The Friendzone: Reading Fifty Shades as a Pakistani Mom and Giving Cash to Pals


Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel’s column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you’re not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email [email protected].

My older friend has mentioned a couple of times that she would like to read that book “Fifty Shades of Grey.” This has gotten me very nervous. She is a 45-year-old married Muslim Pakistani mother and I think for her demographic, this book is extremely inappropriate. In our culture, sex is still a taboo topic. Kids/teens don’t get the sex talk. We know not to have sex (until we’re married) and to not speak of it. I know “Fifty Shades” is all about sex, and a very particular type of sex that even I wasn’t familiar with until Rihanna’s song “S&M” came out and I was like 18. Anyway, I’m concerned for my friend’s emotional well being because I don’t know how she would react to the type of stuff mentioned in that book. I don’t think she even knows about the type of sex mentioned in the book. How do I keep her from reading it?

Once upon a time, my friend Diana Saez and I somehow convinced a media company to pay us to pretend to be then-Governor Sarah Palin and her repressed lesbian sidekick, Dina Heath-Barr, in web videos. My grandmother wanted to watch them.

“But Grandmom,” I said. “I use a lot of curse words.”

“I’ve heard all of them,” she replied.

I love that you’re looking out for your friend! But I think you underestimate her. She is a grown woman who has had quite a bit more life experience than you (I’m guessing you are just about twenty or twenty-one). Your friend may even have an inkling of what the book is about – perhaps that is why she is so interested. After all, she’s 45, well into what some folks would call a woman’s sexual prime.

If it’s really bugging you, I’d wait for her to bring it up again and then gently say, “You know, that book is supposed to be pretty wild. I’ve heard it’s got a lot of very racy content.” You don’t have to get specific. You don’t even have to say the word “sex.” If she asks how you know, remind her that the book is quite famous. Then drop the subject and let her do whatever she wishes. You never know – she might secretly enjoy it.

My best friend and I are both in our second year of college and I know we’re both already racking up quite a bit of debt. However, my family is much more affluent than hers and we recently reached an insurance settlement. I want to give $500-$1,000 to my friend because I know she’s struggling financially and doesn’t have the same amount of family support I do. Should I give her the money? My other friends say it’s a really bad idea.

While I applaud your generous instinct, I really think it’s best you use the money for other purposes. What seems to you to be a kind and well-meaning gesture may come off as condescending or pitying. I know that isn’t your motivation at all, but money has a way of obscuring even the best intentions. You may inadvertently create a situation in which your friend feels she owes you – and obligation can breed resentment. There’s no doubt your friend already knows there’s a big economic difference between the two of you, and your gift might only highlight it. I’d wager she’s a hardworking kid and isn’t looking for handouts from buddies.

Don’t feel guilty about your family’s wealth. Use your portion sensibly, to take care of your own debt and day-to-day expenses. If you’re feeling charitable, talk to your parents about making a tax-deductible donation to a good cause.

This is not to say you can’t treat your pal to a meal here and there, or even a spa day if it’s a special occasion. When I was in college, I never would’ve said no to a free sushi meal or an all-expenses-paid birthday mani/pedi/facial extravaganza. (Note to my current friends: I still would never say no to this.) Speaking of bdays, if you know she needs oven mitts or barbeque tongs or something, a gift card to Blood Bath and Beyond is entirely appropriate. But forking over cash or a check is just going to make everybody involved feel real weird.

I have a friend with whom I have been very close for the better half of my life. After she got married a couple of years ago, it became increasingly difficult to spend time with her or even talk to her. It got so bad that we barely spoke for six whole months. Now, she is pregnant with her first child. She did make the effort to tell me personally, and I sincerely congratulated her. However, now she tells me that her feelings are hurt because I “don’t seem to really care” about her pregnancy (as in, I didn’t comment on her FB ultrasound pictures, legitimately declined baby shower invite, etc). She seems to expect something more out of me now that she is pregnant, even though she has hardly tried to be my friend for the last 2 years. I am frustrated and hurt by her lack of effort, and now very, very confused by her sudden need for my attention after blowing me off for so long.

For a moment, let’s put aside the hilarious fact that her fee-fees were hurt by your lack of comments on her freaking ultrasound photos on Facebook. Because that is just dumb. I choose to assume she was having a bad day when she complained to you about that, and she is not actually an idiot.

It sounds to me like your friend got so intoxicated with the thrills of nesting (putting together IKEA furniture; boning on said IKEA furniture; breaking said IKEA furniture; buying new IKEA furniture) that she forgot how to be a good girlfriend. And now that she’s pregnant, well, holy crap! She’s remembered how important her support system is.

You could continue to politely distance yourself and eventually end the friendship just as she embarks on an exciting new journey in her life. But you say you’ve “been very close for the better half” of your existence on Planet Earth. I’m guessing you’ve got plenty of good years logged together, as well as two stinky ones. One of my best friends basically disappeared the first year she spent with her foxy beau, but she came back around, obviously because my hot ass is too sexy to be without. And so is yours!

Your girl still loves you and craves your affection and attention. Instead of throwing away an old, good friendship, why not try to make it better in future? You can be honest and tell her you felt hurt and alone when she avoided you for two years. Be sure to add that you never stopped loving her, and that you are happy she is having a baby. Emphasize that you really WANT to be a part of her life – you were just getting so many “no” signals for awhile that you backed off. But if she’s ready to party again, so are you. Then make her a mocktail to enjoy while you do a well-deserved shot. Then watch a Ryan Gosling film. Boom! Friendship renewed.

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