DEAR CAROLYN: I have been friends with my best friend for over 10 years. She was recently the maid of honor at my wedding. Ever since I got engaged (two years ago) she has been competing with me! The day after she found out I was engaged, she mentioned how she and her boyfriend (now husband) needed to go ring shopping immediately, and made an appointment for the very next week. I began scoping out wedding venues and so did she … even before she was engaged!
Next, my husband and I had been saving for a house for a long time, and as soon as I told her we were house-shopping, she decided they were ALSO house-hunting, even though she hadn’t saved a dime or ever expressed any interest. They didn’t buy one until two years later.
She also one-ups! I mentioned I bought a new car and she said her husband is also buying a new car, one with much better reviews than mine. I almost avoid updating her on my life because I’m afraid she will use it to tell me how her life is so much better.
I did have a very honest talk with her about it and her snobbery subsided, but now it’s back. Please help!
DEAR C.: You don’t sound like friends, because friends are happy for each other. (You say snobbery, I say insecurity, tomato-tomahto.) The measuring here goes both ways, and maybe way back. But 10 years is a lot of friendship to throw away, so try growing into the friend you wish you had. “I hear they’re great cars”; “Good for you guys!”; “There’s no real estate app I like – which do you use?”
Rethink those updates, too: How are you feeling, what are you thinking, what have you read/heard/seen? Talking ideas vs. acquisitions might engage you too much to compete.
DEAR CAROLYN: I called my first grandchild “my” baby, and my snippy daughter-in-law chastised me. I never did that again in front of her. But that baby is mine as much as she is anyone’s. I waited 60 years for a grandchild. I love her (and all my grands) deeply. They are a direct product of mine and my sons, their fathers. Daughters-in-law don’t have to be stinkpots. Not all mothers-in-law are.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Can’t imagine why she felt territorial.
Mothers-in-law are often lovely, of course, in a difficult, even thankless role. So what do you think makes a good one? Labeling touchy new mothers “stinkpots”? Omitting the mother when charting the provenance of a grandchild? Declaring with a straight face (pause to remind myself to breathe) a child they didn’t conceive, carry, birth or raise, is “mine as much as she is anyone’s”? (No, by the way. No she is not.)
New mothers are exhausted, scared, hormonal and territorial. Grands come to this scene as the veteran parents, and presumably rested ones, too, so it’s on them – it was on you – to forgive a daughter-in-law, respect her space and find ways to express affection that don’t tread on a rookie parent’s sensitivities, whether you empathize or not. How hard is: “Of course, I’m sorry. Is ‘my grandmuffin’ OK?”
What a pity to choose instead to be the chicken who still, to this day, blames the egg.