Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Every year I celebrate birthdays with three friends. Theirs are
December, January, and February. Mine is May. The gifts that we
exchange have gotten more moderate over the years but they’re still
in the $20-25 range, and used to be in good taste. Theirs certainly are
because it is during the end of year art and holiday sales. But by the
time my birthday comes around people feel partied out, gifted out, and
ready for summer, not for brunch schmooze. Last week I got a movie
gift card and two re-gifts, or at least one (that the friend had
complained about receiving in January) and the other was also
suspect. These are ld friends but I have less and less in common with
them. I still enjoy them one on one, sorta, but we all sat there pretty
quietly and when I drove away my mood was more relief than joy.


Dear Done:

You’re describing relationships that have run their course. It’s always
hard to let go of friends, especially because as we age there’s always a
fear that we may not meet new ones to replace them. But if you have
less and less to talk about, and don’t feel well loved or respected, it’s
time to re-evaluate your relationship.

Call them one at a time and ask to meet for coffee. Explain you have
some questions you’d rather discuss in person. If any of them does not
say yes, don’t bother dialing back; that’s enough information. For the
ones that do, have the kind of conversation you would with someone
you have dated for a long time and aren’t sure you want to continue
seeing. Explain that brunch felt flat and you want to have a
relationship conversation. You risk, btw, that the first will immediately
dial the others, so choose the one you care about the most as your
test case. Ask what your friend feels sustains and nourishes the
friendship. Then wait for an answer. It is always hard to do that,
especially if there is awkward silence. If you actually get into a
dialogue, explain that from now on you prefer to get together one-on-
one, and rather than spending money on semi-obligatory gifts you
would rather go to a show, or a walk, or a museum, or share an
activity where you’ll both interact and be engaged. Repeat this
exercise with each of them and see who picks up the phone and invites
you to play, or whom you are moved to call. Time will resolve this
pretty effectively.