- 3 years ago
- Wedding: May 2016
Sorry, this whole thing has been a mess, and I should have listened to people in real life and on here who advised me to run when this whole mess started. I realize they were all right, even though it felt like that would be mean at the time, it would have been far better. I needed to write it all out to get some of the stress and hurt out.
Friendships come and go throughout your life. Sometimes you move away, sometimes you just grow apart, sometimes you realize you don’t have as much in common anymore, or that you are no longer compatible people. And sometimes, rudeness and casual abuse from one party become too much for the other to continue the friendship.
Recently, a couple we know became pregnant. We knew the husband, “Bob” before the wife, “Jenni”, but for the sake of his friendship, endeavored to be friendly for the sake of the previous acquaintance. At this time, we do not currently have much in common, neither the wives nor the husbands, making any interactions stilted and for us at least, uncomfortable. Bob in years previous was abrasively funny at best and has degenerated in recently, we suspect due to dependency issues. Jenni is simply of a different mold, and I feel she is as perplexed by me as I am her. I believe she feels I am rude by being grounded in reality and approaching life as a problem solver. I feel Jenni pretends her way through life rather than face unpleasant facts or responsibilities, but loves to incite high-school-type girl-drama.
But, like a “bookie”, she builds up “cake credit”. Jenni is a baker and casserole maker. At first, it can seem sweet and kind, and in her way, it may be. But each cake, each casserole has a price. It may be the price of attending a function you don’t care to attend. It may be the price of buying them dinner some night, or drinks or paying their way somewhere. Every friendship has a little give and take, but when the receiver feels bad each time receiving, knowing it entails future giving implicitly, something is off.
Jenni had worked with a group of mutual friends to put on my bridal shower, and so my feelings of social obligation kicked in. I did not request or expect a shower. In fact, saying “no thank you” was not accepted, so I went along with it, making only a request that it be “future-mother-in-law” appropriate (no adult toys, etc.). I knew a lot of time and money went into this event I did not request, but in the end, it gave my fiancé’s family something to attend and enjoy, and some out of town friends were able to come so it was nice that it happened.
Putting aside all reservations about the temperament and preparedness of Bob and Jenni for parenthood, I knew a shower would be expected at about the 8-month mark, let’s say August. In early April, spurred by an upcoming birthday, I chose to make sure that there were lines of communication open about the possibilities with the likeliest of ladies to assist in shower making, including the Jenni’s Maid/Matron of Honor from her wedding who does not use social media, Andrea. It was decided via group text that the most to be done at that time was agree August was the best month based on the due date and nothing more was said. I would ask a mutual friend and coworker as May wanned if anything new had been heard – nothing.
Come Saturday on Memorial Day Weekend, the Jenni gets antsy. She is upset no shower has been announced for her from her friends. She creates a Facebook group and adds everyone she thinks should be involved in shower preparations. Jenni determines a date that will give her and Bob time to “fill in the gaps” left from gifts not received. She states Bob’s family Is already giving her a shower, so this one will be for friends – a co-ed shower to make sure men are also invited. She lists her desires for explicit décor, so she can repurpose it for the baby’s room. She then tags a couple who put a lot into my bridal shower, the Bakers, seemingly challenging them to step up and do the same for her. It was subtle. It was not blatantly stated, but all who read the initial and following posts agreed with this translation:
I haven’t heard of any plans for my shower so I am planning it myself. I have added all of you to this group so you will pay for it, create what I ask for, and I will delegate all actions. I expect this to be done, here is the date that will allow me to buy whatever you people don’t get my baby. I expect things to coincide with my Pinterest board, look professional, and for it to fit what I see in my head perfectly – a magical forest. I will tag people who have done good work in the past on social media to try to shame them into putting a lot of hard work and money for my event.
At this point, I suppose we should have all just removed ourselves from the group, and any obligation. Instead, the Bakers begged out of it, stating a slew of other familial and social obligations already underway. A few other people chimed in with the obligatory “Tell me what you need!” and left it at that. I privately figured with my 15+ years professional graphic design experience, I could whip up some cute invitations and a website for them and started mapping some ideas in my head, looking at clip art and items that matched the theme to be. I had “cake credit” to pay off, and this fit my skill set as the best way to pay it.
