DEAR AMY: What is the kindest way to let a person know that you are no longer interested in a friendship?
A former friend (at least that's how I feel) continues to send emails and leave phone messages, which I haven't returned in the hopes that she gets the hint.
However, since the emails continue, it appears that it hasn't occurred to her that I no longer want to pursue a friendship with her.
Having known her for a number of years, I do feel as if I may owe her an explanation, but I fear that there is no nice way to say to someone, "I don't want to be your friend anymore" or is there?
— Former Friend
DEAR FORMER: Breaking up is hard to do, and breaking up with a friend is in some ways harder than severing a romantic attachment because of the length and breadth of the relationship. And yet, breaking up is the right thing to do.
Imagine how you would feel if you were laboring along, extending yourself through friendship and oblivious to the fact that someone was dodging and wanted to dump you?
You don't mention reasons why you want to leave this friendship, and so I suggest a version of "It's not you; it's me."
You should call her to say, "I feel terrible because I haven't been completely honest with you. I am sorry, but I just feel our friendship has run its course, and I no longer have anything to offer."
If she is a lovely person who deserves better, tell her so. If she has done specific things that have affected you and that you can't get past, then tell her that too. And if she has something to say, listen.
The painful penance of delivering the breakup is to face the other person's reaction.
DEAR AMY: My husband's nephew graduated from high school last June. His parents hosted a graduation party in his honor at their home. We gave him a substantial cash gift.
We have now learned that he didn't in fact graduate. Not only did he not graduate, but he and his family knew before the party that he was not graduating (he has left school and doesn't seem likely to ever graduate).
My husband wants the money that we gave to him back. I say it's too late and there's nothing he can do. He wants to talk to the nephew and his brother to get the money back.
What do you think?
— Miffed Relatives
DEAR MIFFED: I agree that this family has behaved in a way that requires a response, but your husband's choice to demand his money back is unkind — and will not necessarily convey to his nephew the larger lesson.
Mainly, if he demands his money back, his brother and nephew will brand him a jerk and let themselves off the hook.
And so while I disagree with your husband's choice, I also disagree with your assessment that there is nothing he can do.
He should contact both his brother and his nephew and express his confusion and disappointment over this family's deception. He can say, "I don't get it. I'm really surprised that you would let people believe there was a graduation to celebrate when that simply wasn't the case. I'm also shocked that you would accept graduation gifts under these circumstances."
The brother and nephew should then offer to return the money (they probably won't do this, but it would be good to give them the opportunity to). It's possible (perhaps likely) that this family planned the party and then learned after the invitations had gone out that the boy wouldn't graduate. They maintained their plans to avoid embarrassment.
It seems that didn't work out so well.
DEAR AMY: "Touchy" reported that her friend (African-American) was referring to her employer as "the Plantation" and her bosses as "overseers."
Maybe the friend meant it as a joke! You just don't get that this is funny!
DEAR APPALLED: I assume that the friend meant her Facebook postings as a joke — or something like a joke. The only problem is that this is not funny. At all.
Send questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.