Los Angeles Times

Wants to change the topic

- Email questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@ amydickins­on.com.

Dear Amy: I’m part of a group of women friends who met in college, 50 years ago.

We got back in touch 20 years ago, and now meet a few times a year.

At first, conversati­on was varied, with personal updates, talk about current events, shared book recommenda­tions, etc.

Very quickly, this changed to conversati­on nearly 100% about children.

I’m an independen­t gal with no children. I’m happy with my life and my fulfilling career.

The other women have little interest in my profession, and have even poohpoohed what I do.

I’ve tried to add different and relevant topics to conversati­ons. The responses are either “I let (inject husband’s name) handle that” or simply blank stares.

They are all nice women, but these get-togethers with hours of conversati­on about children are unsatisfyi­ng and somewhat hurtful.

I need a way to politely decline invitation­s until I can withstand the onslaught of kid talk — if ever. I don’t know how long “I’m sorry I can’t make it” will hold up.


Dear M: “I’m sorry, I can’t make this visit — but keep me in mind for next time” is a polite way to respond to an invitation you don’t want to accept. You should review whether you want to maintain these relationsh­ips outside of these visits.

If you choose to reconnect and want to expand the topics covered at these gatherings, you might ask if they’d be willing to play a game of sorts and respond to “prompts.” Look online or at a bookstore for sets of prompt cards intended to inspire lively conversati­ons.

Also, bring along artifacts, photos or yearbooks from your shared college days to help you reconnect by sharing your memories.

Dear Amy: My daughterin-law just completed her PhD. I am very proud of her. She worked hard for many years to reach this goal.

I asked to take her and my son out to dinner to celebrate. He told me that, while they appreciate the sentiment, they would rather not.

I was a bit miffed to be rejected because I know they were celebratin­g with her parents. My son finally confessed that our daughter-inlaw felt “unsupporte­d” by me in her pursuit of the PhD.

I routinely asked after her PhD studies, and she often responded with something like, “I’m stressed about this or that.”

My typical response was to tell her that I was sure that she would do just great at whatever it was. I thought I was being supportive, but apparently she hears this as, “You are complainin­g over nothing and it is wrong for you to be stressed.”

At this point, we seem to be at an awkward impasse.

Am I wrong to be hurt and insulted? I think she was being very oversensit­ive to interpret my comments in such a negative light. Also, she has never said anything to me about it.

The Termagant

Dear Termagant: Your feelings are justified. Your son has been honest with you regarding his wife’s sensitivit­ies. Some people regard any feedback, even positive feedback, as a critique.

I suggest you communicat­e directly with your DIL. Tell her judiciousl­y what your son said and ask if you two can have a “reset.” Maintain an open attitude, don’t resort to sarcasm, listen intently, and do your best to understand her feelings and communicat­e yours.

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