About a year ago a coworker and supposed friend of mine betrayed various confidences and otherwise badmouthed me to my supervisor. I am pretty sure this led to my termination. Even if it didn’t, I have no desire ever to see this man—let’s call him Nick—again, and have actually changed my life in a few small ways (go to a different Starbucks, blocked some mutual friends on Facebook, changed food coops) to make it less likely that our paths will cross.
I recently accepted an invitation to a tree-trimming party at a friend’s house, then found out a week or so later, after I had told my friend how excited I was to be going and offered to bring mac and cheese, that Nick will be there, too. What should I do? It is an open house and lots of people I would like to see again have told Evite they are coming. I really want to go to this party, but I REALLY do not want to have to deal with Nick.
Torn in Tenafly
I don’t feel right about steering you one way or the other here without knowing more. But maybe I can walk you through the process of weighing your desire to go to the party against your desire not to run into Nick, taking some of the following factors into account.
First, how likely is it that you will actually have to see him at all? If, for example, the open house runs from afternoon to late evening, Nick may be planning to come late, or leave early. Perhaps there is a way you could discreetly find out when he plans to be there, and time your own attendance accordingly. Do you have any trusted friends who have also been invited, and are on decent terms with Nick?
Second, even if you are both there at the same time, how likely is it that you and Nick would have to do more than nod at each other in passing? Have you been to one of these parties before? Is it a large party, in a place with many rooms? If so, you will probably be able to spend your time with all those other people you are looking forward to seeing. Are any of them aware of, and sympathetic to, your position as regards this Nick person? Do you have a romantic partner, or good friend, who can come with you and run interference?
Third, is this party a one-off in terms of running into Nick? Have you seen him since you left your job? Are you likely to, despite changing Starbucks and so on? I can see how, if you have not seen Nick since you left your job, and are not very likely to except at this party, and are afraid a meeting might be terribly awkward at best and a PTSD trigger at worst, you might want to drop off your macaroni in the morning, call in the afternoon to say you have caught a 24-hour virus, and hit the nearest multiplex. But if you and Nick travel in the same social and professional circles, you are probably bound to come into contact with him from time to time unless you cut yourself off even further from people you like and professional connections you may need. It seems to me that, if there is a good chance you will see Nick anyway from time to time, you should start inoculating yourself against these meetings, and the upcoming party could be a relatively painless place to start. I don’t mean to say that you have any moral duty to face Nick, or that you would be a wuss if you didn’t, but only that it might make your life easier to get used to seeing him if, short of hiding, you will probably have to do so from time to time in the months and years to come.
Of course, I do not know how awful Nick is, how shaken you still are, and how much fun the party is likely to be. Nor do I know how gloomy you get about missing out on things. For my part, I am very bad at avoiding regret and self-pity when I imagine my friends or family out enjoying themselves without me; I get that way sometimes even when I choose to stay home. Bear this in mind when making your decision; and, if you still decide it is best not to go, find something else interesting to do (consistent with your hosts’ never knowing you were not home with flu).
If you do decide to attend the party, have an escape plan in case Nick shows up and you find that you just can’t deal with it. In a large party, especially an open house, the best escape can be to drift toward the door and just melt away. It will probably be a while before anyone notices that you have left. (If this is your plan, make sure you have easy access to your coat or, if you drive and can park nearby, leave it in the car). Or you—and your plus-one, if any—can lay the groundwork when you greet your hosts by saying what a drag it is that so many holiday events fall on the same weekends, but that you plan to stay at their great party as long as you possibly can. Of course, if Nick arrives five minutes later, or is already there and his presence starts getting to you right away, you will have to develop—or, better, have your escort develop—that flu I mentioned, or a migraine, or perhaps an “it’s probably nothing” arrhythmia of some sort.
Another tactic is to stay at the party, but take a break from the action. Make sure you have some engrossing games, or a suspenseful book you are halfway through, on your phone and hide out in the bathroom for a while until you feel composed enough to stay at the party and have some intense conversations with the people you were looking forward to seeing again—or until you have been at the party long enough to decamp without offending anyone or attracting any undue notice.
It’s a shame that a tree-trimming has to make you fret. I hope that you have a pleasant evening, whether or not you decide to go. I would love it if you showed up but Nick bailed, and you later learned he’d stayed home out of discomfort at the thought of facing you. I would love it even more if you both showed up and you realized, much to your surprise, that he had lost the power to inspire anything in in your soul beyond a mild, distant contempt, with a touch of pity. Merry Christmas!
