Advice

Introducing Dear Julie


A weekly DAME column in which Julie Klam answers all of your friendkeeping questions. Even—especially!—the really embarrassing ones.



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Dear Julie,

I am one of those Facebook friends who is a stealth reader of other people’s posts, but I never post anything myself, and I never hit LIKE, for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Not because I’m snarky, quite the opposite. I just don’t want people to feel like if I forgot a mention or a LIKE, that it’s some kind of statement, you know? For example, just before New Year’s, I wanted to give a shout out to my BFFs, tag them, and tell them how much I love and appreciate them. But as I was writing my post, I started thinking about the next strata of close friends who’d feel snubbed. Yet, if I included them, then there would be another group of people who’d feel jilted, and where would it end? The post would’ve missed the point of what I’d set out to do, celebrate my three nearest and dearest. So, as usual, I chickened out of posting anything at all. What’s the etiquette here? Is there one? Can a person ever just call out a few people without hurting the rest of the world’s feelings?

Sincerely,

Secret Facebook Admirer

 

Dear Secret,

Oh, do I understand where you’re coming from. At every birthday party I had growing up, the whole class was invited. When I got married I had 10 bridesmaids.

I never ever want anyone to feel left out. That said, life leaves people out. There is one best actor, one person hired to be the principal of the school, one mayor, one manager per shift at the MAC counter…. You get the idea. We learn to live with it. I applaud your desire to be inclusive. I think that unlike jobs and awards, you can avoid leaving friends out. I guess my question to you is what is your motive for the public acknowledgment? Personally if I want to let a friend or friends know they mean something to me, I prefer to do it more quietly, without Tags. But if your three friends just threw you a fabulous graduation party or shepherded you around to medical appointments for months, then by all means post. Because then your other Facebook friends are free to share in their celebration and appreciation. If it’s just to say “I

 

 

Dear Julie,

My husband has a high school friend whose daughter is a few months older than ours. I like his friend, he’s a good guy. But his wife: She’s a little intense and takes a bit more energy to be with. I mean, I like her, but I find myself taking a lot of deep breaths. She’s kind of a know-it-all, is obsessed with percentiles and milestones, and one of those types who devours parenting books, and loves to hold forth and act like the authority and treat us all as if we were just bumbling around trying to keep our kid alive. We are more of the “read a couple of books, go with our gut, sleep in your own bed, please” types. So you can imagine what our get-togethers are like: Not relaxed. Our kids play well together, but for us, it’s pure torture, having to listen to: Daisy can count to 100, Daisy isn’t eating her vegetables, Daisy reads five books before bed, blah blah blah. Ugh. The only way to participate in the conversation is to talk about what our kid is up to, but then she gets competitive or thinks we’re judging her. It’s a no-win situation, so I’m really at a loss. Cutting this family out of our lives is not an option, unfortunately. So, besides throwing back a stiff drink, what do we do?

Thank you,

Mom in Need of a Better Playdate

 

Dear Mom in Need,

A stiff drink? I like the way you think. Not necessarily literally, I mean, unless you want to, in which case I’d do a large tumbler of Chardonnay with ice. But the “virtual” stiff drink is always okay: essentially to “loosen up.”  Anyone who has ever had a child has been in the situation you speak of. This is why my best friend, when my daughter was small, was a woman who gave her kid a piece of birthday cake every night before he ate his dinner. She would make jokes about the fact that he was 14 months old and had no interest in walking. I would say I hoped my kid would stop drinking a bottle and wearing diapers by the time she went to college, but I wasn’t going to pressure her. But then you have these friends and they aren’t going anywhere. Does the conversation really drive you crazy? Can you nod along and then change the subject? When she tells you that Daisy read War and Peace can you respond with: “So, is that a problem?” In a sense, play dumb. You feel her being competitive, but if you don’t respond to it, she has no measuring stick and she’ll have to stop. Shrug it off. “Daisy speaks fluent Mandarin,” she’ll say. “Well, isn’t that handy!” We know from our Psych 101 classes that the majority of people who brag are insecure, or compensating for something. And we also know that the majority of parents are nuts.  

 

Julie Klam is the best-selling author of Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without.

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