DEAR CAROLYN: My best friend, who is also my roommate, sometimes makes comments to me such as, “You act so different around X group of friends,” even though there have been hardly a handful of times when we have all been in one room.
I have no idea what change in behavior she is referring to, but these comments really get to me. Whether they are true or not, I believe they are really petty and a reflection of her own personal crap she has going on. What are some ways I can respond?
DEAR L.: You can respond humbly and open-mindedly, in a way that befits a “best” friendship, and without the acute defensiveness on display in your letter.
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Maybe: “Huh – I’m not aware of any differences. What do you mean?” Or, “Do you have examples to help me understand?”A “handful of times” is no small sample for her to work with, and “a reflection of her own personal crap” is no small accusation. Please put more value in the friendship right now than you do your ego.
DEAR CAROLYN: I’d love to get your opinion on a topic that frustrates me a bit: kid dominance. For instance, a friend who recently gave birth was badmouthing another girlfriend for having failed to acknowledge the birth of her child, and for having the audacity to invite her to a work event. Her words: “No one cares about her job, I mean, I just had a baby.”
As a woman who is not planning on having kids, this stung. Likely she was just hurt and hormonal, but do some parents really feel this way?
I’ve seen child-free folks called causes of social decay, selfish, non-adult and so forth. I would think that child abusers are those things, not those of us who opt out. I’m not even looking for a way to stop the intrusions and the insensitive comments, because I know they won’t ever really go away.
– My Life Has Meaning, Thanks
DEAR MEANING: I’ve seen people with kids called causes of planetary decay, selfish, irresponsible, “and so forth.” The contempt cuts both ways.
Actually, all ways: While raising kids forces more intense immersion in that life than most other choices do, I think if you step back a bit you’ll see that around every big, life-guiding choice there is a community of self-justification. You’ll see marrieds scoffing at singles and singles scoffing at marrieds; you’ll see conservatives scoffing at liberals and vice versa.
You’re absolutely right that the insensitive comments won’t go away. However, I think you’ll see their volume plummet when you make a conscious decision to save most social time for people who are comfortable with themselves and their choices.