Advice columnist

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I was somewhat surprised by your answer to a wife upset about attending her husband’s best friend’s wedding on the husband’s 40th birthday — a birthday they thought he might not reach because of medical problems.

I went to a niece’s bat mitzvah on my 50th birthday, and my niece wished me a happy birthday. We attended a cousin’s wedding on our 20th anniversary, and they asked everyone to toast us.

In this case, since the husband was asked to make a toast, would it have been so hard for the groom to ask everyone to wish his friend a happy birthday, as the wife thought he should have done? It would have taken very little time and effort and would have meant a lot to his friend. I think totally ignoring it was thoughtless, and the groom could have learned a lot from our niece when she was 13.

(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)


It’s hard to argue with the idea that it would have been nice of the groom to say happy birthday.

But he didn’t — and so this couple had to make a decision: Hold a grudge because the best friend let the husband down, or move on?

Since they are both adults, it’s a birthday and it’s not unusual for people to forget things on their wedding day, it seems like lunacy even to consider denting a long, good friendship over it. It seems that way to me, at least, which is a disclaimer that goes with everything I write: just my opinion.

I also noted that if something is so important that they’d end a friendship over it, then they owe it to the friend to say how important it is — before the fact, not after.

It is common, though, for me to get letters like yours in response to a lot of problems: “But X should have done Y . . .,” with X being someone other than the letter-writer. So, it’s worth spelling out here that I don’t put much stock in the concept of “should.” If the letter-writer could have done something to prevent a problem, then I’ll say so, for next time. But in most cases, waiting to hear that someone else is to blame for your problem amounts to a decision to stay stuck in a place of indignation, waiting for justice to be done. I’m not a fan.

Re: Birthday:

“I think . . . the groom could have learned a lot from our niece when she was 13”: Maybe he didn’t think the friend would want to be singled out in front of a lot of people he might not know. The birthday couple had been holding a grudge about this for almost an entire year. That’s insane.

Anonymous 2

Right — and that also reminds me, about the bat mitzvah heroine:

1. The niece might have been nudged by her parents, or

2. The niece regarded a birthday as important because a 13-year-old would think a birthday is a big deal.

Meaning, I’m also not a fan of “See? They did it, so why can’t you?”

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