A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I found a bedraggled-looking grey tabby cat wandering around outside our apartment. We brought her in, fed her, cleaned her up, and took her to the vet, who said that she was malnourished and had worms. We paid to have her wormed and inoculated, and bought her heartworm and tick medicine. She had no collar or identifying microchip. We put some signs up around the neighborhood and called Animal Control.
Nothing happened for three weeks. We fed and cared for the cat, named her Lucia, kept her safe indoors, bought her toys and vet-approved food, and basically bonded with her. She gained weight and started to look much better. But Animal Control just called us and said that they heard from someone who thinks Lucia may be their cat! They want us to call the supposed owner. But we really love this cat, and do not want to turn her over to somebody who let her get into such a terrible state. Also, what were they doing for the past three weeks? My mom says that it would be best for everybody if we just never called back. What do you think?
Bonded in Bushwick
I think you should try to learn more. Can you ask Animal Control to serve as a go-between? I would ask them to call the putative owners and find out how long their cat has been missing and how it got lost, for a start. The world is full of grey tabbies, and they are not always easy to tell apart from descriptions or even images. Have you given Animal Control any clear photos? Does the Lucia have any distinguishing marks? Animal Control can take the first steps to see whether these people do have a valid claim that they owned Lucia and, despite her condition when you found her, are responsible enough to have her back.
If all your local agency does is give you the claimant’s contact information and say you’re on your own—which would be irresponsible, is not how it works where I live—you may have a trickier situation. I would just go ahead and call or at least email the putative owners anyway, to hear their side of the story; but my editor, a basically sensible person with a soupçon of paranoia that keeps her edgy and up-to-the-minute, suggests seeking out some other intermediary, or at least using a new email address or reliably one-way telephone contact in case a conflict develops.
It’s very possible that the callers will realize that Lucia is not theirs. Maybe they will see this after looking at good photos. Or maybe Animal Control did not make clear how long ago you found Lucia: the callers may have lost their own cat more recently than that, which would settle the matter.
On the other hand, they may insist that Lucia is their own beloved Princess. They may even know about that white dot on her tummy, invisible in the photos you sent. (I suppose somebody could lie about past ownership because they want a cat for some nefarious purpose—but it is hard to see why they would seek out Lucia, unless claiming a tabby cat at Animal Control is easier and less risky than acquiring one from a shelter or online ads or the street, which I doubt.) If they make a credible claim of ownership, you—or maybe Animal Control: I will not try to guess the legalities in Brooklyn—will have to make a hard choice.
I am sorry, but I believe that this choice should depend on how Lucia was and likely will be treated by her previous family, not on your bond with her, or the bills you have paid (at least if they agree to pay you back). The former owners may have been away on vacation, for example, and left the cat with an irresponsible sitter. Or Lucia may be a Staten Island cat who hopped on the ferry and later crossed a bridge or two. She may have lost all that weight, or picked up those worms, during her weeks on the lam, while her owners searched frantically for her. The worms may have contributed to the weight loss. Or the callers may be only so-so owners, negligent about open doors and perhaps a little lax about making a vet appointment that would have uncovered those worms, but they may have little kids who really love and miss their kitty. In some or all of these cases, I believe that the former owners’ claim should outweigh your current feelings, especially if Lucia is a grown cat who has lived with them for years.
Or—I see this as a long shot, if only because domestic shorthaired cats like Lucia have a negative value on the open market—the former owners may clearly be total jerks who care more about their property rights than Lucia’s well-being. In that case you should try to talk them out of wanting Lucia back. Insisting that they pay all the vet, medicine, and food bills, or asking for the name of Lucia’s former vet to check their bona fides, might help. If they still demand the cat, I hope you listened to my editor and not me about hiding your whereabouts. But I doubt it will come to that.
My money is on Lucia’s remaining with you. Whatever happens, though, keep at least one cat in your life. You and your girlfriend sound like stellar cat owners. The tabbies of Brooklyn need you!
Cleaver’s in-house advice columnist opines on matters punctuational, interpersonal, and philosophical, spinning wit and literary wisdom in response to your ethical quandaries. Write to her at AskJune@Cleavermagazine.com. Find more columns by June in her attic.
Image credit: K-nekoTR on Flickr