By Sunday, one whole day after her initial post, Jenni was frustrated it seemed by the lack of response and excitement to her posts, and so she commences a discussion about venues. My husband and I have worked on several events, from small poetry readings, charity art auctions, and dance exhibitions, to his 20<sup>th</sup> high school reunion. I have also planned large 400+ attendee events for work. We both know a thing or two about reserving venues and event planning. I also hate circular discussions that have ideas but no facts, no data, to assist in the very decisions needed for an event to take place:
What’s available, how much is it, how many can it hold, how do we get food there, how much is manual set up versus service provided?
So, I took it upon myself the next business day, a Tuesday, to call each venue mentioned by Jenni and the few other respondents, and each additional venue that I could think of that may fit the kind of event she seemed to want. Being summer, many were booked. The few that were open were the City Park, first come, first taken BBQ areas, and a local establishment that caters parties in-house. The Park, in hot-humid-August, where we’d all be tasked with cooking, transporting, and serving the food did not appeal to most people. The lack of ability to reserve a space, meaning we could arrive and find no open pavilions was also a deterrent.
The tea room for parties, indoors, air conditioned, and somewhat reasonably priced catered food seemed the way to go. So silly me, I posted to the Facebook group my findings, listing the venues based on availability. Others chimed in, stating the tea room sounded good, and their willingness to pitch in for food and drink.
Jenni was not impressed. She stated that she was planning on inviting well over 60 people at least and the tea room would not be able to accommodate that and that she was actually thinking of a local bar for her baby shower (strange considering I know she hates cigarette smoke even from before her pregnancy). She also said she’d planned a $100 menu that she was going to cook herself. Missing the cue to drop the tearoom, and thinking capacity was an honest concern, I called. They can hold 144 people. I posted this, again stating that of the places available in our little town, with the notice we had, and the convincing of the catering, this really did seem to be the way to go. I also stated that at 8 months pregnant, cooking for 60+ people is not something mothers-to-be typically do for their own showers and that Jenni should let us gift her this event, sit back, and enjoy visiting with her guests instead. I asked her to please state where she wanted this, as she’d started the venue discussion but had no clear statements of where, and as time got closer, fewer options would be open. A bland, unenthusiastic “Fine,” from the queen of exuberant expletive emoji communications was the response. My husband, feeling this was hardly an endorsement for reserving the only reasonable place in town messaged to ask the same thing – Jenni, please tell us if you want us to go ahead and lock in this place by paying the reservation fee to ensure you have a shower at all, or tell us where you want it so we can work to get that place locked down. “That’s fine.” Is the same bland response.
So, my husband and I have a long discussion. We feel this is a friend holding us emotional hostage: “If you are a good friend you will provide my shower. I have invested “cake credits” into you and you owe me what I want, even if I won’t state what I want and you have to guess.”
My husband felt it would be a mistake to go ahead and reserve the tearoom. I felt it would be a gracious way to say we’d done out part, and back out of any other responsibility. I thought once the venue was decided, all else could fall into place, and we could just attend, give our wrapped gift, and then feel no further obligation to this couple. I thought about how role models of mine would approach the situation, and after talking it over for a long time, and yes, crying over it and wanting to do what felt to be the right thing, if not the correct one, I talked my husband into setting the reservation, we went, we got the rules and information about the venue, and paid the deposit. My husband posted the details of the reservation, day, time, and the deadline for food orders, decoration rules, all on the Facebook page. An administrator approval requirement by Jenni had been added following his direct question asking for her approval of the venue, and it was allowed up. I felt relief. Okay. There is a venue, a day, and a time. Everything else can now be taken care of, we have done our bit for queen and country, and we could just sit back and let everyone do as they claimed they would – whatever it takes to help.
All hell breaks loose.
Jenni and Bob with a group of friends that very night after my husband paid the deposit and proceed to discuss how mean my husband and I were for “taking charge” of their shower, for pointing out that an 8 month pregnant woman may not want to be in the heat in August, far from restrooms or having to cook a meal for 60+ guests, her own cake, and then transport all of that to a new location and reheat and serve it all. How Jenni felt pressured into agreeing to the tearoom and that we were terrible and rude online. The Bakers came to our defense, tried to explain that shower etiquette exists to prevent these kinds of issues and that the mother-to-be should not be heavily involved in planning her own shower as that is a big source of the drama. A shower is a gift from your friends, family, co-workers, and whoever wants to give one. This was relayed to us later, as we were not invited to our own roast.
