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Guilty Pleasure

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 10/30/2002

My best friend is getting married, and I don't know what to do. The guy she's marrying is great, but the thing is, when they first started dating and hadn't gotten serious yet, he and I went out one night. We didn't plan for it to be a romantic occasion, because he was dating my friend, but we had a really good time, laughed a lot, had a couple of drinks, and, well, one thing almost led to another. Fortunately, we realized in time we were entering dangerous territory and stopped before we ended up in bed. The next time we saw each other we were both pretty embarrassed and we knew there was nothing between us, so we tacitly agreed never to mention it. Since then I've spent time with both of them, and it's been fine. But now that they're getting married I'm starting to feel guilty. It was so long ago that it might not even matter to her, but I hate keeping secrets from my friend. At the same time, I don't want to mess up either our friendship or her romance. Should I tell her? I was going to ask him what I should do, but then I thought it might be better to ask you.

Secrets and Lies

Dear Secrets:
Smart girl! Asking me is always a better idea. That being said, are you nuts? What possible good could come from telling her? It would be like dropping an anvil on her head to cure your hangnail. Sure, you'd feel better--for a minute--but think what it could do to her. This is one of those times when honesty would equal stupidity, if not real cruelty.

By which I mean, and you might want to think about this for a nice long minute, it could be that you're just a wee bit jealous and, subconsciously, you wouldn't mind tipping your best friend off her happy cloud. With a little imagination you could work this up into a pretty good scene: your weepy confession, accompanied by vigorous denials of any real wrongdoing and heartfelt declarations of your lifelong devotion. Close-up on her face: doubt, hurt, and confusion clouding her once serene countenance. Soap opera fans live for this shit.

Look, even if your intentions are totally honorable, don't tell her. You and he almost made a mistake several years ago, but you didn't, and, since there is nothing to tell, telling would just turn a nothing into a something. Believe me, on a scale of one to 10 of the horrible things human beings do to each other, with torture and murder being at the top, this ranks about a one and a half to a two. If, however, you still need some sort of punishment to feel truly absolved, consider keeping this secret your perpetual penance.

My husband and I have twin 2-year-olds. We are not the kind of parents who think that the world revolves around our perfect offspring. We love them unconditionally, of course, but watching them is a full-time job, especially in other people's homes. So, when a childless couple recently invited us all to visit, I warned them of the need to childproof and asked them please to put everything breakable out of the kids' reach. Well, our friends decided that our kids should honor the "don't touch" rule, so they deliberately left everything out. Well, we were as vigilant as we could be, but, inevitably, a valuable piece of art glass got knocked over and shattered, bringing our visit to an abrupt and tearful end. My question is: Should we pay for the piece? At the time our friends said not to worry about it; it was insured. My husband says it's their fault and we shouldn't have to pay, but I think we should at least offer to pay the deductible. Am I feeling overly responsible?

Mommy of Two

Dear Mommy:
There are a couple of ways to go here. On the one hand, your child broke something valuable, so politeness would seem to demand that you offer to pay. On the other hand, your friends showed an appalling lack of sense and judgment, as well as a near-criminal negligence, in allowing a glass object to shatter so dangerously near your small children. While we do expect parents to teach their kids respect for other people's stuff, it is as stupid as it is arrogant to expect toddlers to behave at all times like perfect little ladies and gentlemen.

Your friends were obviously not prepared for the reality of your visit. Nor, in fact, were you. In hindsight you realize the dangers--both to your kids and to your friends' valuables--of not refusing to enter the house until it was safe. It would have been awkward, but you could have said something along the lines of how impossible it would be to relax and focus on your friends if you had to be constantly worried about their things. But because none of you really took full responsibility for preventing the accident (and you are all damned lucky no one was hurt), it is fair that you share the responsibility for the damage. Offer to pay half the deductible and agree that, until the kids are a little older and have a better grasp of the other-people's-stuff concept, all future visits that include the kids should either be at your home or at a child-friendly public place.

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