• May 23, 2018, 09:23:35 PM

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Author Topic: Dear Abby: When friends step over the line into your rel[color=black]ationship[/color]  (Read 11266 times)

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This is from November 3's Dear Abby:

The second letter.  In a nutshell, the LW and her husband developed a special symbol/coat of arms that they used on letters to each other.  It was their special thing.  LW's best friend, Kathy, went to a tattoo artist and had the symbol tattooed on her back.  The LW is upset that Kathy usurped what was a special thing for LW and her husband and tattooed it on her skin. 

Abby told the LW to see the usage as a compliment.  She said that LW couldn't undo what was done and since the couple hadn't copyrighted the symbol, Kathy had every right to use it however she saw fit.  Abby told the LW to ask Kathy to cover the tattoo when she was around.

Frankly, I think Abby is wrong on this one.  OK, sure, if the couple wanted the symbol to stay secret, they shouldn't have shown it to anyone.  But at the same time, I'm sure at some point the LW told Kathy how special the symbol was to her and her husband.  Kathy is either willfully clueless or is stepping over the major boundaries if she doesn't understand why this is inappropriate.  It's like Kathy is trying to include herself in their relationship whether the couple likes it or not.

Thoughts?  Was Abby right or wrong?

And has anyone else had a friend that tried to inject themselves into their romantic relationships?


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Looking at the letter it is not at all clear that the friend understood it was meant to be romantic or exclusive.  I think that on that basis Abby might be right.


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I would be furious.

Yeah, I get that "friend" had a legal right to use the symbol. I still think she was wrong.

For me, I don't think I could get over it. I would prefer to never speak to friend again and just pretend that she(and her tattoo)doesn't exist.


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I didn't care for Abby's reply, either.  I think perhaps that the friend has a *thing* for the letter writer's husband.  It certainly is a huge step over boundaries.

Perhaps the letter writer and her DH should get this copyrighted.  If the tattoo artist liked this very much he/she may add it to the offerings to be done.

rose red

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I think it's rude and weird and creepy to use another couple's unique symbol. 


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Given that they first saw it when she turned up to be maid of honour at their wedding I wonder if it was Kathie's way of memorialising the event. To me, that does make it a different scenario to just getting the tatto randomly. Given that context I think the LW needs to have a chat to Kathie before she writes her off forever.

I think Abby could have been more sympathetic because it would bother me, whatever the motivation, but in the end I think her point is "The tattoo is done. You can't take it off so you will have to learn to deal with it." is actually a valid point.

On the other hand, I was filled with incandescent rage by her answer to the first letter so my judgement may not have been sound at the point of reading the second letter.
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I'm with Sharnita. There's nothing in the letter that indicates that the LW ever told Kathie how significant the symbol was. How was she supposed to know that it was exclusive to the relationship, or a symbol of this particular couple's love and affection? I've seen a lot of cool doodles, and unless it was incredibly clear that it was about someone's own personal romantic relationship, I certainly wouldn't draw that conclusion. It seems a bit paranoid to assume nefarious intentions here.

I'm assuming that this symbol was simple and easy to describe/replicate (something like an infinity heart), as I doubt the LW would let Kathie borrow one of her love letters. Because of this, I think it's likely that the symbol just resonated with Kathie and she decided to get it tattooed on herself. Iris also beat me to the punch while I was typing. I think that if Kathie did realize how significant it was, she was likely trying to commemorate the event. (In this case, I do think she should have run it by the happy couple.)
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Miss March

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The letter in Dear Abby says "Ever since we started writing letters and notes back and forth, he has always drawn a character on them, and it turned into "our" symbol."

I'm not seeing where it says that this is a unique character that her husband designed, only that there was a certain character that he started putting on their letters and that over time, they adopted it as their symbol?
I assume you heard the way she spoke to me at dinner.
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I think it's rude and weird and creepy to use another couple's unique symbol.

Those are the exact words I was thinking of. But assuming the LW wants to stay friends with Kathy, then "you can't undo what's been done" and "take it as a compliment" are actually decent advice.


