DEAR AMY: A few years ago, my partner and I, both artists, moved from Europe to the USA's West Coast. We already had close connections and friends in the States — a very nice circle of open-minded spirits. Other friends moved here from other big cities, and we quickly helped bring all the circles together through gatherings and art shows. A big falling-out happened with one of our closest longtime friends. This falling-out involved drugs, weapons and violence (on his part). We decided to completely sever ties and changed the locks of our doors and phone numbers. We felt unsafe and threatened, and because as aliens on U.S. soil, we couldn't afford to be brought into anything illegal, which would jeopardize our status. Our other friends are aware of the situation, and in conversation seem to understand us. We've never initiated discussions about this, nor gossiped about our friend, but his issues are well known and hard to miss, so our friends do talk about it. Despite all that, our friends keep inviting him and us to the same gatherings. We have been opting to NOT attend gatherings in order to avoid conflict, but we now feel alienated from our friends. We even feel that our buttons are being pushed. Not attending events separates us from everyone, including a lot of friends we introduced to each other. We have not been vocal about the reasons of our absence, because we do not want to gossip, nor ask to ban anyone, especially a troubled person, from attending. However, we do NOT want our lives or legal status endangered. Amy, how should we address this situation, when we feel like we are excluding ourselves from circles we helped bring together? We miss our friends.
DEAR LEFT ASIDE: One obvious thing you should do is to host events, inviting these overlapping circles of people who seem to mean so much to you, excluding the person you need to avoid.
You don't seem to have disclosed the reason you can't attend events where this other person is also invited — nor does anyone seem to have asked you. Obviously, if you are asked, you should tell the truth, without fear of being a gossip. You say that others are aware of this man's issues, but don't seem proportionally concerned about violence, drugs, and illegal activity.
Expanding your circle and inviting new and old friends and fellow artists might help all of you to make a social transition.
DEAR AMY: My friend and I work, and often go to lunch together. Her lunch break is between noon and 1 p.m. Lately, she has gotten into the habit of texting me at around 11:15, asking if I am available for lunch at 12! That is really cutting it annoyingly close for me! I need more advance notice so that I can plan my work accordingly. I don't want to tell my friend what she should do, but would rather use "I" sentences and let her know what MY needs are. How should I phrase my request for her to give me more advance notice?
DEAR D: This is not the makings of a friendship crisis. You merely need to use your voice, coupled by your actions, in order to retrain your friend to be more considerate of your time constraints.
If she asks you to join her and it is not convenient for you, you should say, "Bummer. I can't make it today. Unfortunately, most days I need more than a few minutes advance notice."
And then ... you simply decide not to turn yourself inside out in order to meet her immediate choices. And because she is your friend who wants to spend time with you, she will adjust.
DEAR AMY: Responding to the question posed by "Upset Neighbor," who wanted to report her neighbor for disability fraud, I worked for the Social Security Administration for 35 years. As you responded, Amy, this woman may have disabling conditions other than her injured back. Also, Social Security disability benefits are earned; had she not worked and paid into the system, she would not be eligible to collect these benefits. Supplemental Security Income is need-based. The Social Security Administration website no doubt would explain the differences in the two programs more comprehensively.
DEAR CONCERNED: Thank you. But, most importantly, this neighbor did not actually know that the neighbor was collecting anything. As I urged her, before reporting fraud, she had better get her facts straight.