DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I are good friends with a couple whose dietary needs have slowly changed over the eight years we’ve known them. When we first met, we would often hang out and have some beer or wine and food, which often included a shared love of bread, cheese, meats, ice cream, etc. After a couple of years of knowing them, the wife began to struggle with intestinal issues, and finally after a year or so of discomfort, decided to go gluten-free. Within six months she also eliminated dairy. Now they have started the Paleo diet. I can tell she is feeling better physically, and I am truly happy for her.
However, we don’t hang out with them as a couple anymore. It seems as if the husbands can get together to grab a beer (which he still drinks), or she and I may get together at a coffee shop where she can have tea. But the days of getting together for a meal seem to be over.
I also can’t seem to get together with her without the discussion turning to how awesome this diet is or how dangerous gluten is, with the distinct implication that my husband and I should start following it as well. I am really tired of being preached the “gospel” of dietary restrictions. I find myself avoiding her, and also just wanting to shake her and say, “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! And I want to die with a piece of baguette slathered in triple-creme brie in my hand!!”
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This does not seem like a sound approach. Suggestions for a better one?
– I Want My Cake and My Friendship Too
DEAR I WANT MY CAKE AND MY FRIENDSHIP TOO: I think that’s the perfect approach.
Seriously. You are friends! And you see how much better she feels on her new diet! And you are happy for her! You simply don’t want to make the same lifestyle change she did!
So why not just say that, in the you-know-I-love-you way that only true friends can pull off?
Maybe your friendship has never had that tone, fair enough. But even then, as I sift through questions submitted to this column, I spend a shocking (to me) amount of time reading different versions of virtually the same story: of people who are so dismayed by changes in a friendship that they’re avoiding the friend. Inevitably, they say they’re close to pulling the plug on the friendship — right after they mention that telling their friend the unvarnished truth is of course not an option.
So for you and all of you, I advise this: Since you’re already ending the friendship, passively or otherwise, what do you have to lose by stating how you feel, what you loved, why you’ve drifted? Make it a deal, even: “I so miss our dinners together, all four of us. What say I serve nothing but Paleo, and in return we talk about anything but Paleo?”
Truths feel mean, I get it, but surely you’ve been on the receiving end of a once-good friend’s dwindling attention — and doesn’t that feel pretty mean, too? And gutless? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d rather have an exasperated friend say, “For the love of crusty baguettes, would you please stop dissecting my diet?!” than just demote me to thrice-a-year tea.