Q: About once a week, a certain friend e-mails me an invitation to his theater group’s improv performances. Does he really expect me to go? If I get an invitation every week, how many times am I obligated to show up?
—ACTING OUT, MIDTOWN
A: A significant hazard of living in New York is having friends whose hobbies involve performance—however generous a description that might be for what actually occurs onstage. According to the unwritten rules of friendship, you really should go to his or her very first show. (Buying the minimum two drinks at once and chugging them in rapid succession will help dampen your critical faculties.) After that, you may need to look at the TO/FROM fields of the e-mail. If you’ve been blind-CC’d on the invitation, or if the performer has clearly sent the announcement to his entire address book, you are not obligated to show up more than once or twice a year. (When you do show up, for God’s sake, make sure he sees you—preferably not while you’re double-fisting the drinks.) If the e-mail has been sent to a small group, or, worse, to you alone, either show up or write back with your regrets. Of course, if by chance you have your own creative endeavor that occasionally calls for an audience, you must show up for him as often as he shows up for you. Not to be too transactional about it, but that’s how this town works.
Q: Me: licensed driver. My wife: learner’s permit in her purse, but she hasn’t been behind the wheel since driver’s ed. (specifically, the wheel of a 1976 Plymouth). Now we have the family car I never thought I’d have—and a reason for having one (a shiny new 2003 baby—with a throaty engine). She keeps saying she plans to take a refresher course, but hasn’t. It would take the pressure off me if she could drive some of the time, or at least move the car from the Thursday side to the Friday side. The situation makes me feel uncomfortably like the Grown-Up in the relationship, not to say the Errand Boy. Is it fair to noodge a new mom?
—DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION, FORT GREENE
A: Noodging works about as well as a 1976 Gremlin. Be straight with her, but also be more understanding. There are plenty of New Yorkers who would sooner take up skydiving than get behind the wheel in midtown. Of course, all things being equal, she should buckle down and hit the road. But are all things equal? Can you state, with your right hand raised, that you do your fair share of the cleaning, shopping, laundry, cooking, and child care? Think about this tonight when she gets up to feed the baby. Assuming you even wake up.
Q: People are giving me so much shit about not having a cell phone. I can’t take it anymore! Whenever I try to make plans with friends, they say, “I’ll just call you on my cell,” instead of something succinct and workable. Then they act like I’m the one who’s making things difficult when I remind them I don’t have one. And at work, when I tell people I don’t have one, they act offended, as though I must be lying. Am I wrong to think cell phones are optional? Is the whole world against me?
—LONELY LUDDITE, CHELSEA
A: No and yes. Not having a cell phone is badass. It tells people: When I’m with you, that’s the only place I am—I don’t care who else is trying to reach me. It also says that you are not a lemming, that you don’t need a Ms. Pac-Man lunchbox just because all the other kids have one. But in terms of the world being against you, in a word, definitely. So try this. When people ask for your cell number, offer up an indulgent, rich-bitch-by-the-pool laugh and say, “Oh, I don’t do that. I don’t care for them.” (The “darling” is silent.) This is much more glamorous-sounding than a simple “I don’t have a cell,” which could also mean “I can’t afford one” or “I’m too much of a flake to deal with getting one.” “I don’t do that. I don’t care for them” suggests that you are so free-spirited and self-assured that you simply can’t be bothered. Except, of course, with your friend’s cell phone, which, let’s face it, you borrow all the time.
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