Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?

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Dear Robin:

I have my 20th high school reunion coming up this summer and I am really looking forward to seeing some old friends back in Eugene, OR (I moved to Seattle for college and never went back).

My problem is that the summer after my senior year, I got pretty drunk at a party and had sex with my best friend’s boyfriend. I felt TERRIBLE about it and as far as I knew for a few months afterward she never found out. Then suddenly she stopped answering my calls and long story short, we haven’t spoken in almost 20 years.

By the way, she and the boyfriend broke up that fall, or so I heard from mutual friends, even though they went to the same college in New York. I heard she is married with three kids, she’s a dentist and still lives in Eugene, so I’m sure she will be at the reunion.

I want to make amends before the reunion. Do you think I should reach out and apologize to her? I’ve written the email over and over again but I don’t have the guts to send it.

-Sam

Dear Sam:

This would be a good accessory for you:

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Just kidding.  Hey, shit happens, right?  By all means you should reach out and apologize, so long as you expect nothing in return.

Obeying the niggling presence of conscience is rarely a bad idea, but from your friend’s perspective the timing may be viewed as interesting. You have had 20 years to make amends for letting her man take a stab at you, but are choosing to do so now only because you know you will be thrown together in a few months.  That does somewhat lessen the impact of the apology, because your motives are cloudy and therefore suspect.

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In fact, you never even faced the issue with her head-on.  You simply surmised she had heard the news because she stopped returning your calls.  You should consider the possibility that she simply got really busy or that once she got to know new people in New York she decided you were comparatively lame, being from Eugene and all.

Obviously you should have handled this matter years ago, but I’m stuck with the lousy facts you gave me so I’ll do my best.

This was a long time ago. For those of us who didn’t peak in high school, none of the drama from our tortured adolescence should matter anymore.  Unless we are talking about ME, of course, because I use that pain to create and thrive.

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Your friend managed to recover from the devastation wrought by you and her miscreant boyfriend and now is juggling a career and family. I’m wondering if she may read your email and think: what the hell is she bothering me with this for?

I’m truly of two minds here so it’s tough to pick my answer.  Instead, I’ll give you two options, either of which are brilliant:

1. Don’t email her – call her.  Pick up the phone and make contact.  Tell her you are excited to see her but you’d like to clear the air about what happened 20 years ago.  Apologize and ask for her forgiveness (these are two totally different things, by the way).  If she is receptive you are cleared for takeoff and a wonderful reunion.*

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If she doesn’t answer or return your call, or if she screams at you on the phone and tells you that your whorish ways ruined her life, you may want to reconsider your plans for that weekend, or double down by making a flagrant pass at her husband just for shits and giggles.  Be prepared to follow through, though, because if you are going to burn this bridge you may as well add flammable lube to the fire.

2. Say nothing in advance but take her aside at your first opportunity, hand her a shot of tequila and apologize to her face.  Wear a helmet just in case she is a major league grudge holder.  Try to work up some tears to generate sympathy.  If acting does not come naturally to you, picture Lindsay Lohan announcing she is pregnant with twins and adopting 4 dogs.  That always does it for me.

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I guess option 3 would be the Norwegian plan: say nothing, do nothing, pretend as if all of this never happened and act accordingly.  After all, you aren’t still in contact with this woman, so does it really matter if you make nice for the reunion?

You’ll remember I said not to expect anything from your friend, and I think the key to your problem resides in accepting that she may not want to either forgive you or speak to you.  If you would give the apology anyway, no matter what the outcome may be, it has merit and should be offered.

However, if you could peer into a crystal ball and see her negative reaction to your apology and therefore not offer it, it’s worthless anyway and you shouldn’t bother – and that says a whole lot more about you than it does your former friend.

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Please let me know how it goes, because despite my caustic wit I really do care.

-Robin

*Actually, a high school reunion sounds like the worst way to spend time I can think of, which explains why I have yet to attend any of mine.  The only good part would be observing how the cheerleaders, pageant queens, football players and bullies turned out to be decidedly less than they were in their teen years.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Margaret

    I like the sleeping dogs lie approach.
    Just go to the reunion. If she makes a scene, she’ll embarrass herself. Like you said 20 years was a long time ago and most people will agree at the reunion and will take this attitude if she makes a scene. Calling her now is a fake attempt at making yourself comfortable.
    Remember this was your mistake and you should have apologized a long time ago, whether she already knew or not.
    Nuff said.

  2. echinachea

    The only fun thing about reunions is that the 16 year old fat girls can turn into the sixty-something slim girls, and vice versa. Other than that, the food usually sucks and there are usually much better ways to spend an evening.

  3. ali whiting

    Twenty years later Sam is still wrestling with her guilty conscience. An infamous quote comes to mind – what difference, at this point, does it make?! Forgive yourself for being young, drunk and a lousy friend then let it go. Just stay on the opposite side of the room if she shows up. Robin hit the nail on the head about the timing and motives with this touchy situation!

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