Wedding Woes

Stop going out to dinner with her.

Dear Prudence,

I keep running into a problem that is either my being ableist or my just not being particularly generous (without being in a specific bucket), and I’m not sure how to overcome it.

A long-time friend of mine has always suffered from mental health issues, even as a child. A lot of the issues were anxieties related to health. Her health anxieties have obviously gotten worse since the pandemic.

The dilemma is that her specific anxieties are bleeding into other topics, and onto me. She has food anxiety that only applies to food from other cultures (she is of French descent, so we only eat French food), which feels racially/ethnically complicated. She also feels like she is developing allergies she is not developing according to medical professionals, but only to things me and my boyfriend are actually allergic to. She also has some food stuff in the form of disordered-looking eating where she won’t eat a lot of food, particularly oil-heavy food, etc. The result is we can only eat at one restaurant, ever, and it is one that is an hour from my home, and three minutes from hers.

Part of my brain says: This is a mental health issue. She doesn’t trust food from other restaurants/cultural backgrounds, and she is the one actually suffering here because she is so genuinely scared, and in our area of many delicious and interesting cuisines, she cannot enjoy them because of her illness. I should be generous, and gracious, and obtain some “there but for the grace of God go I” energy.

And another, less cute, part of my brain is resentful. I don’t like eating only at this restaurant. I don’t like traveling two hours roundtrip to see her for an hour-long dinner where she won’t eat anything. It is expensive, and it feels like she disrespects my time and energy when she won’t bend on any of her stuff. It is also—to this ugly part of my brain—intensely obnoxious when she convinces herself of an allergy that is actually quite intense for my boyfriend, and for which we have to take a lot of precautions lest he needs to be hospitalized.

I know, I swear, that she is not faking it. I am also engaging, clearly, in some cognitive dissonance if I also find this annoying, which I do. I might just need someone to yell at me to get it together and stop being a dick.

— Cognitive Dissonance

Re: Stop going out to dinner with her.

  • If she’s not eating anything at the restaurant why do you keep going out to dinner? There are literally hundreds of other things you could do together besides eat, especially if it holds a lot of triggers for her. 

    Suggest seeing a show, or meeting up at your place, or half way in between at a park for a walk together. I feel like the simple answer is to just not meet for dinner. 
  • Why are other activities not an option?
  • LW's like this just annoy the crap out of me. Do something other than dinner. This is not difficult. 
  • Being annoyed with a friend who is like this, even if there is an explanation for their behavior/choices, is not ableist.  It doesn't mean you're not generous or bad friend.  People are responsible for their own health, mental or physical, and choices.  There's a give and take with being adaptable, but there's no reason to bend every time.  

    Again, stop having meals with this person.  Seriously. Or meet for picnics in the park where everyone brings their own food.  There are other options, FFS. 
  • Why do you have to sit down to a meal to hang out?  My new favorite friend activity is strolling homegoods/whatever errand together sans kids and then grabbing something fast casual, if any food at all.  <- and I know breaking bread is a terrific way to be with people, but, with this one particular friend, do something else?  Movie, mini golf, shop, mani/pedis, beach, nature walk, museum, check groupon for things happening at your midpoint, etc.
  • She’s a friend not a charity project. If you aren’t having fun don’t go. 
  • Why do people default to eating? Is there nothing else you could do?

    I love strolling around on a nice day chatting. Sometimes picking up a drink or snack if I'm nearby but it's not a focus.
    Nails, spa time, shopping, etc.

    LW sounds like they're just frustrating and if all my friend wanted to do was go eat, I'd prob stop going. Dinner can get expensive.
  • Also confused why the only activity they can all do is eat.  Or invite the friend over for a homemade meal that meets their standards, so it's not always the LW and their b/f driving.

    Or maybe it is time to see this friend less often, if she lives too far.

    And, like most places, they eat simple foods in France also like salads and sandwiches.  Not every meal is foie gras and Boeuf Bourguignon.  Or I'm sure somewhere in the LW's city, a restaurant serves quiche or crepes.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • Maybe I'm just being a b!tch, but this seems inordinately complicated to continue this friendship.  The woman is of French descent, not from France, so WTF at this "I can only eat French foods" nonsense.  Also the ingredients that make French foods are shared by almost ALL Western civilization cultures and lots of other world cuisines, so that makes no sense.  Hell, the French eat tripe, I'm not sure why French got the "safe" pass of foods here.  Also, not oil heavy w/disordered eating and French food gets a MASSIVE side-eye from me.  WTF does she think all of those sauces are made out of?

    I truly believe that mentally ill people can and will adopt other people's actual illnesses and they can't help it, but this all honestly seems out of control.  I have weird feels about how/when to draw lines between support/enabling, but this one seems to have crossed into enabling and LW is not required to stay friends with someone who isn't taking care of their mental illnesses.  If LW wants to keep the friendship, it's time for a hard conversation and see what happens.  If LW oesn't, I'd just stop reaching out and see what happens.  I'd lean toward not keeping it, b/c with all of the info LW has, it seems like conversations have already happened.
  • @VarunaTT, true, lol.

    LW's friend:  I only eat French foods.  But nothing oil-heavy.

    French foods:  Hello!  We are world-renowned because we have rich sauces that are heavy on oil, butter, and cream. 
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • @VarunaTT, true, lol.

    LW's friend:  I only eat French foods.  But nothing oil-heavy.

    French foods:  Hello!  We are world-renowned because we have rich sauces that are heavy on oil, butter, and cream. 
    Straying way far off the OP but I've planned a few BPs, and rule #1 is a restaurant that offers some sort of group pre-fixe menu (with drinks included!) so I can tell the invitees what it'll cost was for my sister who had this PITA friend from college who was only invited bc all of the other roommates were, but my sister described her as the stingiest person in the world.  She told me she could come but wouldn't be paying the group rate because of a special diet.  I showed her the bill breakdown that the restaurant's catering specialist had sent me when I first inquired, and maybe 30% of it was for food.  The rest was unlimited wine, beer and prosecco, service fee, group fee, etc.  And explained that if she was sitting with the group she'd had to pay the group rate like everyone else.  Even threw out an example that I'm not a huge drinker but would pay the same as someone who would have 6 glasses of wine. 
    She finally agreed and I had to laugh when she ordered herself lasagna as her "special diet" meal.  We were at a fancy pizzeria/Italian restaurant, and the catering package was all you can eat pizzas (with rice balls, salads, calamari as apps).  Pizza and lasagna have so many overlapping ingredients...gtfo.  Afterwards sister had the longest laugh bc she apparently did things like that all the time, and congratulated me on getting her to actually pay her share.  What's funny is I'm not a particularly pushy or confrontational person, but in all of our email exchanges I just kept defaulting to "it's $60pp (or whatever it was) if you'd like to join at the restaurant, otherwise we'll see you at Bar #1".  I didn't care if she came and more importantly, she was on my sister's guest list in the "I feel obliged to invite her" column, lol.  But please don't claim a special diet when neither the proposed meal nor your meal have any differences in gluten, dairy, literally even ingredients, etc.
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