norman lebrecht

September 16, 2023

From our agony aunt:

Dear Alma,

I got lucky (actually I worked very hard ) two years ago and got a sweet job in the same fantastic city where I graduated from music school. It pays handsomely, and I like what I do. I am quite a bit younger than most of the people I work with, and so my main group of friends is still the same as in school. I love them to bits, but it’s getting pretty awkward because they are all still broke and I am flush. When I suggest a place to eat, they all balk and say it’s too expensive, but I am sick of grabbing a slice at Franco Manca or a bowl of ramen. I feel grown up and wish they would grow up too. I offer to just pay for everyone but they don’t like that either. I like them all much better than my new, old and stodgy colleagues, but I want something better than sitting on a saggy couch and watching Bridgerton. 

Dear Poor Friends,

Congratulations on getting a plumb job. That’s not easy to do, especially in a town that you like and know, with a built-in friend network.

These moments between school and a job certainly have growing pains, and not all of your friends will end up in the same financial spot at the same time. So hold on, and let’s see if we can find a way to bridge this gap without too much Bridgerton or KFC.

It must be frustrating to have money to spend, but not be able to spend it with your friends. Paying for them now and again is probably ok, but it will make them feel awkward and can negatively affect your friendships.

When I was in college, my oldest sister had a great job in an exotic location. She invited me to come stay with her and take a vacation together. I saved up as best as I could, managing just enough to get to her location and to bare-bones a couple of weeks of vacation. She had offered to pay my travel, but I was stubborn and proud and wanted to fend for myself. At her place, she treated me as extravagantly as she could while still making me feel comfortable. She bough amazing cheeses, pastries, great wine, and had some cool parties.

When the vacay part happened, I told her I wanted to pay my way but I could only afford campgrounds. She offered to pay for hotels but I wasn’t comfortable. It would make me feel beholden. So she agreed and was a good sport about it all. After a couple of days, she asked if it would be ok if she sprung for a modest hotel and a decent dinner. I could see she had made a good step towards me, and that it would only be fair for me to take that step towards her. We LOVED staying in that hotel! And the breakfast was divine. We ended up staying two days. She was happy, I was happy. Then we went back to camping.

I think the best thing you could do is to take a moment to write down your feelings. Really sort it out. They are your friends, and probably a great support network for you as you make this transition into your new career, so it’s important to preserve this. You have to find a balance between what makes them feel comfortable, while still enjoying the perks of your life upgrade. I am sure there is a way for you to be generous with them without them feeling like they owe you one. However, it’s more important for you to fit into their lives than for you to push them into an uncomfortable financial situation.

Why don’t you invite them over, have a potluck or make a great dinner (or have some super delivery), pop Bridgerton on the telly, and find a time to tell them how you are feeling, and see what they think. Maybe you could suggest that every 4 times you go out, they let you splurge and treat them to drinks or a dessert or a dinner. It’s good to get it off your chest, and to hear what they think. I am sure you can find a common ground!

And – former Dear Alma peeps – please write in and let us know how you are doing – we would love to hear from you!

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By mrtrv

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