She has it all, but the ben­e­fit of the doubt

The Washington Post - - TELEVISION -

Dear Carolyn: I’m tear­ing my hair out over a friend whose life is demon­stra­bly eas­ier than mine in many ways, but who never stops com­plain­ing: She doesn’t have enough money (her house­hold in­come is 50 per­cent larger than mine). She doesn’t have enough time (her job comes with six weeks of paid va­ca­tion; mine has three). Etc. Etc.

I’ve tried de­flect­ing and say­ing things like “There’s never enough time!” Or: “Think of how proud of us our 18-year-old selves would be!” But hon­estly, it’s to the point where I just want to say, “You sound hor­ri­fy­ingly en­ti­tled and out of touch, and I don’t know whether you’re de­lib­er­ately try­ing to make me feel bad, but that’s the re­sult.”

Is there a mid­dle-ground re­tort? — Friend

Friend: Why re­tort — or de­flect — when you can talk?

Maybe your friend is fully in touch with her ad­van­tages, and is mind­ful of how in touch you are with her ad­van­tages, and is try­ing to show you that her life isn’t all roses and lol­lipops just be­cause she has more days off and 50 per­cent less ter­ror at bill­pay­ing time (maybe — you don’t even know).

It’s a re­ally tough line to walk. And if you don’t be­lieve that, then please give a mo­ment’s thought to how your let­ter would read if your friend, in­stead of com­plain­ing, never stopped ex­press­ing how blessed she feels about all the time and money she has. You see the predica­ment. Where there are no­table dif­fer­ences in cir­cum­stances, there is room for mis­un­der­stand­ing — and room to de­velop your skills at mak­ing con­nec­tions. That’s the ar­gu­ment for di­ver­sity in our com­mu­ni­ties, schools and work­places: It chal­lenges our comfy as­sump­tions. If you need ev­ery­one to be sim­i­lar to you eco­nom­i­cally, racially, in­tel­lec­tu­ally, ide­o­log­i­cally, sex­u­ally, reli­giously, chrono­log­i­cally, cul­tur­ally, emo­tion­ally — did I miss any­thing? — for you to feel com­fort­able, then your life will ei­ther be very lim­ited or very un­com­fort­able.

Now, to be fair, your friend could just be a tone-deaf com­plainer, also known by the shorter de­scrip­tion: ob­nox­ious. (Or is it bor­ing.) If so, then, time to start see­ing her less.

But it never hurts to look at your own re­ac­tions for signs that your con­nect­ing skills have at­ro­phied. In this case, it ap­pears you ac­cepted your re­ac­tion — your feel­ings — as the whole story in­stead of get­ting her ver­sion from her. You see af­flu­ence, as­sume en­ti­tle­ment.

So work those skills. Chal­lenge your as­sump­tions by seek­ing her side. You can even do it just by stat­ing yours — for ex­am­ple, when she com­plains there’s too lit­tle time: “You do have six weeks off a year, though — I envy you that.” Not meanly, and not ev­ery time, just hon­estly. Let your per­spec­tive be her in­vi­ta­tion to open her mind — and pos­si­bly even to change it.

Dear Carolyn: A close male friend in­tro­duced me to a woman he wasn’t in­volved with at the time. We were at­tracted to each other, she gave me her phone num­ber with him right there. Be­fore I con­tacted her, the two of them did get in­volved, but not ex­clu­sively.

Now, he has a dif­fer­ent girl­friend. Does this leave me free to pur­sue the woman he in­tro­duced me to? It just feels a lit­tle bit funny to me.

— Friend Zone

Friend Zone: Peo­ple de­cide whom they date. Their friends and exes do not. Good luck.

Write to Carolyn Hax at

tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post. Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at live.wash­ing­ton­post.com

NICK GALIFIANAKIS FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Carolyn Hax

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.