We wake up the next morning, I get up, am barely dressed, and respond to a knock on our door to find Jenni on my porch. Unannounced. No message, no call, no warning. Just the past person I feel like talking to on my porch. Before food, and before coffee.
I step out and invite her to sit outside. I did not want it to be a long conversation and so did not invite her in. I was aware I was dictating the terms of the conversation, but she chose to come to my house. Jenni starts in by saying she felt I was rude in my recitation of facts about venues, and responded according to my rude tone, that she “looooovvves” me, and hoped we could move past it. I stated that I responded to her initial tone set by the creation of the group, which in itself came across as rude, but had tried to ensure she had a venue as that is step one or two in any planning. I let her know I had initiated a conversation almost 2 full months prior with her best friends and others in our circle about getting this going. No one had contacted me since, especially not the best friend, Andrea. She tried again to tell me she loves me. I felt it was fake. I did not feel love to her at the moment and could not respond in kind. I feel pity for her. I feel confused by her motivations, her reactions, and her expectation. I explained that we set the venue, she needed to take a step back and let people do this for her, and it’s not supposed to be a strain on the guest of honor emotionally or financially. But she is also not supposed to be in the planning, demanding things we may not be able to afford or have time to do. I tried to assuage her, letting her know the venue has a great portfolio and even has photos of items she’d posted on her Pinterest page, like mushroom cupcakes. She should at best assign someone to take the lead in her stead, perhaps a teacher-friend who was not scheduled to work this summer, Randi, or maybe Andrea since she was her best friend. I said that the venue is booked so the next thing to take care of was for Jenni to give whoever the hostess ended up being a guest list with addresses, and then she should bow out and just enjoy the event. Jenni asked if I knew who was doing invitations to which I said she’d need to see who Randi felt might want to do them. After about 15 minutes, I stood up to indicate I was going inside. I gave her a brief hug, tried to not feel sad and frustrated and hurt by her inability to step back and just be gracious we were even willing to put out the $100 deposit for her. I no longer felt any desire to create invitations or a website.
Randi was assigned as lead-hostess. She is yet another whose husband, Henry, we know better than she, and who mixes better with the mother-to-be than I can. She seems to believe girl-drama is a normal dynamic in adult female relationships. For my bridal shower, I learned that she and the mother-to-be ostracized a friend of mine from planning because she dared make suggestions. I now see this is a habit for them, as this is essentially my online sin, of providing facts and details rather than wishes and daydreams in the venue conversation.
Randi was given a list of guests from Jenni. Jennie posted some final demands on the Facebook group page about her desired decorations, color schemes, and to not monogram any items so they can be used for a second baby before she allegedly left the group so we could feel freer to make plans and have discussions. (We suspect to make returns, exchanges, and sales of unwanted items easier).
Jenni had apparently not given the lead hostess addresses, so I attempted to give her ones I had on hand. Invitations went out. They were simple, letter-page printouts on bordered paper, but they went out and had all the pertinent information. Not everyone is a designer, and as long as the information is there, that’s what matters. I noticed Randi put the RSVP date one day before the food order was required, which made me somewhat concerned, but said nothing – I had backed out from that role. The lead hostess then engaged in a game of delegation hot potato. Randi assigned tasks to people, mostly for décor, only to have them pitched right back at her as people could not commit to that obligation. Many do not even live nearby. Andrea was named as the lead for catering, and that was it for what had been posted.
The Bakers, also worried about the cake-debt in their books, felt it might be fun to at least take care of a few of the décor items from the Pinterest. We all feared the rest of the circle of friends would postpone and procrastinate until the last minute, and so these friends let it be known they planned on creating some of the art items as mentioned on the Pinterest board. My husband and I love art, and this couple and we work well together when there is a task to complete, so we offered to assist. A big part of this is just that as creators, we like to make things, and even an uncomfortable baby shower makes a good excuse to create things. For about 4-6 weeks, we have worked on completing a gamut of items. Everything is pretty much done and ready for the shower on their end.
The deadline has arrived for final day for food orders for the venue. It is now one and half weeks till the event date. There have been no posts since the end of June on the group page managed now by Randi. NO updates on numbers, other decorations, food order discussions. Nothing. Radio silence. I got one message from Randi confirming our RSVP. It seems she has very few RSVPs. I asked for the best guess and she claimed she could not give one, as 100+ people were invited. I explain that the food order is due, and a headcount is needed, at least an estimate, to which she states that is not possible. And then Randi stated Andrea, as the lead for catering, was going to take care of it all as if that made having no headcount somehow okay.
