What if Ghosting an Old Friend Doesn’t Work?

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Social Q’s

Many years ago, I was friends with a guy. There was no acrimonious breakup; we simply drifted apart. But he is needy, so I consciously ignored his attempts to get in touch over the years. Lately, he has renewed his efforts to reach me. I send his calls straight to voice mail. But that doesn’t stop him from trying several times in a row or leaving long (occasionally mean) messages. He is clearly living in the past and not taking the hint that I don’t want to speak with him. How do I get rid of him without changing my number?


“Lindsay? Lindsay? Lindsay?”


See? The easiest way to stop people from calling our names repeatedly is to answer them — once. In this case, add: “I understand that you are trying to reach me, but I’m not interested in renewing our friendship. Please stop calling.”

It would be wonderful if our species had evolved to let us read each other’s minds. (Think of all the painful talks we could avoid!) But it didn’t. Worse, many of us are strangely optimistic and occasionally pushy. This fellow may rationalize his repeated calling by telling himself that you’re not getting his messages. Some people simply need to be told.

You have no obligation to tell him, of course. But out of respect for your onetime friendship (and from a purely pragmatic angle), why not pick up the phone? You can probably put an end to these calls in 30 seconds. Otherwise, there’s no telling how long the standoff between your hints and his dialing finger may persist.

Waste of Energy

A hedge fund manager from New York City tore down a home in our small private association and built one worth three times what the rest of our houses are worth. He only uses it on weekends. But he lets his porch and driveway lights burn through the night, whether or not he is there. This is hard to ignore because it’s such a waste of energy and makes it impossible to get a good night’s sleep. When he moved in, I asked him politely to turn them off. He didn’t. Last week, I emailed the same request. No response. What else can I do?


Buy drapes. Unless your association has a rule banning outdoor lights, it is hard to imagine your third request being the charm. This fellow does not seem disposed to be a kindly neighbor (or live in darkness). Sadly, those are his prerogatives.

A side note for you: Avoid gilding the lily. I get your annoyance at being brushed off. (We’d all feel it.) But you’ve piled on so many (coded) digs about your neighbor that I almost started feeling sorry for him. There’s no crime in being rich or building a fancy weekend home. Even with the small electrical waste, his new house is probably tighter and more energy-efficient than an old one. And blackout shades would eliminate your sleeping problem. When lodging complaints, leave the kitchen sink in the kitchen.

Presenting …

My boyfriend of six years has two sons: one in college and a recent graduate who lives at home. He’s had sole custody since his divorce and paid for their educations. But in all the time I’ve known them, they have never gotten their father a single gift. My boyfriend says he doesn’t want them spending money on him, but the situation breaks my heart. I don’t have a close relationship with the boys, but it’s cordial for the most part. Would it be out of line for me to suggest a gift or offer to contribute to one? I don’t want to meddle.


Funny, it sounds as if you want to meddle. But then, who doesn’t? And I concur: It seems chilly for kids to skip gifts entirely. (Are you sure they haven’t slid a single presidential biography-slash-doorstop his way?) Here’s my worry: Your “cordial for the most part” relationship doesn’t position you well to assign chores or pay for gifts. Still, it wouldn’t be crazy to ask, when Papa’s next birthday rolls around, if they’ve thought about a present. (But remember: The most loving gestures rarely involve gift wrap. Father and sons may be just fine.)

Check, Please!

My husband and I received a gift card to a very expensive restaurant as a wedding gift. But the card didn’t note the amount of the gift. My husband thinks it would be appropriate to ask the restaurant, in advance, how much money is on the card. But I think that would be in poor taste. You?


Never be shy to ask about money during financial transactions. This restaurant is feeding you only because you are paying it to. Here, it seems merely sensible to ask how much foie gras you have coming before the tab shifts to your dime. But I get your reluctance, too. Some swanky shops and restaurants deploy a sniffy “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” attitude. But that’s just snobbishness, nothing to do with good taste. Don’t be intimidated. Ask away.