Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“You just never know what goes on behind closed doors, sweetie,” my mom always says.
She squeezes an extra vowel into the word “sweetie” so it sounds more like SAW-whee-tee, more like a threat than a term of endearment.
Annoying as it is, she knows this for a fact. After 30 some odd years as a clinical psychotherapist, she’d heard a story or two that would blow your mind. “On my death bed, I will tell you things about people who were in your every-day life that you will not believe,” she’ll say. You know, doctor/patient confidentiality and all that.
Her point is, if you think you know what’s going on in your best friend/sister/neighbor’s personal life, chances are you don’t have a clue.
That’s a lesson that’s proven to be valuable lately with some of the relationship drama that’s been going around. We all know I’m out of the weeds on that one. Unfortunately, some of my friends aren’t.
All I can say about that is thank god Facebook didn’t really exist when I was still single because lord knows I’m dangerous enough with a computer keyboard as it is.
I try to not to say anything when it comes to my true feelings about my friend’s relationships, I do. I know that a) they won’t listen and b) they’ll probably just get mad at me for telling them what they don’t want to hear.
But sometimes I just can’t keep my mouth shut.
Just recently, I found out my friend Beth got married – without telling anyone – to someone she met on a trip to Italy. That’s great and everything, except Beth’s boyfriend was still living at her apartment back home.
“We both knew the relationship was over,” she’d said in a panicked phone call that came after the fact. “I told him I met someone and he understood. But please don’t tell him I’m married. I want to protect his feelings.”
Even though I sort of figured there were better ways to protect his feelings, I tried to stay out of it.
Then it all sort of blew up because of this little website called Facebook. This part of the story has nothing whatsoever to do with my big mouth.
The message I received via Facebook from Beth’s boyfriend Bill was short and to the point. “Is Beth married?” it read.
Bill and I are friends on Facebook but we don’t talk on the phone or see each other or hang out socially or interact beyond what we read on each other’s status updates. We are, however, mutual friends with Beth even though he “defriended” her when he first found out about her affair.
Beth went ahead and changed her profile photo to one with her new husband, and someone else apparently posted one that showed her wedding ring.
Let me interrupt this story to say social media is like a room full of snotty faced 3-year-olds drooling all over themselves, except instead of spreading germs you’re spreading information. This is not the place to go without shoes or a surgical mask if there is something in your life you are trying to keep on the down low. So. Not. Appropriate.
I try to be supportive. I try to stay neutral. I’m like Switzerland or maybe Costa Rica.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this,” I wrote back. “But it’s not my place to say. You’re going to have to ask Beth about it.”
Suddenly I find myself in the middle of the maelstrom with both sides hammering out their frustrations and their life stories into my inbox. Now I’m more like Germany or Nicaragua. This is definitely a coup.
The e-mails from Beth get longer and more heated. I can feel my eyes glaze over as the little black words on the white screen start to blur and turn into little spiders crawling up the walls or maybe ants swirling down the drain. I try to ignore them, to pull myself out of it, but it’s too late.
And then one day, I can’t take it anymore and throw out my first bomb. I tell Beth how I really feel.
And that’s when the sheet got shredded by the fan.
Beth berated me for judging her, even after I explained I was just being honest.
I wrote her back to apologize. I told her I didn’t mean to upset her. Then I told her a few stories I hadn’t told her before.
Like, when my best girlfriend was not that receptive to Ryan when I first brought him around. It took time, I explained, years, before she got to know him better and to trust him and finally to love him. But it’s only because she cares about me so much.
“I was just being honest because that’s what’s friends do,” I wrote. But that’s not really true at all.
There is a time and there is a place.
Like with my dear friend Dana back East. She was dating this guy who was a total loser and we all knew it, but he made her happy so we didn’t say anything. When the break-up day came, then it was the appropriate time to pull out all my best moves.
“Three words: He doesn’t ski,” I said. “Plus, now I can finally say it. He is short and fat and kind of ugly! You can do better!”
Instead of hurting her feelings, I think it actually made her laugh a little.
That’s when I realized Mom is right. No one knows a relationship except the people who are in it. If you truly are someone’s friend, the best thing you can do is keep your feelings to yourself and be there to pick up the pieces if things fall apart, or to cherish them if they don’t.
At least for now, these lips are sealed.
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.