DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a flight attendant with a major airline. However, one of my lifelong dreams is to finish school and become a registered nurse. When the pandemic began, I had the opportunity to take a leave of absence, and I applied to a nursing program to get my degree.
For about the past four years, I’ve been friends with a co-worker who always claimed she’d been a practicing, licensed RN before she decided to fly. She would tell me stories about her job as an RN and would, on occasion, give me medical advice (for me, and for my family).
Upon getting ready to start nursing school, I stumbled across my state’s Department of Health website with the names of everyone who has a current or inactive state license in many fields. Everyone from cosmetologists and tattoo artists to RNs and MDs can be found on that list. Out of curiosity, I entered my co-worker’s name and discovered she is not, and has never been, an RN. She was instead an X-ray technician!
I decided to bring it up with her. I kindly explained that I wasn’t angry, just mostly confused and hurt as to why she would do this. I had hoped she would come clean and we could’ve gotten past it, but she didn’t.
First, she continued with her fantastical story and insisted she was indeed an inactive RN. And when she realized I was no longer buying into it, she became furious with me. She deflected and started making strange accusations that somehow I had “exploited” her, saying that “real friends don’t do what you did!”
As a result, we are no longer friends. A part of me feels relieved that I learned about her deception. But another part of me feels bad that I may have worsened some deep insecurities she might be dealing with.
Should I apologize? Should I just go on with my life? What should I do?
GENTLE READER: Your expectation that your friend, when called (no matter how kindly) a liar, would come clean was unrealistic. She was offended, as Miss Manners could have told you she would be.
This would have been so even if, as you believe, her untruth was clear and indefensible. And can we be so sure that that was the case?
Even if government records were always accurate, there could be any number of circumstances of which you are not aware. Your friend could have registered in another state, for example. In other words, she may not have been Lying in a capital-letter sense -- or even in any sense.
It was neither friendly nor gracious to be absolutely confident in your own diagnosis. It also served no obvious purpose. (Miss Manners discounts “revealing the truth” if only because your approach did not do that: Your friend’s angry response is not a confirmation of guilt.)
Apologize. Your penance will be having to listen to your friend’s explanation, even if it unintentionally seems to confirm her guilt.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)