We Will Never Again Begrudge Paying Our Share Of A Birthday Dinner

Not after reading this letter to XX's "Friend or Foe" column, which takes birthday-party friend demands to new (literal) heights.

Sometimes you have to wonder when people write really unflattering or deluded questions into advice columns. Do they just think "what the hell — it's anonymous"? Are they genuinely conflicted? Do they really think they'll get some affirmation that's been conspicuously lacking from people they actually know? All these questions and more flooded my wee mind as a I read the following:

My best-friend "Ellie" left her job late last year after she was dropped from full- to part-time status-a decision I supported. But it hasn't been easy for her: She has been nominally unemployed ever since. For my birthday early this summer, I wanted to go ballooning. In the invite I sent out, I specified that it would cost each of us $150-$200. So I understood if, for financial reasons, some people couldn't do it. Ellie replied saying that she was sorry, but she couldn't afford it.

Well, later in the summer, another friend spotted my best friend in line at the AT&T store before it opened, waiting to buy the new iPhone, which costs upward of $300. I got really upset when I found out, confronted her, and said I felt as though she'd rather have a new phone than celebrate my birthday with me. She said that it was none of my business how she spent her money. But I think she made it my business when she used money as the sole reason for saying no to my birthday idea. And I told her that. She responded that she'd dashed off the e-mail without really thinking about it. And there were other reasons. And I shouldn't take it personally.

We're OK now. But whenever I see her take out her iPhone or talk about how wonderful it is, I get a little upset. Is there anything I can do to stop? I feel like I'm being irrational.

Lucinda Rosenfeld confirms — obviously — that she is, indeed, being irrational. To which we'd add, petty, self-absorbed and entitled. And sadly misinformed as to the definition of "best friend." But seriously, to return to my earlier question: did she really expect anything but a public pillorying? If so, she's single-handedly justified the existence of advice columns.

The advice column, as we know, originally did serve a genuinely pragmatic function. Questions dealt with social etiquette in a changing world. "The Bintel Brief," an iconic advice column in the Yiddish Daily Forward helped immigrants or those having problems with old-world family understand new customs and adaptation. Agony aunts helped those with no one to talk to, the isolated, the lovelorn, the depressed. People asked goofball questions, sure, but you got the impression they really needed an arbiter.

This questioner, one suspects (and this is rank speculation), has run this issue by a number of people and, failing to receive the answer she wants, is putting it to a higher authority. What does she want? Real advice on how to move past this? Authorization to be angry? A black-and-white declaration of support to show her friend? And will she abide by the dictates of the columnist? We can't know, but I am genuinely interested to hear about people's motivations, so if anyone's been in this position, please speak up! And in the writer's defense, I will say this: people talking incessantly about iPhones is indeed irritating — even when ballooning is not part of the picture.

Does My Best Friend Prefer Her iPhone To Me? [XX]