DAME's Friendkeeper gets real about a pal's grating voice, and allays another's concerns over her friends' aging pets.
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I have a wonderful friend, let’s call her Tracy. Tracy is smart, fun to hang out with, and pretty much all the things you want a friend to be. Except she has the most annoying voice in the world. Seriously, it grates on my very last nerve. No matter what she says, it sounds like a whine and honestly just feels insufferable. Texting, emailing, social media-ing with her is wonderful, but actually having to listen to her talk in person is like nails on a chalkboard. Am I being petty? I’m terribly afraid of having one too many drinks and saying something I’ll regret—it’s not like she can change it! The worst part is she wants to hang out all the time, and besides the sonic assault, is a lovely person to get together with. Of course I don’t want to hurt her feelings. But I don’t want to have to listen to her either. What’s a girl to do?
When I was growing up my mother had a friend, Lorna, from the Midwest (or maybe the prairie… or maybe from Fargo…). My mother was from the Bronx. Her personal, non-judgmental (wink) opinion was that the woman had a whiney, annoying voice. She talked too slow. And was really frustratingly passive when her kids were out of control: “Eddddgaaarrrr, dooon’t hurrrt Liiiiinuuuuussssss.” My mother would make faces, the corner of her lip would go up, she would mime shooting herself in the head. Ya know? Years later I met someone who was from the same region as Lorna (the Midwest…or the prairie…or Fargo). Her voice and accent were similar, she even looked like Lorna. And yet? I did not find her the least bit annoying. Why, you ask? Well I realized in my grown-up maturity that my mom’s friend’s voice wasn’t annoying, her personality was annoying! In the same way that Gomer Pyle sounds intellectually challenged, but Bill Clinton sounds like a world leader, I think it has much more to do with the words coming out. In this case, there’s nothing you can do about her voice. Unless you’re an otolaryngologist and you can remove her tonsils and adenoids and undeviate her septum, you’re screwed. I remember Billy Joel talking about recording with Ray Charles and he said Ray Charles was sort of singing like Billy Joel so Billy had to sing like Ray to get Ray to sing like himself again! Maybe when you’re with your friend you could speak in an English accent. And if that doesn’t work, just have all your conversations in charades.
I am staying with two friends, subletting a room from them. They have a very small, aging dog, who is about 15. They are lovely people, very sweet, a couple. The dog is blind and deaf, and in really bad shape. They keep saying they will “know when it is time” to let go but the dog is increasingly incontinent, and so they are up four and five times in the night to let the dog out and are then exhausted. I feel like you can’t tell someone, “Hey, your dog is sad and in pain and is dying.” They also sometimes treat the dog as though he’s a puppt that need discipline, and not as one who can’t see or hear them. How can I be there for them as a friend while they are trying to be there for their dog, when I don’t agree with how they are going about it? Because I also know, he is their dog; it is, really, none of my business.
Not My Dog, Not My Circus
I’m going to try to answer this letter even while the tears shoot out of my face like the guard at Emerald City. I’ve lived through this dilemma, written about it, and been with many friends and family who struggled through it. It’s simply heartbreaking for all involved. When someone has a senior dog, they watch them all the time. Is he in pain? Is he eating? Is she having a really good day and chasing her ball like old times? He’s wagging his tail! Am I keeping her alive for me? You know their days are numbered, but you really don’t know what the number is. And being in the position of having to decide when it may be time, is an awesome and excruciating responsibility. I watched my parents go through it recently and it was very much a one-day-at-a-time sort of thing. I have no doubt that your friends are exhausted, I do think it’s their right and choice to do what they’re doing (many of us wouldn’t have it any other way) and that unless you see real evidence of physical pain in their dog, this is just something they have to figure out. There is an enormous amount of pain in letting go of an old dog whose system is slowly shutting down, it’s very different than a dog with an illness. You can certainly talk to them about it, sounds like you already have. I think you can gently voice your concerns about your friends and express to them that you know how hard and painful this must be, but you also have to respect that they may not be where you think they should be with it. It’s okay. One way or another they will get there, and you’re very kind to care about them all so much.
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