Friend turns nasty on long trip abroad
Hi, Carolyn: I went on a weeklong trip abroad with a friend of mine. We are 27. On the trip I saw a different side of her: She was mean and at the very least insensitive, and I can’t figure out why she acted this way toward me when I hadn’t seen this from her before. She commented on my hair being a mess, how I eat the same food every day, and when she looked at a picture of us, she commented how she didn’t realize how much taller she is. She complained there were flies at night and I agreed, then she told me, “Well, maybe you should shower at night” – I shower every day.
I could list more, but you probably get the point. Am I being overly sensitive and just need to let it go, or is there a good way to confront her?
– Friend or Foe
If every remark was indeed meantasadig,thenthisisa surprising level of meanness to emerge without warning. So I wonder which you think is more likely, that you missed earlier warnings, or that she only got like this under the duress of an ambitious trip?
Either way, “confronting” people is climbing rapidly up my list of ideas that make me flinch. It’s so confrontational.
The way I’d recommend handling snark like hers is calmly, plainly and in the very moment you realize it: “Wait – did you just imply I attract flies because I don’t bathe?” Even if it’s a halfhour after she said it, it’s still the perfect time to find out what’s really going on. That’s because taking it incident by incident, within recent memory, is the purest form of just asking what’s going on. You say what you heard, and ask if that’s what she meant.
When such incidents accrue, then, yes, it’s time for: “You’ve now offered commentary on my hair, diet and height. What’s up?”
Now, after the fact, the exact words are already subject to the vagaries of memory. It’s not impossible to address it, it’s just not as effective.
If you want to remain friends with this person (a reasonable “if”) and if you’re still bugged by some of the things she said, then I suggest picking out a couple that rankled the most and mentioning them: “I find myself still thinking about a couple of things you said to me on our trip. [Example 1] is one of them, and also [Example 2]. I heard them as [your interpretation here]. Is that really what you meant?”
Admittedly, what you describe is low-level nastiness delivered in the hardest way to manage, meaning there was room for deniability in every incident – which means you faced a tough speak-up-or-drop-it decision every time. If it was deliberate on her part, too, then it is gaslighting, which means the whole point was for you not to know how to respond. Context is going to be essential in figuring this out.
Also, for what it’s worth: Even some bestest-ever friends should never travel together. Ever. The ability to get along 24-7 for days involves a special kind of compatibility. You can be friends without it; you just can’t travel well without it. True for couples, too.
TELL ME ABOUT IT