Skip to main content
damage control

The question

Last night, my friend (with whom I wasn’t that close) invited me to her aunt’s yacht. We had dinner with her family and we drank wine and that’s the last thing I remember. I have flashbacks of me vomiting on her white carpet and her telling me to leave ASAP. I went home and my parents, who didn’t know I drink, punished me for life. The problem is my friend. I talked to her the next morning and she blew me off, telling me the yacht plumbing isn’t working because of the tissues I threw inside the toilet. When I offered to pay for the damaged stuff and apologized so we can stay close, she stopped replying to me. I really don’t want to lose her as a friend, especially because we were getting close. I know it’s all my fault, but I need help. I don’t want things to be this way with her!

The answer

It’s interesting because when we first conceived of a column called “Damage Control,” part of the verbiage we batted around in our meetings was: “Yeah, it should be an etiquette-type column, but an extreme etiquette column, aimed mostly at dudes, and handle stuff like: ‘If you vomit in the corner at a party, what do you do next?’”

But of course the idea evolved; it is now obviously aimed at both men and women alike, and over the years we have handled just about every possible scenario under the sun (hot tub pop-ups, fake service-dog kerfuffles and so forth).

With one exception: this original, origin-story-type scenario.

So (columnist rolls up sleeves, cracks knuckles, rolls head from side to side, stretching neck, which makes like crick-cracking sounds): Let’s get down to it, shall we?

Step one: Drink less. One’s drinking life is an evolution. I began mine at a state fair in Minnesota at age 16, drank a bunch of “malt liquor” (a beverage I can’t even look at to this day), threw up (like you) and literally wound up lying among the beasts, on a pile of straw.

“Never again,” I swore – but I did, again. You sound young; drinking is something you have to keep a gimlet eye on as you progress through your 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.

“Alcohol is insidious and can really sneak up on you,” as my mother-in-law says. You have to keep it under wraps. My thing has always been: “I love it too much to give it up, so I try to keep moderate so that I don’t have to be one of those guys who stand around with a cranberry juice in their 50s and 60s.”

(Anyway, that’s what I said in my 20s. I now know guys like that and they’re not necessarily unhappy.)

But it can really bite you on the posterior. So, be careful.

Okay, so that’s the bigger picture. Cool it on the booze. As to your comportment on that particular yacht, on that particular day – well, obviously, it was far from ideal. My wife has a compelling saying if someone gets a little too tipsy: “Apart from everything else, it’s not attractive.”

And you want to be attractive as possible at all times, don’t you? And throwing up on a yacht – or a skiff, dinghy, canoe, or any water or land-based conveyance or indeed anywhere at all – and messing up the plumbing is not attractive at all.

So, I would a) moderate your lifestyle choices, and make it clear to your friend and her aunt that you have done so; b) apologize profusely.

A present of some sort should perhaps be involved. I’m thinking flowers, because at least symbolically their delightful aroma will provide a counterpoint to the noisome noxiousness of your night on the yacht.

Your friend may continue to “ghost” you for a while. That’s obviously her prerogative. But I believe if she sees you’ve genuinely reformed and moderated your ways, if she is truly meant to be your friend, she won’t cut you off completely and forever.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries..