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?
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.
Maybe: Huh Im not aware of any differences. What do you mean? Or, Do you have examples to help me understand? Or even, You know me so well if you see something, thats important.
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, and have the courage to follow up on her comments with a wide-open mind.
Dear Carolyn: Id love to get your opinion on a topic that frustrates me a bit: kid dominance. For instance, a friend who recently gave birth was talking sheep about 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. My career apparently means nothing to my friend. Likely she was just hurt and hormonal, but do some parents really feel this way?
Ive 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. By not having kids, Im actually creating less competition for my friends little ones. So what gives with the harsh judgment?
Im not even looking for a way to stop the intrusions and the insensitive comments, because I know they wont ever really go away. My current theory is that parents sign up for this change that dominates their entire life, and feel so much pressure that when they see glimpses of their former life embodied in friends without kids, they instinctively protect their choice over the freedom of not having dependents i.e., their life is purposeful but tough, so mine is clearly easy and meaningless.
MY LIFE HAS MEANING, THANKS
It could be that. It could also be that your friend is just a clod.
Ive 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 youll see that around every big, life-guiding choice there is a community of self-justification. Youll see marrieds scoffing at singles and singles scoffing at marrieds; youll see conservatives scoffing at liberals and liberals scoffing at conservatives; youll see capitalists scoffing at wage-earners scoffing at the needy scoffing at capitalists, who all scoff at creatives, who scoff right back.
Youre absolutely right that the insensitive comments wont go away. However, I think youll see their volume plummet when you make a conscious decision to save most of your social time for people who are comfortable with themselves and their choices.
Dear Carolyn: My son, nieces, and other relatives, all of whom are college-educated, regularly begin a sentence with Me n her or Me n him rather than the grammatically correct She and I or He and I. Should I correct them? If so, how? I dont want to come across as a nag. At the same time, I do feel that their poor grammar reflects negatively on them personally and professionally.
Unless theyre really close or really young, you say nothing.
Among adults who are close, theres a third option between correcting and not correcting: Talking.
Ive wrestled with this lately, you say. When someone makes a blatant grammatical error, is it better to correct the person or shut up? Id want you to correct me (right?), but flipping that around feels obnoxious.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.