First World Problems: When Split Bills Split Friends
First World Problems is a weekly advice column for India’s first world population. Write to Judy at email@example.com (confidentially!) if you’ve broken a nail, felt a little blue, yellow or green lately,
or had a strange encounter of the any-numbered kind.
PROBLEM: I have a friend who insists on breaking down bills for group dinners item by item. I (and everyone else I know) are more than happy to split the bill by general fractions (e.g., six people, six ways), even though I’m veg and don’t drink and so my dish/itemized bill is often less than others’. It’s generally ends dinners with frustration for all of us. He’s a great guy, but is it OK to not invite him to the next one just because of this?
Ah, now this is the kind of problem I like reading about during Friendship Week. You say he’s a great guy, but at the first sign of obnoxious behavior, you just want to dump him? Sigh. You sound like you’re in your thirties or older but you’re acting like a spoilt Millennial, so I’m going to talk to you like you’re one. How would you feel if you woke up one morning and Siri just stopped talking to you? Worse, she doesn’t even bother explaining to you that it’s because you’re clingy, suffocating, entitled and obnoxious. ‘Do unto others…’ darling. Besides, there are so many ways to get your point across: (a) You could talk to him and tell him this trait of his is making everyone uncomfortable, (b) You could passive-aggressively suggest that he get a separate bill ’cause it’s easier for the rest of you to split it equally without his share, and my favourite, (c) Institute the famous Amish shunning courtesy of Dwight Schrute.
PROBLEM: My little boy has a best friend who lives in our complex. I work part-time, but the other little boy’s mum doesn’t, so she invites my son over almost every afternoon because the kids are friends and she knows it helps me. It’s very sweet and I like the boy, so I’m happy to have my son spend time with him. But all they do is eat junk food and watch TV for hours. My son, who used to love vegetables, now has a mega-sweet tooth because of all his time there! I don’t want to forbid him playing there. So how do I tell the woman that I want him to eat well and do more wholesome activities?
Uhh … I think you’re confusing daycare with friendly neighbours. No worries, common mistake. Let me explain how the two work: Daycare is where you pay professionals in childcare to be in charge of all your child’s needs when you’re at work. In this case, it is perfectly understandable for you to have a nervous breakdown when your darling, vegetable-loving offspring has turned into a candy-demanding-tantrum-throwing little tyrant like Dudley Dursley. Because, you know, these guys are supposed to be childcare experts and you’re paying them to do what they’re supposed to be good at. In the case of friendly neighbours, though, there is no money involved, no promise of expert care — and therefore, no expectations. Everything works on an I-invite-your-child-over-because-I-like-him-and-my-child-likes-him-and-I-like-you basis. So in this case, the appropriate response to her invitations would be. “Thank you! I really appreciate what you’re doing. How can I return the favour?”
And if you don’t like something about the arrangement, which you clearly don’t, there is always daycare! But I’m guessing your son isn’t going to like it. SO … I have one last trick you can try: Tell your neighbor that your son has some rare, fancy disease; you’re not comfortable talking about it in detail, but the doctors insist you feed him a certain quantity of vegetables everyday. You can then tell her that it’s too much for her to do, so you’d rather restrict his time at their place and hope with all your heart that she insists on switching diets just so she can have him over. And since you’re putting her through so much crap just so your son can get nutritional food, you better find a really big thank-you gesture to pay her back for her extraordinary kindness and for the fact that you fed her such a big, fat lie involving your baby boy, no less.
Because, as they say, karma is a bitch.