DEAR CAROLYN: I am retired but my husband still works. What is the kindest way to tell my mateless friends to quit phoning me around dinner? I understand 5 p.m. is the time of day they can no longer ignore or pretend they are not alone and lonely, but I am always in a rush to get the remainder of my house picked up, myself looking presentable and dinner started. Letting messages go to voicemail is not working.
ANONYMOUS: Define "not working," then. If you don't want to talk to your friends at that time, then, um, the easiest possible solution is to let voicemail handle them and to call back at your convenience — this being why voicemail exists.
It's easiest not just because it involves doing nothing, but also because you control it entirely: You don't have to rely on them to stop doing something you dislike.
You didn't ask me about this part, but the all-my-mateless-friends-get-overwhelmed-by-the-emptiness-of-their-lives-just-as-I'm-Raquel-Welching*-myself-for-my-man thing is not a good look. Please do a humility check.
*Raquel is the Gen X version (Miss-Piggying works, too). For boomers, it would be Peggy-Lee-ing yourself. Millennial . . . ooh. Petunia-Dursleying.
DEAR CAROLYN: I am so (silent) screaming mad at my children's grandparents. It's an endless stream of demands that we spend our time, money and energy keeping up holiday "traditions" we have outgrown or never agreed to in the first place. If I have one more conversation explaining why we do not want to spend all of our limited vacation time strapping two toddlers into car seats for a multistate drive — instead of the retired and agile grands making the trip — I am going to smash a Spode plate over someone's head. When and how do families pass the hosting baton to the next generation? We've cited logistics so far, but a bald "We're making holiday memories in our own home from now on" would be more honest and hopefully stop the endless negotiations.
"Home" for the Holidays
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Negotiations are endless only when you keep negotiating.
"We're having Christmas here this year. We'd love to have you join us."
That's the when, and that's the how.
You just need to believe in your right to do that, which apparently you don't.
It's real though, promise.
Or was when this was written, last fall, but color me nostalgic for the torments of The Before Times.
DEAR CAROLYN: I was unable to attend my 30th high school reunion, so I posted that I would be willing to meet anyone who wants to reconnect for coffee. My old friend "Ava" responded. I'd like to reconnect with her, but I recently had a lot of drama with our mutual friend group. I don't want to discuss the drama with Ava and say mean things about certain people who exacerbated the situation. Also, I'm anxious she might try to invite some of these people along. Because of this, I haven't made definite plans, though I'd like to. How do I respond to her if she mentions our old friend group?
ANXIOUS: Make plans to see Ava, see what you get, manage it. Be civil to any/all comers.
Worst case: "Let's not get into that."
So much easier than trying to direct it all in advance.