DEAR AMY: My husband has a highly specialized career. As a result, I find myself in a subculture (spouse) of a subculture (occupation) of a subculture (company). My husband works with “Dan,” who is married to “Cate.” For a while now, Cate has been reaching out to try to get together. She is an extroverted overachiever, always surrounded by scores of people, while I am a quiet homebody and tend to lean on a few very close family and friends. No character flaw, but the platonic equivalent of “no spark.” A few years ago, after fertility struggles and IVF, my husband and I had a baby girl. While we were discreet about it during the process — it is stressful enough without an audience — we have been quite open about getting pregnant through IVF, though we don’t share the gory details. Cate recently asked me about our experiences with IVF. I was happy to let her know the name of our clinic and answer a few of her basic questions, while sidestepping the more personal ones. Most of all I strongly recommended that she speak to her doctor to explore their options. She has now asked me multiple times to have lunch with her or to meet up to “talk about it some more.” If this was a more casual acquaintance, I would be fine setting a boundary and reiterate that she should talk to her doctor for more information, but the other layers of mutual friends, coworkers, and spouses complicates things. I can’t risk offending or upsetting her, but I also don’t feel comfortable as an expert or confidant on her fertility journey, especially if it means sharing the personal and financial details of mine. On top of this, my husband and I have just started trying to get pregnant again, so I am going back to the injections, monitoring, and procedures in the coming weeks. While that is going on I really won’t have any extra bandwidth for her. I suspect it is as simple as repeating, “You should talk to your doctor” over and over again while speaking in generalities, but I am hoping you have some other glowing insight to offer.
Only an Acquaintance
DEAR ACQUAINTANCE: You will have to risk seeming shy or “standoffish” while trying to politely repel this eager person. Tell her, very truthfully, “Everybody’s experience is different, and so I can’t really help you too much through this process. I hope you followed through with your doctor.” If there is a book or online resource you found helpful, you should share it with her.
In terms of her attempts to engage you socially, you need to convey: “Thank you for the invitations — it is so nice of you, but I’m a bit of a homebody. I hope you understand.”
DEAR AMY: I recently received an engagement announcement that a niece is getting married. The announcement was very nice, with information regarding the wedding, and the hotel where rooms were blocked for guests. There was also a website with pictures of the couple, along with a registry. I did not bother looking at the registry because I thought that when I received information regarding the engagement party I would check the registry then. Shortly thereafter I spoke with the mother of the bride, who informed me that there was not going to be an engagement party. Gifts were expected simply because the couple was engaged. To me, this was nervy and ludicrous. Am I wrong?
DEAR PERPLEXED: I’m a little confused, too, because if I saw an announcement such as you describe, I would assume that the gift registry was for the wedding, not the engagement.
Engagement parties, which were once more common, seem to have fallen off the social map, as couples add other celebrations (such as multiple showers) to their wedding season.
Importantly, you seem to be headed toward this family occasion with an attitude that your niece and her fiance are already being “nervy and ludicrous,” without even considering that you might be misinterpreting their intent.
DEAR AMY: Your advice to “Years of Wine and Roses” was way off the mark. An alcoholic who drives, no matter the distance, is a tragedy waiting to happen. This elderly alcoholic might kill herself, and take several others with her in the process. I am the same age as this mother (85), not alcoholic, but gave up driving. This woman’s children need to report her to the DMV and have her license taken away.
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Many readers agree with you.