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If this character was unique and created by the husband, then the friend did NOT have any legal right to copy it. You have a copyright on what you create, whether you legally file for it or not. I don't want to stray into legalities, but I also don't want OTHERS who stray into legalities to have incorrect info. So we should probably drop that line of conversation.

But I also would consider this a big piece of damage to my friendship with Kathy.

This is one of the ways in which I am really sort of weird and hypersensitive about boundaries. I don't like people just suddenly using nicknames; I don't like people adopting my own or my family's little "things."

My husband and I developed a special ring to the apartment buzzer--"shave and a haircut, two bits" means "I need you to come straight down and help me, don't wait and ask who it is, etc., first. Just come down as soon as you possibly can." (We developed this when I would drive home w/ sleeping kids in the car--if I waited for him to answer the buzzer and me to explain that I needed him, then I had to leave them alone in the car too long; I was afraid someone would call CPS.)
   My MIL thought it was cute and started to use it. It annoyed me. Partly it annoyed me because she'd use it to mean "Hi, I'm here"; partly it annoyed me because it was OUR family's signal, not hers. I started taking it literally and coming down all the way, and then I would say, "Please don't use that buzz to mean that you've arrived--it has a very specific meaning in our house, that you need help with something down here right away."
   She stopped using it. (If she'd used it properly, it would have been more OK--I would have been a bit disgruntled but I would have thought that was mildly unfair of me, and I'd have just lived with it, or talked myself out of feeling that way.)

I've had little "things" w/ my kids, little nicknames or routines, and I do NOT like it when other family members try to do it too.


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I know what you mean Toots.  My family has always had special nicknames for two of my cousins which I developed when we were little and pretty much became their names as far as the 4 of us were concerned.  When their cousins who are not related to my family heard it, they started to use it as well and it irritated me as the nicknames were something we'd had that was special since our childhood. 


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The letter in Dear Abby says "Ever since we started writing letters and notes back and forth, he has always drawn a character on them, and it turned into "our" symbol."

I'm not seeing where it says that this is a unique character that her husband designed, only that there was a certain character that he started putting on their letters and that over time, they adopted it as their symbol?

I agree.  I'm confused about the whole situation.  If it was a symbol her husband specifically designed, and the friend knew for sure it was something the couple considered to be romantic and intimate, then the friend's tattoo was creepy. 

But based on the letter as I read that, I didn't see that at all. 

It could be as simple as the husband liked to draw the infinity symbol, and it reminded the friend about how meaningful she found the infinity symbol (for her own reasons unrelated to the couple, or because she considers them close friends, or...something else) and she had the tattoo made as something special to *her*. 

That would make a heck of a lot more sense than someone deciding to adopt another couple's romantic symbol, anyway!


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But if it was invented by him and only used between the two of them it seems unlikely that Kathy would see it, right?

I mean when I think of the story Toots related, a lot of people are familiar with "shave and a haircut, two bits".  the might not use it exactly the way she and her DH did but a lot of people use it and hearing/seeing them use it would  easily lead to it sliding into usage for others.

I have no idea what the symbol was for the LW, how Kathy saw it, what she was told or not told about the usage.


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Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.  When DH and I were choosing a name for our youngest daughter, one name we both loved was also a friend's daughter's name (we liked "Beth" and her daughter was "Sara Beth"). I talked to her to see if she would mind if we used the same name.  No, she didn't own the name, but I would have chosen another name if it had bothered her.  The LW's husband did own that image, and Kathy should have asked them first.  Even if she didn't know it was very special, she did know it was their "thing" and I think she was very presumptious (and either creepy or clueless) to do what she did. I would start backing away from that friendship.

rose red

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I wonder what this line means:  "My husband was upset she chose something so intimate of ours as a tattoo, and a few people have noticed it as well."

Does it mean that people noticed the tattoo and thought it's strange she chose the couple's symbol, or they noticed the husband was upset?  If it's the first one, than the symbol is not a secret, but it's just known and accepted in their circle as "theirs."  And no, they may not own it, but I still think it's strange a person would have a tattoo that will make themself think of another couple.