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Mrs. Ex

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 8/22/2001

I'm planning to get married

in a few months to a wonderful man. It's the second time around for both of us, but his divorce was more recent. He tells me it wasn't much of a marriage, that they were more friends than lovers, but he still talks about his ex-wife a lot, even after I told him I don't want to hear it. Actually, he still talks to her a lot, and last week he told me that she thinks it's too soon for him to get married again. I'm just furious because I don't think it's any of her business, and I wish he'd just stop discussing our plans with her. Am I right?

Fuming Fiancée

Dear Fiancée:
Of course you're angry. Your future doesn't include her, so she should just keep her big nose out of it. Unfortunately, it doesn't make much difference because, although it's technically none of her business, the way it stands right now she's right. This wonderful man may have taken off his first wedding ring, but he forgot to untie the apron strings while he was at it. Legal divorce or not, if he's still talking to her that intimately, he hasn't really left her. Which could mean that if you go through with the wedding, you'd be sort of marrying them both. Eeuw.

You know, it's great when formerly married folks stay friendly, and examining former relationships can help us to avoid repeating mistakes, but your man needs to set his priorities. If you're not more important to him than his ex, your marriage has about as much chance of success as I have of becoming the Republican Party's next presidential candidate. Normally I advise against ultimatums, but you need to make it clear that if he wants to keep you in the foreground he has to put her in the background. Tell him that maybe after you're married she can socialize occasionally with both of you, but that in the meantime his focus should be on you and your future, not her and their past.

A good friend of mine got into a jam a while ago, and I lent her a couple of hundred dollars. I never asked her for the money back because I knew things were really tough for her. Then she asked to borrow some more money to help her start a small business venture. She said she was sure she could pay me back all the money she owed me in just a few months. Then she disappeared. I mean, she's still around, but I never see or hear from her. I called a few times, not even to ask about the money, but she was always too busy to talk. Then I heard from a mutual friend that she just spent two weeks on vacation in Hawaii. Needless to say, I haven't seen a cent of the money she owes me. What should I do?

Bummed Out

Dear Bummed:
It's one of life's ugliest little ironies, but most of the time it's no kindness to lend money to friends. We may see our openhandedness as a proof of friendship, but as soon as the borrower's immediate relief wears off all she can see when she looks at us is her big fat IOU. If she can't repay the money right away, this sense of obligation quickly becomes intolerable, she begins to dread seeing us, dread becomes resentment, and ultimately we become the enemy. At the same time, we're uncomfortable asking for the money back because we feel we shouldn't have to, we're confused by her unavailability, and eventually her indifference and ingratitude really begin to piss us off. Thus, what started out as a good deed spirals down on both sides into anger, bitterness, and a busted-up friendship. Not to mention we never see our money again. This isn't inevitable--some people are entirely scrupulous about repaying loans--but, sadly, it's more the rule than the exception. What especially sucks about this is that it can make us so bloody paranoid about money and favors that we can't enjoy the normal give and take among friends without keeping score.

Since your money and your friend may both be gone for good, you have nothing lose by being aggressive. If you want the money back and were savvy enough to avoid the there's-no-need-for-paperwork-between-friends syndrome, and got receipts for your loans, you could try small-claims court. There's no guarantee you'll collect even if you win, but you'd at least have the satisfaction of costing her embarrassment and inconvenience. If you care more about the friendship than the money, you could try telling her so and offering some sort of barter. Having her give you something she values in payment of the loan could eliminate her sense of obligation and put you back on level ground in a way that just making her a gift of the money wouldn't. If you're lucky she'll go for it, and then maybe you can be friends again. Otherwise, you're just going to have to add this to your list of sadder-but-wiser life experiences, knowing that if the impulse to lend hits you again you'll be careful to get receipts and work out a timetable for repayment in advance, and write this whole mess off as a sad, bad loss.

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