What to Do If You Hate Your Friend's Boyfriend
My friend Jane's new boyfriend, Peter, is a tool. When I asked him what he does for a living, he looked me up and down and finally answered, "I don't really think you'd get it." (He works in IT; it's not that complicated!) Jane's other friends and I always try to include him in conversation on our weekly couples night, but he either stares at the ceiling or plays with his phone. When he does decide to speak, it's to one-up somebody. We even caught him cheating at cards! Peter seems to treat Jane well, but for the rest of us, it's all disdain all the time. Jane hasn't been with anybody in a couple of years, so she's still in that "He's absolute perfection!" phase. Can we tell her that Pete is obnoxious? Or are we just stuck hoping they break up?
—Bummed Out in Bakersfield
My Dear Friend,
Here are your choices:
1. You can slip into a pair of stilettos and "accidentally" step on Peter's foot every time he condescends.... Of course, I'd be remiss in not mentioning that you do risk an assault charge and possibly some jail time, but if it's a first offense, what with prison overcrowding and all, you'll be home in an ankle bracelet before you can say "Orange is the new black."
2. You can give up on couples night and make a point of inviting Jane for some all-girl brunches. She'll eventually figure out what your sudden need for a yolk-free omelet is really about, so it won't actually spare her feelings in the end—but it will spare you more time with this guy if that's the important thing.
3. You can remember that there's a fine line between acting out of disdain and acting out of massive insecurity. It's hard to be the new kid at school. Perhaps Mr. Obnoxious is afraid his girlfriend's gang won't accept him, and that fear has the guy ricocheting between coming on too strong, refusing to engage at all, and cheating at cards. Okay, maybe not that last thing, but I think you get the idea. For Jane's sake, everyone needs to redouble their efforts to make him feel welcome. Ask where he grew up, what restaurant he wants to go to, which movie he'd like to see, whether he'd ever experienced human contact or been a member of polite society before meeting Jane.
And yes, it could be that Jane has been lonely and has therefore chosen to turn a blind eye to her love's flaws; however, pointing this out is likely to do nothing but blow up in your face. The important thing is that he's good to Jane and she's genuinely happy. If and when this is no longer the case, it's a whole new ball game. But for now, all I am saying is give Pete a chance.
Lisa Kogan is O's writer at large and the author of Someone Will Be with You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life. To ask Lisa a question, email email@example.com.