling at me in the middle of a store and sending me a nasty, profanity-laced email after I told her I couldn’t take her calls on vacation, just to name a few, I told A that I needed to step back from the friendship. A few months later, another blow-up ensued, and the friendship effectively ended.
Fast forward three years, and I’ve moved on from A’s friendship. I’m in college, 21, and am graduating in December, while A is finishing high school just now, so we’ve been in completely different worlds. Although I missed having a best friend, I really did not miss her, and now that I’ve got an entirely new set of friends, including a new best friend, I realized what a toxic friendship I had with A. Our families are close, so I’ve seen A since the end of the friendship, and she either ignores me or doesn’t treat me kindly, even though I try my best to treat her kindly. Basically, A hasn’t shown any interest in becoming friends again, and I really have no interest in being her friend again either.
Here’s where my problem is: A is having a graduation party. From what I understand, A does not have many friends, so her parents are basically planning a small gathering with mostly adult friends and family. My parents, my younger brother, and I are all invited. My mother says she definitely plans on going, and when she talked to me about it, she basically said that while she will not force me to go, I should consider going (or, in mom-speak, “You need to go”). She said I would hurt the feelings of A and her parents (especially her mom, with whom I maintain a friendship, which is odd, yes) and that it might look bad to others if my mom attended and I did not. I pointed out that the invitation came from A’s mom, not from A, so I wasn’t even sure that A would want me there and am worried that I would create an awkward situation for both me and A on a day that she is supposed to be for her. Also, I’m not sure why I should go to a party for someone who pretends like I don’t exist or who treats me unkindly. My mom argued that I’m still hanging onto the past. I told her that was not the case; I’m evaluating the present, and what I see presently is that A is not a nice person. On the other hand, my mom is not wrong about A’s parents being hurt if I did not come.
I have zero idea about what to do about this situation. I know that if I didn’t go, A’s mom would be hurt, but at the same time, I’m not sure that A wants me there or that it wouldn’t just create an awkward situation. I need outside perspective on this.
And here it is, Sparkler: Along with your mom, Auntie SparkNotes (not to mention the principles of etiquette and decency) has to recommend that you go to this party.
And the primary reason why is actually right in your letter (albeit in the form of one of your attempted justifications for not-going.) Namely: This invitation is coming to you from the mother of the graduate, not the graduate herself, which makes your relationship (or lack thereof) with A pretty much irrelevant. This girl could be the reigning Queen Asshat of Toxic Turd Mountain, and you could be utterly justified in despising her, but it wouldn’t change the basic etiquette vis-a-vis invitations like this one. The party is being held to celebrate A, but it’s not actually A’s party; she’s not hosting this shindig, her mom is. If you snub this girl, her mother will be the one who feels it.
So, you’ll go—in the spirit of politeness, for the sake of your friendship with the person who invited you. You’re not showing up for A; you’re showing up for a family friend who’s proud of her kid.
With that said, there is good news. For one, showing up is just that: showing up. You don’t have to make nice with A, or even make conversation; a polite “Congrats” to the guest of honor will do fine, after which you can retire to a corner with a nice glass of rosé and some finger sandwiches and make chitchat with other guests. Plus, you don’t have to stay the whole time; just be there, and be seen, and then ghost after an hour or two. (Pro tip: Come in your own car, and you can leave so quietly that nobody will even notice.)
And finally, a little parting advice: Make your peace with this now, sweet pea, because this particular brand of sucking-it-up is something you’ll be doing a lot of as you transition into adulthood. Sometimes, you just gotta show up: to celebrate the graduation of a beloved friend’s bratty child, to dance at your friend’s wedding even though she’s marrying a troglodyte, to sing happy birthday to a shrieking two year-old who will neither care nor remember who was there to watch him throw cake at the wall. And yes, sometimes it’s awkward, and yes, sometimes we’d rather do anything else. But while you may not look forward to the awkward conversation or the annoying party, I can promise you this: you will always look back and be glad for the times that you were there for someone you love.
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