How can I stop my ex-friend’s toxic jibes?

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - FAM­ILY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

QA FOR­MER friend turned on me when I had busi­ness prob­lems and made things ten times worse. As if that wasn’t bad enough, since then she has con­tin­u­ally used so­cial me­dia to get at me, writ­ing nasty, per­sonal and very in­sult­ing things on a pub­lic fo­rum, some­times us­ing ob­scene lan­guage. She never names me but it’s ob­vi­ous who she’s talk­ing about. It’s been go­ing on for sev­eral years and I’m so sick of it. I think she’s jeal­ous of me be­cause I have a new job, a part­ner and a ful­fill­ing life, when she is alone and bit­ter. What should I do?

AWHEN OS­CAR Wilde said “There is only one thing in life worse than be­ing talked about, and that is not be­ing talked about,” he had not fore­seen the rise of so­cial me­dia. As any­one who has been trolled or ha­rassed on­line knows, it hurts a lot. Per­haps the worst thing about it is that it’s so in­tru­sive: it’s in your home, on your lap­top, your phone, your tablet. There’s no es­cape.

What your ex friend is do­ing is just bul­ly­ing/ha­rass­ment by an­other name and it’s a crime, even if she doesn’t overtly name you. Pre­sum­ably you’ve re­ported her to the web­site — although they are no­to­ri­ous for do­ing lit­tle in these cases. You do have a right to go to the po­lice and re­port her and they will take it se­ri­ously, and could ar­rest her. You’d need to record the dates and times of in­ci­dents, and take screen­shots of any­thing she writes. But you need to ask your­self if this is what you re­ally want to do. It could in­flame the sit­u­a­tion. It will cer­tainly show her that you are read­ing what she writes, and that’s she’s hurt­ing you — thereby giv­ing her the at­ten­tion she craves. She may not want to be your friend any­more, but she doesn’t want you to for­get her.

You’re right in your as­sess­ment of her. She clearly has deep-seated prob­lems and is con­sumed by anger and jeal­ousy. A happy per­son would not do this, es­pe­cially af­ter so many years. Per­haps she’s hop­ing to in­spire a re­ac­tion in you, to push you to anger so you re­spond in kind. That you don’t re­spond, de­spite the provo­ca­tion, must an­noy her be­yond mea­sure. Could you try not to read what she writes (if you feel it should be mon­i­tored, ask a friend to do so for you)? Per­haps the best “re­venge” you can have is to make it clear she doesn’t mat­ter, and to live your good life with­out her.

QMY 14 year old daugh­ter is so shal­low. She seems to only care about make up and self­ies and has no in­ter­est in any­thing aca­demic or cul­tural. She never picks up a book and moans about school ev­ery day. She’s a lovely girl and very bright. How can I in­flu­ence her to be less of an air­head?

AIF YOU can’t be shal­low at 14, when can you be shal­low? Your daugh­ter is be­hav­ing per­fectly nor­mally for her age. For her, us­ing makeup and tak­ing self­ies are new and ex­cit­ing ways of show­ing that she’s vir­tu­ally an adult. They make her feel older and cooler — which is pretty much all many teenage girls want.

Lovely, bright girls do not stop be­ing lovely and bright just be­cause they get into makeup. Sculpt­ing her cheek­bones won’t make her an air­head. Have her grades fallen sig­nif­i­cantly? If not, you re­ally have noth­ing to worry about. She will even­tu­ally come out of this phase, just like she came out of the one for col­lect­ing My Lit­tle Pony, or ask­ing you to read the same story 100 times. Even­tu­ally, her ob­ses­sion will fade and other things will be­come more prom­i­nent in her life.

Lik­ing makeup and books are not mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. Makeup vlog­ger ex­traor­di­naire Zoella runs a book club. Your daugh­ter prob­a­bly knows about it al­ready. At this age peer pres­sure rules. What her friends think will mat­ter to her a lot more than what you think. In fact, show her that you dis­ap­prove of her in­ter­est, and she’ll prob­a­bly just pile on an­other layer of foun­da­tion to spite you. But re­mem­ber, you have been in­flu­enc­ing her all her life, and the chances are that un­derneath the slap, she shares your val­ues. So why not stop get­ting an­noyed about this, stop be­ing crit­i­cal and show her you’re not the en­emy. You could of­fer to take her out shop­ping for some makeup, have lunch to­gether and a good chat, and maybe do some­thing cul­tural too. Rather than putting her down, she’ll re­spond to you bet­ter if she feels you’re on her side.

Con­tact Hi­lary via email at agony@ thejc.com, anony­mously or not. Or write to her at 28 St Al­bans Lane, Lon­don NW11 7QF

APICTURE, THEY say, speaks a thou­sand words, cre­at­ing an un­spo­ken di­a­logue be­tween the per­son who cap­tures or draws the im­age and the per­son who sees it. So too a let­ter, which draws an in­vis­i­ble thread be­tween two peo­ple from the mo­ment it is writ­ten to the mo­ment it is re­ceived.

But what about pho­tos that are lost in the wreck­age of a wartorn home? Or tele­grams heav­ily cen­sored by the un­yield­ing eyes of Third Re­ich au­thor­i­ties? Or let­ters and sketches — writ­ten and drawn, but never sent — that in­stead re­main hid­den in dusty desk draw­ers for the du­ra­tion of war? What do they say about a per­son, or in­deed a fam­ily, sep­a­rated by land and sea and en­e­mies fight­ing across the di­vide?

For Ja­sia Re­ichardt, they say a great deal — and in fact re­veal things that she, at the age of 83, still finds dif­fi­cult to ex­press.

“In art, mu­sic and po­etry, sto­ries can be rep­re­sen­ta­tions, de­scrip­tions or metaphors,” she says. “The lan­guage of metaphor is freer.”

The art critic, ex­hibitor and writer has spent more than 50 years now push­ing bound­aries at the fore­front of the con­tem­po­rary art scene in Lon­don. In 1968, she cu­rated Cy­ber­netic Serendip­ity at the In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Arts, a ground­break­ing exhibition that ex­plored the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween art, tech­nol­ogy and science and in­tro­duced com­put­ers to the masses. In 1978 — fresh from her stint as di­rec­tor of the Whitechapel Art Gallery — she pub­lished Robots: Fact, Fic­tion and Pre­dic­tion, a sweep­ing study that en­com­passed phi­los­o­phy, his­tory, and a pre­scient fu­ture.

But her lat­est show, for which she has pro­vided all the ma­te­rial and ac­com­pa­ny­ing text, sits far closer to home, telling sto­ries that she strug­gled to re­count for a very long time. Sto­ries not of ma­chines or con­cepts, but of her fam­ily; and not of the present or the fu­ture, but of the painful past of the Sec­ond World War.

One Fam­ily, Three Cities, Six Years of War opens next month at the Wiener Li­brary in cen­tral Lon­don, fea­tur­ing let­ters, pho­to­graphs and of­fi­cial doc­u­ments shared be­tween Re­ichardt’s mother, who lay hid­den at the time along­side her then nine-year-old daugh­ter

I just wanted to see life and I wanted to learn.

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