Living Columns & Blogs

Carolyn Hax: He doesn’t want to rub his success in his friends’ faces

DEAR CAROLYN: My friends and I are at an age when the people who’ve made it are really making it, and when the people who haven’t made it really haven’t. We’re fortunate to be in the first group. Through hard work and a little luck, we’ve hit a lot of our goals. Now we can really enjoy our money and do things we’ve always wanted to.

Meanwhile, some of our friends are experiencing chronic unemployment or underemployment, or are encumbered with illness or other mishap, and are barely making ends meet.

I want to share my enthusiasm about an upcoming trip or other major purchase, but I don’t want to seem like I’m rubbing their faces in it. Another friend, similarly well off, manages to mention his income at every get-together and I don’t want to be THAT person.

Where’s the line between being happy about what I’m doing and rubbing it in?

Lucky in Life

DEAR LUCKY: Problems become easier to solve when you figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, so let’s find your goal in sharing “enthusiasm about … a major purchase.”

Um. “Bask in the glory of me”?

You try phrasing it without snark – it’s harder than it looks.

Playing it as straight as possible, let’s call your goal, “Tell people how happy I am and why.” (As opposed to just being happy.)

Is that a worthy aim, one you’d want friends to pursue with you? How about if they’re flush and you’re broke?

Or would you prefer they had goals such as: be compassionate, be funny, be interesting, be supportive, be a good listener, be flexible, be inclusive? Or just, be good company? Be forgiving, too, is a good one when you need it.

Of course your friends care about you, so when they ask you what’s new, sure, share that you’re moving next month or off to Spain tomorrow, with an emphasis on experiences, not acquisitions. And emphasis on others, since caring for friends above purchases inoculates you against THAT-ness.

When you’re excited about something, OK, be joyful; if you can’t be human then you can’t be friends. Feigned nonchalance is tantamount to rubbing it in anyway.

But unless you’re a gifted storyteller, your travels and success stories are fascinating to precisely one population: the people who participate in them. If that. Otherwise you’re bragging.

So make that your conversational GPS: Is this interesting to anyone but me? Friends actually help steer you to the answer, by prodding you with questions – or not.

You’re cruising now, but you don’t get the last word on how long that lasts, and your luck and hard work might drop you at an age when all the things you thought you could count on go to (unprintable).