I’m not feeling virtuous today!

Dear Annie: I have been in a friend group that plays board games nearly every month for 25 years. We all know one another from working at a startup in Colorado nearly 30 years ago. We don’t work together anymore, but we still play games together frequently. It has been tough during COVID-19, but we have played a few games online here and there.

Cautiously, we are starting to get back together in person. The rub is, I’m fed up with one of our friends. He was the boss all those years ago, and he still feels self-important and controlling. He does not seem to know how to behave in social situations. We put up with it when he was the boss, and then, 20 years ago, he found out that he suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. My own son has these same conditions, and I have taken the National Alliance on Mental Illness training and I have a special place in my heart for people who suffer from mental illness.

Since that discovery and diagnosis, we have put up with his behaviors. Over the years, it has become easy to tell when he is truly suffering and when he’s just using it as an excuse to behave badly. He started this games group, and we always play at his house. That’s not really a problem, but he just uses this and everything as a controlling behavior.

Online, it gets worse. I have now endured 18 months of insults, contempt and name-calling. I admit that it’s mild. He is not super abusive, but it is annoying, and it is not how friends treat one another. I do not do this to him. He knows I don’t want to cut him out of my life, and he uses that to manipulate me and others in the group.

During his last blow-up, which was only two weeks ago, I stopped talking with him for a while. This is all online, and I ghosted him for only 24 hours. He says in the group chat that he has apologized profusely (he apologized one time) and then started pushing the blame onto me saying that I was now punishing him.

I’m fed up. We have openly discussed his poor behavior, and he is aware. He has never modified his behavior longer than a week or two. For 30 years, I have been a good friend, and for the last 10-20, I have actively tried to forgive and forget. — Can’t Forget Anymore (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Hmm. I’m at a loss as to what Annie Lane’s advice will be, so I’ll just start with mine, and then we’ll check hers out. As a mentally ill person myself, I’m offended. Not all mentally ill people go around repeatedly bullying their good friends (?!?!) just because they can. I have issues, and I feel bad whenever they spill onto someone I care about. So this friend’s problem isn’t his mental illness. His problem is his attitude. Now, I’d say quite clearly to unfriend this guy because his attitude is abysmal.

No remorse, no efforts at trying harder, and he might even conceivably be lying about his diagnoses. (You can’t be both bipolar and depressed. Depression is built into bipolar, as is mania. Depression and bipolar are never dual diagnoses for that reason.) Furthermore, this letter writer’s son has the same condition–condition singular, so I wonder how many NAMI meetings this letter writer actually attended–so it would make sense that his loser former boss would pretend to have it as part of his manipulation.

I have a special place in my heart for people who suffer from mental illness.

Yeah, and that guy knows it. Wow, what a conman!

Well, my advice is obviously to dump this guy. Let’s see what Annie Lane has to say!

Dear Can’t Forget: I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

You have tried subtle confrontation, and you admit his behavior has not changed for longer than a week or two. Time to try something new.

The next time he blows up — even if it’s mild — tell him that you’ll be hosting the next game night and that he’s not invited. If others are similarly fed up with his attitude, they’ll surely be on board.

The concept is really quite simple: If he can play nice with others, he gets an invite. If not, the games will go on without him.

Okay. Um, I’d just dump him, but… that could also work. I mean, it can’t hurt to try it, but why put everyone through another horrible blowup, plus the inevitable confrontation? I’d just go ahead and relocate the gaming.

And that’s her whole column today. Sigh. She did quote Einstein. I think.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My first name is Eddie. I have a friend who constantly calls me Eddie Spaghetti. It bothers me to no end. I am not a wet noodle. Without offending him, how do I get him to knock it off?

GENTLE READER: Smile wanly and assure him you have never heard that one before. (c) MISS MANNERS

Oh, geez, I have a confession to make. I’m still ashamed of this, even though it occurred in the last millenium. [Shaking my head at myself.] Yeah, this was really awful of me. I had a friend who had the beautiful name of Jennifer Gentle. Gorgeous name. And she was gorgeous herself, like a manic pixie dream girl with her indigo eyes and beautiful demure grin. I think I ruined her name for her by calling her Jennifer Genital. Bad Meg. Bad, bad Meg. Well… I guess we all have our regrets.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was at a wedding ceremony in a church that could hold 250 people very comfortably, and the attendance was not that large.

A person about five pews in front of me turned and seemed to wave directly at me, but was actually beginning to communicate with somebody three rows behind me. I was stuck in the middle of their conversation.

If this happens again, should I try to move to my left or right if possible? What is the proper protocol in a situation such as this?

GENTLE READER: The proper protocol does not involve other guests conducting semaphore over your head during a wedding, but it also limits what you can do to make them behave.

Miss Manners offers three alternatives: Ignore them; discreetly move away; or ask aloud if they would like to sit together. The latter will bring everyone else down upon the three of you, so remember to use tone, phrasing and body language that you can later defend convincingly as a genuine desire to help. 

Oh, geez, I hate it when people do this. First of all, you think they’re waving at you, so you might wave back and then wind up embarrassed. It’s inconsiderate and smallminded to put someone in that position. Second of all, it would be better to leave your pew and go speak next to the person rather than causing a ruckus.

Regardless, here’s what I’d do: I’d make the person in front of me (the one I’m facing) sweat. I’d stare him down until he ended the conversation. Few people can tolerate my death stare. Oh, they act all unaffected, but when I’ve got the whole pout going with my facial expression and my arms folded over my chest and my tapping foot, they’re disconcerted.

If this happens again, should I try to move to my left or right if possible? What is the proper protocol in a situation such as this?

Oh, wow, the letter writer wanted to help. Well, this hasn’t been one of my more virtuous blog posts. Oh well.

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