When Friends Go Too Far

I was at dinner last night with a new friend (the official year of friending is over, and I’m still finding new ones! Phew) who also happens to be a therapist. She was telling me a story about an acquaintance-of-sorts who quickly became a non-accquaintance when he asked her for a doctor’s note claiming he was her patient and suggesting he need a prescription that, in fact, he merely wanted.

It reminded me of a story I’d heard recently, involving two old friends. (Er, one friend, one “girl I know.”) My friend is a doctor, and the other girl–a friend of my friend, not of mine–called her while she was on vacation to beg for a prescription. For her boss. To clear some cold sores. So she could attend fashion week. And when I say “beg”, I think it was really “demand.”

In both cases, my friends politely declined this fabulous opportunity to jeopardize their licenses so that others could get drugs they didn’t need. Or maybe they did need, but that would be for a medical professional who actually treated these patients to decide.

Oh my friends and their crazy ethics. Silly kids.

It’s the worst feeling when friends ask for “favors” that are really so much more. Asking for a ride to the train=favor. Asking for a scandalous prescription=taking advantage.

I haven’t found myself in this position that much, as I don’t have anything as exciting as prescriptions and doctor’s notes to give. But just the thought of it scares me. I am notoriously bad at saying no. When someone asks a favor, I do it, even if that means sacrificing my own plans or adding hours to my workload. It’s a tendency I’m really hoping to grow out of, as I just recently found myself committing to some work that I shouldn’t have and don’t have time for.

Friends, you’d think, are people who know your boundaries–and the difference between right and wrong–and keenly understand when asking for something is asking for too much. And yet some friends pounce at the chance to call in a ‘favor,’ because hey, you’re friends right?

It can be frustrating, hurtful and, sometimes, enough to end a friendship. Have you ever found yourself in this situation? A friend asking you to do something you, and she, knows is wrong? What did you do?

{Editorial Note: Today is my first Thursday blogging over at The Debutante Ball. I’ll be there every Thursday for the next year talking about books, writing and whatever else is on the dance card (though probably not much friendship, I’ve got that covered). I’d be so grateful if you’d check it out. Today, I take the Entertainment Weekly Pop Culture Personality Test. It even reveals my porn name!}


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15 responses to “When Friends Go Too Far

  1. Anonymous

    OMG totally!
    I got picked up from Midway by a friend who at the time didn’t start work until 3pm. My flight arrived at 10:00AM. Time goes by and she needs to be picked up her flight gets in at 12:15 AM. I have to be in chicago at 7AM the following day. Think to myself I am going to be tired. Then when her flight gets delayed and won’t land until 2:10AM I’m pissed. I find a car service to come to my house to swipe my credit card which of course I have to pay for the trip here. Then at 2:10 they go to airport and pick her up and bring her home by 3AM and I pay the bill.

  2. I had a friend who would call me up and ask, “What are you doing Thursday morning?” I would say, um, sleeping, then going to work.” He would then say, “Can you take me to the airport at 4am for my 6:30 flight?” I hate those people who ask if you’re busy before asking for the favor. They give you no polite way out. You have to say yes otherwise you come across as a jerk. They trap you into doing a nice thing instead of giving you the option.

    It’s not comparable to your doctor friend’s issue, but still, it’s annoying.

    • Kate

      Oh my gosh. This is so true.

      • Janna

        I once had a roommate who would book the early morning (6 a.m.) flight EVERY time he went on vacation anywhere so he could maximize the day off from work he took. And he’d ALWAYS ask me to drive him to the airport at 3:30/4 in the morning. I did it a few times, mentioning that maybe he could book a later flight if he wanted a ride to the airport, or take a cab if it was going to be so early, or even book a flight the evening before. He would just laugh … until he booked an early-bird flight (this was at least the 5th time) and sort of non-chalantly said “oh, yeah, I’m going to need another ride to the airport at 4” and I told him sorry, he just had to get a cab. It was getting to be sort of a given that every time he wanted a vacation, I would get up 3 hours early to give him a ride to the airport!

