Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My best friend and I live together in a house. We are both in our early 20s, but have different lifestyles. I am active, have a full-time job and serve on our local school board. My best friend helps his dad farm and in his spare time just likes to stay home and party. For the most part we make great roommates, but recently he has been drinking a lot. This past weekend he got so drunk that he was stumbling and tripping everywhere. He also has been inviting “questionable” people over. I am afraid he is becoming a bad alcoholic, as the drinking has been going on for quite a while and has recently become a real problem. I don’t want to kick him out because we are still best friends and I really care about him, but I also don’t know how long I can put up with this. I have tried speaking to him about his drinking and he just becomes upset with me. What should I do?
DEAR BEST FRIEND: First this: Understand that you may not be able to have a significant impact on your friend’s drinking. However, you have the right to live in a household that is peaceful and safe.
Secondly, it will help if you realize that your friend will definitely be upset with any suggestion that his drinking is a problem. Being upset and lashing out at those trying to help are two weak weapons that alcoholics use to deflect the impact of their drinking. So — stop caring if your friend gets upset. Simply expect it.
The next time he is drunk and crashing around the house, capture some of his behavior on video.
Then, during a sober moment when you think he might be able to pay attention, send or show the video to him and say, “Dude — this is you.”
You should tell your friend that you really care about him, but you don’t want to live like this. If his behavior is extremely disruptive or dangerous, you shouldn’t live together. Best friends tell one another the truth, even when the truth is very hard to hear.
DEAR AMY: Our 10-year-old daughter has been taking piano lessons since she was five. She’s quite good, but to say she hates it would be the understatement of the year. She protests every time we ask her to practice, openly tells us she doesn’t want to play anymore and is now beginning to give her piano teacher a hard time. She has started playing the flute in school and seems to have taken to it quite easily (thanks to her ability to understand music due to five years of piano playing). She’s a straight-A student, is on a competitive gymnastics team and is an otherwise near-perfect child. We feel that knowing how to play music will benefit her greatly down the road. Seriously, she literally kicks and screams over playing, but then I envision her as an adult one day thanking us for making her play. How long should we make her keep taking piano lessons?
DEAR DAD: I shared your question with Alexandra Scott, a professional musician in New Orleans, who teaches piano to children your daughter’s age.
Here’s her reply: “Let her stop. If she’s had five years of piano, she’s developed a solid understanding of the instrument and probably of basic theory that will serve her well in later life. Clearly she likes music, since she wants to play the flute; but forcing her to play an instrument she doesn’t want to play could easily make her turn away from music altogether.
“I’m also a strong believer in the power of giving someone some space, which is to say, with a few months or a year off from piano lessons, she might actually find that she misses them and wants to play again. BUT if she doesn’t, I’d strongly encourage you to allow her to follow her choice.”
My additional advice is that you see your daughter not as “near-perfect” but ”already-perfect,” just as she is.
DEAR AMY: “Recovering” is a private person who doesn’t want to explain her skin cancer scar to colleagues. Not wanting to explain a burn on my chin from a mishap with my hot electric curling iron, I responded to questions from the men I work with using this simple explanation: “I cut myself while shaving.” We had a laugh and this ended the queries.
DEAR RECOVERED: Great answer.