DEAR CAROLYN: About a year ago I developed a crush on a female friend, whose boyfriend I also know independently of her. I suspect the attraction was mutual but we never acted on it.
However, I am pretty sure the boyfriend noticed, because I am pretty sure he hates me. Seething hatred. He tries to hide it and behave cordially toward me, but the tension is obvious. I’ve tried reaching out to him to hang out, but it always feels forced and I can tell he doesn’t want to be there. Any suggestions for defusing this tension?
DEAR HATED: Remorse defuses best. I thought I picked some up in my first reading of your letter, but upon rereading I’m not so sure.
If you do feel bad about your actions, and not just their consequences, then you’ve done most of your part. You can make any warranted apologies, but beyond that there’s no easy fix; everything else depends on his letting go of the grudge. Since a year (plus his girlfriend’s apparent, sustained loyalty) hasn’t softened him, waiting him out doesn’t seem promising.
If you can’t get used to being the bad guy, then there’s this: Bow out. Or, less drastically, shift your social center of gravity away from these two. You tried, innocently or otherwise, to usurp a man’s beloved. Exile is usually the next plot point in that story even when you succeed, so his being civil-ish is a gift.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’m flying with a baby and, three weeks out, am already losing sleep. Any mantra I can use to help me choose her needs instead of others’?
If it helps, I have a hard time in general with crowds and feeling like I’m being evaluated by others.
DEAR B.: You are being judged, so dress her in her cutest comfortable thing, and take heart that you aren’t imagining things.
Kidding, sorta. Yes, people boost their own egos by scrutinizing others, new parents especially, since they’re the slowest antelopes in the herd, but here’s your mantra: Who cares. Your only duty to strangers is to care for your child as best you can. Since that’s what you owe your baby anyway, the strangers are moot points.
There’s also this: About three of four American adults are parents, per Gallup, so most fellow passengers probably know exactly how tough this is for you. When decent, informed people see how hard you’re trying, they'll give you breaks. The non-decent and ignorant you won’t win over, so squander no sleep trying.
When it’s all behind you, please consider talking to a good therapist about your, it seems, overactive people-pleasing impulse. Most parents feel the burning stares when their kids cry or act out, but such acute dread as yours suggests public opinion comes with outsize consequences for you. Good counsel might help set you free.