WAVING, NOT DROWNING

Dear Viv: My ex is getting married

In this week’s podcast Viv discusses an unwelcome house guest, when your ex gets married, neighbours and babysitting angst, and whether to go into business with a friend

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By Viv Groskop on

Dear Viv, 

My brother’s coming to stay in a few weeks. Last time he stayed, he ate absolutely everything in my fridge and cupboards, leaving me destitute. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but he definitely nibbled everything even if he didn’t outright clean me out of it… It really riles me. He stays over about three or four times a year, whenever he has a meeting in Manchester, where I live. I’ve asked him to contribute to food costs before but he’s not got the hint. I don’t want to have to be hiding stuff from him (eg, my neighbour’s homemade jam! Lovely sausages from a farmer’s market! Or even just my favourite budget cheddar) but he just doesn’t listen when I tell him not to eat certain stuff. Gahh! I feel really silly writing in about this, but it’s just so annoying. 

I love this letter. This might be the best letter we’ve ever had at Dear Viv.  You are not being silly. A problem is a problem and we all have things like this crop up all the time. I really want to know about the provenance of your favourite budget Cheddar, by the way, as you sound as if you are an extreme connoisseur of fine foods and I reckon you would have excellent taste in fromage. But oh dear, dear. Empty-Fridge-Owning-Sister, what are we to do here? And what is really going on?

Reading between the lines - and as you suggest yourself at one point - this isn’t really about the food itself. Or even the money. It’s about his disregard for you and, in particular, his disregard for the little things you really care about. These are your little luxuries, your treats. And he’s nicking them all almost as if he knows how much it will annoy you. You’ve tried to say something. He won’t listen. You’ve asked for a contribution but he “hasn’t got the hint.” This is the bit that interests me. If you’d asked him properly, it wouldn’t have been a hint. It would have been a request. And one you’re perfectly entitled to make.

I think you have two choices here. One, next time he comes to stay make it abundantly clear in a conversation before that he needs to contribute a fixed sum of money for food. Tell him exactly how much money you want. If he laughs it off, say: “If you’re going to laugh it off, you can’t stay. I am serious.” Or two, you can decide that you’ve had enough and you don’t want him to stay with you. This is absolutely your prerogative. If you can’t face telling him why, make up an excuse. But, the truth is, it’s your house and you don’t have to have anyone to stay, not even your brother. And you don’t have to give them a reason why they can’t stay.

You’ll notice that I’ve taken your problem seriously and I haven’t said, “Oh, just get over yourself -- buy a bit of extra food when he comes over and don’t worry about it so much.” That is another option, of course. But I really think it would be selling yourself short to do this. Your brother needs somewhere to stay (and rather a lot to eat, by the sounds of it). What he doesn’t need - but he’s been getting as part of the bargain -- is a free doormat. It’s time to retire the doormat. Good luck. And send me some Cheddar, care of The Pool.

Dear Viv,

I found out via Facebook that a guy I used to date is getting married... We ended on good terms and remained friends IRL (as in, we're more than Facebook friends: we keep in touch and go for lunch every now and then), so I'd totally think he'd tell me something like this directly – I'm kind of offended that he didn't. Now that I know, I feel obliged to congratulate him but I'd really rather not. Would it be awful to pretend like I didn't see anything?

Oh this is a very British question. I love the awkwardness depicted here. “I feel obliged to congratulate him but I’d really rather not...” You are clearly not just “kind of offended”, you actually are offended. You thought you had a regular friendship where people tell each other about important life events. He obviously sees your friendship differently. Or maybe he felt awkward telling you about it and so just gave himself a free pass to be rude. Or maybe he’s so loved up with his new bride-to-be that he just forgot about your feelings completely. Hmmm.

I think this is the thing that you’re really offended about. And you need to let go of it because it’s only going to do you harm. It’s disappointing that he’s done the coward’s thing and not told you about this himself. But he probably thought, “Oh well, she’ll see it on Facebook so it’s fine.” He is definitely not thinking about this as much as you are.

So would it be awful to pretend like you didn’t see anything? I think maybe it would. Because it would be sinking to his level. He was impolite and didn’t treat you as a proper friend in keeping this news from you. But there’s no need for you to be a low-down dirty rat just because he is. Take the moral high ground and say - with a massive smile on your face - “I saw your news on Facebook - congratulations!” Swallow your hurt and move on. I would not expect an invite to the wedding, by the way. And if you do get an invitation, promise me that you are already very busy on that day, OK?

You can hear the answers to these and the following questions on Viv’s podcast, Waving, Not Drowning, above.

Dear Viv, 

We have an arrangement with neighbours where their boys (aged 9 and 7) will come over to mine for an evening if the parents want to go out, and vice versa with our son and daughter (6 and 8). It’s been working great for the past year or so, but lately I’ve noticed they’ve been going out more and more – sometimes as often as two or three times a month whereas we would only ask them to have our kids once a month, maximum. The deal was meant to be mutually beneficial, but now it seems like they’re taking advantage. How can I show them I don’t want to be walked all over!

Dear Viv,

My best friend is really into making her own jewellery, and is leaving her full-time job to set it up as a proper business. I’ve always supported her in this, and since I was made redundant last month she’s asked me to join her as co-founder. The problem is, I don’t think we would work well together (she’s flighty and impractical, where I’m more realistic) and I’m worried about the cost and responsibility, along with everything else. On the other hand, she’s had a lot of interest from different people, and I feel like it could be a real success. But something just doesn’t feel right about it. Should I take the plunge? Or bow out and leave her to it?

Got a question for Viv? Email her at DearViv@thepoolltd.com. The Dear Viv podcast airs fortnightly on The Pool at 5pm on Tuesdays. All letters will be edited for length. Unfortunately Viv cannot reply to your emails personally. 

You can now subscribe to The Pool's podcasts on iTunes

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