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damage control

An unidentified man using a smart phone walks through London's Canary Wharf financial district in the evening light in London, on Sept. 28, 2018.Russell Boyce/Reuters

The question

I, and I’m guessing many others, would like help with the following issue: Several long-standing friends (and my brother-in-law), seem to feel that the responsibility of initiating contact lies solely with me. Although I will acknowledge we all seem to enjoy our times together, I can’t help feeling debased that they can’t make the effort to call me. When confronted, their defence ranges from, “That’s not my thing,” to sarcasm at my neediness. Although I value these relationships, so help me I am getting to the point of wanting to say goodbye to some of them.

The answer

Excellent question – and one, I think you’re quite right, has occurred to many people from time to time.

In life, in relationships, there is often a telephoner, and a telephonee; an e-mailer, and an e-mailee; or, to echo your terms, contacter and contactee.

This is true in friendships. I’ve noticed this over the years with friends: There are some I will always call but who will never call me. Why? Ask it on the mountain. They seem happy to hear from me – but just don’t call.

This is true, often, in love. The French have a saying: “In every relationship, there is one who kisses and one who offers the cheek.”

And this is true in business. Argh! Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m a writer, for goodness sake. You don’t think I’ve spent a significant amount of my life with “my hat in my hand”?

(I heard that phrase from a friend who I always thought would make a great writer – he’s extremely felicitous with his phraseology – but who became a businessman instead because, as he’s often said, “I didn’t want to go everywhere with my hat in my hand.”)

But you know what? I decided at a certain point I would set aside what I can only call (here’s me trying to be felicitous) “the shame of being a supplicant.”

I may have taken this notion too far in my lifetime. Some people might say: “Have you no dignity, man? Are you some sort of schnorrer?” (Basically, Yiddish for supplicant.)

To them I can only say: “You gotta schnorr to score, baby!”

I’ve schnorred my way into several jobs I in no way deserved. One was in television: The person doing the hiring was getting back to my e-mails less and less, until I finally said: “Unless you specifically tell me otherwise, I’ll show up at your office Wednesday at four.”

I showed up. Wearily, she looked across her desk and said: “What shift would you like?”

My point, basically, is: If you want something, go for it. Don’t worry about who is doing all the initiating.

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

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