Randi has spent a good part of the summer traveling. People who have called her for information have been given none. It would appear she has done little other than sending out minimalist invitations.
My husband contacted Randi the day before the food order was due, letting her know that the art projects undertaken by the four of us (the Bakers and us) were ready, and to mention that with the food was due and since the reservation is in his name, he’d like to know what needs to be ordered. He also worked up, much like for other events we’ve helped organize, an expense report showing what’s been paid for or purchased and what is still uncertain. The intent is both to let the whole planning group know who has already pitched in so they aren’t asked unfairly to contribute more, and what has been taken care of to avoid duplication. Also, among this circle of people, there is an almost willful blindness to the costs of events. Grandiose ideas are tossed about, but very little money actually makes its way into funding them. His post DID make a comment about how inviting 100 people to a baby shower as ridiculous, but otherwise, it was baseline facts and a request for more information.
His post was blocked. Randi claimed it was negative and stressful to Jenni (who theoretically was no longer in the group, and therefore would not even see the post). Randi refused to give a head count. She claimed it was all up to the lead for catering, and then stated and expense report was unnecessary.
At this point, I must admit I suspect that the RSVP count is so far below 100 as to be potentially distressing for Jenni, whose need to make-believe perfection, the cause of all this drama in the first place, that she can’t share it with the group. Randi knows that posting an expense report showing our contributions, and that of the Bakers, versus her own would illustrate her lack of commitment and care for the event. I suspect Randi is fighting a behind the scenes campaign to paint my husband and me as the villains in this story, so she can blame any failures of the event on us, and take any credit for any success of the event. Between the Jenni and Randi, I feel done with a large number of the people in this circle. Many virtue signal that they will help, only to “remember” obligations later that prevent them from contributing in time, energy, or money. Many have sat back, waiting for someone to tell them what to do, only to be told nothing by the lead hostess, Randi.
In order to ensure we are not left with a large food bill, my husband has tried to contact the venue several times. First, he placed a simple food and small cake order that would partially be covered by our deposit, and then the Bakers offered to assist with a drink service. In the event, everyone else dropped the ball and missed the deadline, at least basic refreshments would be covered. Then, Andrea goes in, talks to the venue. We have learned Andrea spoke to the owner and convinced her we were trying to ruin the shower, stating that my husband as a man had little place in planning a shower and that she should ignore his phone calls. Currently, we are unable to talk to the owner or to get her to return our calls. Andrea, though she hardly knows us, felt motivated enough by comments from Jenni and Randi to interfere by use of innuendo and possible outright slander with a business agreement between my husband and a local business owner.
To date, 5 people total have expressed a solid desire to do anything for this shower that I know of. My husband and I, the Bakers who bought supplies and worked on the art projects with us and contributed to the emergency food order, and one other person, Tanya, who realized last month she had been handed “cake debt” with Jenni insisting on planning her birthday party and baking a cake.
I want to want to do things for friends, because I like them as people, and have no concern about whether the books completely balance. In a friendship, it’s always a teeter totter, seesawing back and forth, organically. One person helps, the other helps back later. It’s not quid pro quo. It’s “I like you, let me just do something for you, literally no strings attached”.
When it feels calculated, when it feels compulsory instead of voluntary, it makes you sick. Friendship should not make you sick. No one should need to be painted as a villain to fill in a blank space in sad people’s lives. I knew that in the next 1.5 weeks, these friendships were ending. I had hoped to let them die quietly, the death of simple neglect, but with drama lovers involved, I see that my husband and I will not be allowed to just distance ourselves from them, as they wish for a climactic “break-up” to validate their needs for drama and assure their place as the virtuous ones.
Our actions to date have been to honor the past friendship, in spite of the current state of things, and to in our mind say a gracious goodbye and good luck. Apparently, this means little. After learning of the latest subterfuge and ungrateful, inexcusable actions, I will not be attending this shower. We will have to eat the deposit and costs of supplies purchased, but might be able to recoup some of them in the sale of the decoration items we no longer plan to take. The gift I made for the baby will go to another person I know is expecting, and Jenni, who was “so grateful” for her “tribe” to assist in raising her child just lost some of her support system. I see the rest eating themselves as the run off those actually willing to help her.