DAME’s Friendkeeper tells a woman how to deal with her pal’s terrible painting and helps another keep a real life friendship separate from bad online behavior.
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My wonderful friend has a bit of “career confusion.” She’s been a yoga teacher, a cookie maker, and now she’s an artist—good news is she doesn’t need to make money (yay for her she has a trust fund!), bad news is she stinks. Her paintings look like my 5-year-old niece did them, but my friend is serious. Which is all fine except she gave me one of her hideous paintings and is waiting for me to put it up. Every time she comes over she makes a comment about it. I don’t want to rain on her parade, but there is no way I want to hang that thing in my house. What do I do?
Amateur Art Critic
I see many layers to this—it seems like you may be a tiny bit resentful that your friend doesn’t have to work. No? Oh, then that’s me. Why doesn’t she have to work and I do? Okay, enough of that. Here’s the thing about art: It can be great and you might not like it. It can stink and you might love it (see the Halloween painting in my bedroom). But what I learned from my friend Elaine Ronson, founder of Art Kapsule, is that it is how you approach the art. She showed me some pictures of modern art and I just furrowed my brow in discomfort and dislike. She then told me to look at the art as if it’s a shape-shifting alien trying to communicate with you—like, imagine it wants to tell you something. It really changed how I looked at art. So though you may not like your friend’s art, if you think of her working on this for you and the love she may have for you that she was trying to get in this painting, and how hard she may be trying to figure herself out, it might look better to you. Also you can take it down when she’s not there.
I have a friend who in person is quite lovely. But she has a completely provocative social media personality. On Twitter and Facebook she can be absolutely infuriating, starting fights and getting into it with people. When she’s online she’ll say things that are quite mean, things she’d never say to your face. But when you call her on it, she doesn’t understand why you are taking it personally. There was one instance when one of her updates seemed to be directed at me, it was so specific it even described very particular aspects of my life. When I brought it up she insisted it wasn’t about me. A week later she invited me out to dinner. Is she a master compartmentalizer? Is she totally clueless that her social media behavior can have consequences in real life? Or am I just being oversensitive?
I remember in the ’70s there was a really mean theater critic. People hated him. He would eviscerate actors, directors, set designers. Years later I met someone who lived in his building and said he was the kindest, gentlest man and that he was only mean in the magazine. Maybe your friend is just combative on social media. Maybe she is unable to express her feelings in other ways. I think you were right to bring it up, and you should revisit it. I don’t know what you can do though if she denies it. I would actually suggest that the two of you agree to not be friends on social media. Be together in real life only. If she’s lovely in person, just stick with that. Also, then you can post mean stuff about her and she won’t see it. (Kidding.) (Or not.)
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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