Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Friend Becomes Mean When Drunk

DEAR NATALIE: I have this friend and she's kinda like a Jekyll and Hyde character. When she is sober, she is seriously the nicest person and a wonderful friend. But when she drinks, it's like a light switch turns on, and she is mean, belligerent and often physically aggressive with people. The problem is, I have no idea how to tell her that I don't want to be around her when she is drinking because when she is sober she is incredibly sweet. The last straw, however, was when we were out the other night and she made some racist remarks to the cashier at the gas station when she was getting a sandwich. I was incredibly mortified. Any suggestions? -- DRUNK AND NASTY

DEAR DRUNK AND NASTY: I have this belief that people don't "change" when they become drunk, they just become more of who they really are. And I bet, if you really examine her behavior when she is sober, she probably exhibits some of these delightful traits - just on a lesser level to the point where you may not have even noticed them. Well, bet you will notice them now. You have two options. One, stop getting drunk with her. Since she can't handle herself around booze, do things together outside of that sphere, like grabbing coffee or taking a yoga class or just going shopping together. Option two: Gently confront her about her behavior the next time she suggests going out to the bar. Say something like: "I don't know if that is a good idea. The last time we went out, I was honestly embarrassed at what you said to so-and-so." If she gives you a blank look, she probably blacked out and doesn't remember. Then, you can launch into a, "maybe we should do other things besides party together since you can't remember it anyway" speech. If she starts to get defensive, ask yourself why you are hanging around her in the first place. In fact, this is all more about you and the company you keep than about her and her inability to drink responsibility. She is who she is. You see it. Now the question is, what are you going to do about it?

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)