Carolyn Hax: Does racism explain why they were excluded from the guest list?

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Dear Caroline: My old friend, who still introduces me to others as his best friend, got married and did not invite me and another close friend of ours to his wedding. We were his best friends in the world and were very close. When we asked him about the plans, he said he wasn’t getting married so we didn’t have to go to the West Coast to be there. He wanted something very minimal. We respected his decision.

During a visit to his home a few months later, we learned from his wife that he had indeed married. A few years have passed and now my friend calls regularly for advice and help with his marriage. Should I feel obligated to help my deceitful friend with his marital problems, since he left me out of his marriage? A detail: we are people of color and the woman is not. She comes from a wealthy white family on the West Coast. Have we been separated from marriage?

Excluded: You know better than I, and you don’t know because you haven’t tried to find out. You are not obtuse. You can guess, add 2+2 and generate informed opinions. You probably know a lot of history that way.

But according to your own testimony, you do not equate this with the certainty that your friend had racist motives for excluding you. Right? Because exclusion based on race would be horrible and end the friendship on the spot, yet you didn’t even follow when you learned his lie. Hmm.

And maybe you don’t feel the same sense of the best friendship anymore, but you’re still there for him, taking his “regular” calls, reciting your lines like his friend, which may be muscle memory, but tell me still you think there may have been a fairly innocent explanation for his lie.

Seems fair to me because the only thing you know for sure is that he said one thing and did another. That’s it. (Well, that and everyone’s skin color.) So you clearly need more information. Yet instead of saying anything, you quietly harbored your pain, your resentment, and your terrible theories while pretending that you’re still his best friend. By the way, this is also “duplicity”. It’s reactive where his lie was proactive, but still.

Anyway, please go ahead and tell your friend what you know. Say what you think. Ask him if he’s ready to share the real story. Then see if his answer satisfies you. Decide what to do next based on this information. It’s not a perfect remedy, but it’s better than asking me to search my mind for what your friend had on his.

Dear Caroline: During a recent visit with my cousin and his wife, I observed him speaking to her in a very disrespectful and demeaning way on several occasions. It was very painful to witness and I can’t stop thinking about it. He is normally a gentle and good natured soul. I’m tempted to approach him about it, but I’m afraid to overstep my bounds. Your thoughts?

Distressed: Reporting abuse that you witness first-hand is not overkill. Or inquire about loved ones who haven’t been themselves lately. Ask him, “Are you okay? You seemed pissed off last week,” and have an objective example handy, just the facts.

In other words, at least start with the possibility that he’s mismanaging his stress over something more sinister, and offer an ear. If it persists or gets worse, can help you take the next step.

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