        • I can’t believe people do this!!!

          If we know we need to travel AND will need a lift to the airport, we purposely book at a very convenient time in the middle of the day (I won’t even book after supper flights) so we have lots of friend options.

          If there is no other choice we take our car and leave it in long-term parking at the airport (more of a schlep – we need to leave much more time to get back to the terminal, etc. plus the expense) but I’d rather be inconvenienced than have my friends resentful or put them in a position where they don’t feel they can say no.

        • i know this is already years back but i need to make a response… hahaha and the nerve for the very same people to lose their patience on you for not being able to do the favor that was agreed upon which of course involved you sacrificing more. Wow. Classy.

    • Anonymous

      Next time they ask your plans, respond with,”Why?”

  3. Liz

    Ok, my best friend from college is also my dentist (in Chicago, in case you need a referral!). I had a wisdom tooth that desperately needed to be pulled, but it was the weekend before I was scheduled to have it pulled, and I wanted to chop my head off from the pain. I did call BFC and have her call in a prescription but a) I am actually a patient; b) she knew about the tooth; and c) she’s known me since college – she knows I’m a total lightweight and wouldn’t be calling for recreational purposes LOL

    I have a mutual friend (Z) who has the opposite problem – a friend that won’t offer her professional assistance.

    Z’s daughter alleges abuse by her father, long protracted court/custody/visitation battle ensues, daughter is having a garden variety of medical issues because of the stress of being required to have visits with her non-admitting father. Everyone who knows Z is rallying, trying to figure out why the judge insists that her daughter still see her father (who of course isn’t admitting to anything). offering to come to court, write letters, talk to attorney friends, just listen when she needs to vent – anything to offer some support.

    B is the godmother of Z’s daughter. B is also an attorney who went to law school in the state the case is being argued in. B does nothing. Doesn’t ask how Daughter (her godchild) is doing; doesn’t check on Daughter the day of an invasive medical procedure or anytime afterward; doesn’t ask Z how she is holding up; doesn’t offer her professional opinion on the case, offer to put Z in touch with a colleague or even reach out to her network of other attorneys to see if someone has encountered a similar case & might have some insight.

    Z is hurt and disappointed. Any advice in that situation?

  4. Kate

    This is a tough one. The prescription issue is pretty cut and dried, that is so much more than an inconvenience. But I’m hesitant to ask friends for favors in general because I think everyone has their own threshold for how much is too much to ask. I think it depends on the depth of your friendship with the person also.

    I’m a freelance copywriter/editor and it’s shocking how many people will ask me for “favors” or to “show them the ropes.” My thought is, um, this is my business. I would never ask a lawyer friend for free legal counsel, a broker friend for free stock tips, etc., if they did not offer it first. It should not be different because my service is slightly more tangible.

    Unless we have an “understanding” and the friend has already offered her services to me, I always approach the topic from the angle of “do you have any referrals?” or “how much do you charge for…” Then if she offers it on the house, golden. (But then I think hiring your friends is another issue entirely…)

  5. Liz

    On the other hand, people will always surprise you.

    I had an emergency come up and I needed someone to watch my 11-year-old daughter for the day. She had been staying home for a few hours on her own (testing the waters), but I had to go out of state (returning later the same day) and just didn’t want to leave her alone. Grandma lives 1+ hour away. I’m literally scrolling through my phone seeing who I could call on 10 minutes’ notice.

    Called one friend (who I had just reconnected with on FB recently, but I used to babysit her kids (who are now having their own kids) so I’ve known her forever) who is usually available during the day but got her voice mail & hung up without leaving a message, thinking I’d find someone else. She called right back, was able to do it, picked my daughter up in 10 minutes, they had a total blast together and my friend is now one of my daughter’s absolute favorite people in the world.

    Life is funny sometimes.

