QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER: A dear friend is getting married, across the country from me, in Florida She wants me to be there; I cannot afford to attend her wedding. And when I say I cannot afford it, I mean, I am on food stamps, haven’t bought new clothes (even shitty ones from Old Navy) in ages, and live in an apartment where people regularly overdose on meth or get murdered. But, she wants me there. So much so, that she is willing to take some of the money her mother is giving her for this, her second wedding, to fly me to her wedding.
I am almost comfortable letting someone buy me a cup of coffee, but I have the instinct to twitch when they buy me lunch and I can’t reciprocate. So, allowing someone to fly me 3000 miles? Oy to the vey. How do I deal with the fact that if she does this, I still can’t afford the cost of the train to the airport here without sounding like I’m squeezing her for more money? How do I tactfully say, “I know you’ll be swamped with a thousand details, including friends coming in from other countries, but you’ll be able to get someone to pick me up and bring me back to the airport in Florida, right?” She said something in an email to me about, “If you can swing an air mattress…” I don’t want to be bitchy, but I don’t think she gets that I can really, truly, barely swing rent. I do not own a couch. So no, I definitely can not swing an air mattress. I am fine with sleeping on a floor, because the important thing is a friend wants me to support her on her special day. But I really cannot financially support the cost of emotionally supporting her?
Also, what do I do about getting them a wedding gift? I’m already almost two years late getting my own brother a wedding gift. I don’t want to be tacky by showing up without a gift. I know the “you have a year” rule, but I have no way of knowing if my financial situation will right itself in a year. Or, do I get her and her future husband a really cheap, blatantly tacky gift like chocolate hearts and make a corny joke about it?
Or, going in another direction, if the best thing is to just not go, how do I tell her tactfully (she is of a different, more formal culture than mine, and I’d hate to offend and ruin our friendship)?
As always, the floor is yours. Please try to offer anything that might help out our wedding-challenged friend…
Though I will say, off the cuff, that friends really don’t give a shit. I mean, sure, they want you there, but please. I, for one, adore my friends, feel they’re my family, but the world would not end if any of them couldn’t attend my wedding. I would completely understand and wouldn’t take it personally.
I get that she wants you there, is willing to pay, but if I were you, I’d send her a picture frame, engraved (it’s $20, plus shipping) with the year and location of her honeymoon inscribed: Hawaii, 2011. It shows forethought and isn’t cheap looking.
I also get that you don’t want to explain your whole situation, because you don’t want anyone feeling burdened or sorry for you. But, you know what? You live once. And your being at her wedding isn’t all that important, BUT being honest with her is. My script would go something like this (and the color girls sing…)
I adore you, you know that. And I’d love to be there with you, and I am so appreciative of your offer and recognize how much you’re willing to do for me to be there… and you know a “but” is coming. Before I give you the “but,” I want you to know that this is not personal, at all. I quite simply can’t afford it. I really wish I could, but I can’t. And there are all sorts of small expenses that add up, and I really don’t feel comfortable, as gracious as you are, accepting your offer. I love you and don’t want you to feel anything but deliriously happy. I am thrilled for you and will be raising a glass (of water) in your honor. P.S. That was a joke. For real though, I will 100% be there in spirit.
Only, I wouldn’t write it. I’d say it. Less room for misinterpretation and analysis.
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