  6. I agree – a friend is someone who knows boundaries. I know where mine is and what not to ask for to my dear friends.

  7. I have done my fair share of freebie editing for people (worst one being a friend of a coworker who needed some badly-translated-from-Chinese documents looked at for an application to a US university), and I’m not a huge fan of it, especially for friends of acquaintances! I’ll look at something and give people some suggestions if needed, but I really don’t like it when it ends up being a huge editing job.

    I have a friend who’s a graphic designer, and people are always asking her for favours. She has a really hard time saying no, and I think she gets taken advantage of a lot. She needs to think of it as work, and that she wouldn’t give freebies to clients, so why do it for friends? People don’t seem to understand that it’s her work, either. They just think that because she can do it, it’s easy for her and doesn’t cost anything (same for my boyfriend who seems to be dragged into solving everybody’s IT problems, including mine!). I was talking to the designer’s boyfriend about it, and he was just happy that he was a chemical weapons expert in the army, so nobody ever asked him for those kinds of favours!

  8. I’m a coach and I will give friends discounts but I never do work for free 🙂 It’s one thing to have a 10-minute coaching conversation but quite another to want free coaching.

    Fortunately I have really strong boundaries so my friends don’t push it.

    However I have had “casual friends” try and get me to do talks for free to their people (I do have standard responses ready so I say “this is what I charge other people for x service; how does that sound to you?)

    Usually they say, “oh I didn’t think you’d charge for it” and my response, “well, I don’t feel right charging some people and not others for the same thing. It’s just not fair on them, now is it?”


    Am I too full of nonsense?

    • oh and those others who would ask for a “friendly” price fuck them. even if my friend would give me that i wouldnt accept it. it’s hard earned money. i know someimtes i run short but when i have extra, i make up for it at least.

  9. a lady dentist friend of mine likes my editor bestbud whom she had liked and used as a comparison in choosing her SO’s. ASks me for a favor she knew i was already reluctant to give but still tried to help her out wants me to invite my editor bestbud over to our reunion with another friend of ours, ms businesswoman.

    Originally it’s just me and the girls from college and lady dentist but i can’t mix a piping hot pan and right away. My plan was at least offer her to be invited by the businesswoman over to the reunion i was setting up,but then i also knew that businesswoman and writer friend knew that i was close with lady dentist too. so if i was to lady dentist was to explain that businesswoman invited her over not me, knowing the past context with my writer friend and lady dentist, i was paranoid since lady dentist didnt want businesswoman to know about our plan. —- i was really thinking about the exfriends who i distrust for inviting me over to bond but then would surprise me with a Usana spiel and a Usana apologist to dominate the conversation. i hated that. that’s why i just went up to my writer friend if he wanted to go to the party where lady dentist would be in and straight up said no and ranted.

    yes i broke my word, since i later realized I had a lot at stake here than to help a friend have an 8-year long closure. i dont like what my usana friends invited me over for a supposed bonding meet when it was going to be a business proposal and hard sell at the end too. Knowing my writer friend i knew he didnt like getting surprised by people he obviously do not want to see.

    i had to break the friendship since after trying to do that obviously difficult favor where I had obviously could lose a lot more than gain more. But not only that , the primary factor was she said that i ruined it and that i never really though of her as a friend, that I had waited and planned to tell her that i didnt want her to be my friend. it hurt, like all my 8 years of effort and plain bonding with her was put to waste. i could forgive her but i could no longer give her any chances. i told her that what was all those years and months that I offered to comfort her pain, listen to her rants, enjoye lunch or chatting together, jsut to say that i dont want to be her friend that i planned it all along? did she think i could think up of longer plans like her? i was never a planner. i jsut want to spend time with people and bond with them. i even told her that didnt i just let her stay over the night since it was already too late. i slept elsewhere to let my guest sleep in my bed. while i stay in my office. then she owuld say i’m using this to blackmail her? really? that just hurt. i feel like she was only thinking about her feelings for my writer friend. she didnt think that i was already reluctant to help her. that i ididnt try, i ruined it.

    wow. the blackmail accusation was the last straw.

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