DAME’s Friendkeeper gives advice about a misguided motivator and tells us how to keep our dignity when a jerky long-lost friend won’t stop calling.
I have a conundrum. I have a friend—let’s call her Jenna—who has recently started taking a, for lack of a better phrase, “tough love” stance in our friendship. I think she fancies herself a motivator, but what that means is she’s super blunt and can say some kind of hurtful things. But the problem is, it kind of works. Like, I was complaining about how my favorite jeans were too tight and she basically told me my ass was big and it was only gonna get bigger. I was so pissed. But then I started running a couple of nights a week and now they totally fit again. Which makes me even more mad! And it’s not just me she’s done it with. Another friend was bitching about her job and Jenna told her she was wasting her time at a shitty company in a position that wasn’t going anywhere. Harsh. Except now that friend has polished up her resume and is actually starting to job hunt. But it doesn’t mean there’s not some resentment there. What should I do? Just take her criticism? I hate that it works!
Well lucky you! You have a life coach and a boot camp instructor and you don’t have to pay a dime!
I’m always in awe of people who don’t pull any punches and say that kind of thing. It’s so not the way I am—if you tell me your pants are too tight, I’ll tell you they shrunk and you should get better pants, but clearly you are happy with them being looser and it sounds like your other friend is happier in her job. Sometimes it’s a relief to have a friend like that—what I think of as being particularly “direct.” It’s like people in therapy who hit each other with those stuffed bats. So you are obviously able to say what you think back to her. “Hey Jenna, maybe you want to put a comb through that hair before a bunch of rats make a nest there.” Or you know whatever.
The problem, though, is that sometimes when we are trying to make a change in our lives, we talk about it for a long time before we are ready. Sometimes we talk about if for five years. I know with pretty much every big change I’ve made, I whined about it for a long time before I made the move. And I don’t think I would’ve handled it well if my close friends said, “Then shut up and quit.” The fact that you started running and your other friend fixed her resume is great, but it could’ve been that you weren’t at that point and then it would’ve just stung.
I think it’s all fine except if it isn’t. And then you need to be clear with her when you aren’t looking for tough love. “Jenna, at the moment I don’t want you to scold me. I need to talk now.” You don’t want to spend your life in the defensive mode though, so make sure she understands.
I got a call the other day—rather, I saw my phone light up, and hit IGNORE. It was from a woman I used to be friends with. We had a terrible, weird falling out about five years ago that I still don’t understand entirely—she just turned on me quite abruptly, while I was on vacation, just dropped me in such a cruel way, and I swore I’d never speak to her again. We’d had a break in the past, a natural one, not a fight, just that thing that happens when friends get busy, and then we wended our way back to each other, and we were enjoying each other’s company immensely. Or so I thought. So now she’s calling me. At first I thought it was a mistake, like a butt-dial. But then she called again the next day. And I admit: I’m curious. But I can’t bring myself to call her back. It seems, well, undignified. What do I do?
Serious But Not Desperate
Whenever a person does something out-of-the-blue cruel, I try and imagine what could’ve caused it. First, of course, I assume it’s something I have done. When I am confident that I’ve been no less than stellar on every level (I carry a small notebook with a checklist) I think about them. What were they going through?
I used to go to this hair salon and the owner was a big dog person and she always told me I should bring Otto, my sainted pup, with me. One day I was going for a long appointment (color and cut) and I decided to take him rather than leave him alone in my air-conditioned apartment with classical music playing and a full array of treats. We walked into the salon and from clear across the room a giant dog (whose breed I will not mention because they already have a bad rap) came racing at us and attacked Otto. I did what you’re not supposed to do and got between them and opened the dog’s mouth and saved my boy. He needed over 50 stitches on his tiny butt. It turned out the dog belonged to the salon owner’s boyfriend (who unrelatedly was a big scumbag) and he had always been very gentle and sweet (the dog not the boyfriend). No one could figure out what happened. (My sense was that he was in this room full of mirrors and he saw Otto walk in and Otto’s handsomeness made him fly into a jealous rage—see how I look for motive?) Well, a few weeks later the dog was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he died shortly after. I am now sure that the tumor was why he went after Otto. Do I think your friend has a brain tumor? I sincerely hope not, but maybe she was struggling with something else … so I would definitely call her. If she’s doing anything other than apologizing and explaining to you, you can use it as an opportunity to let off steam, because you sound like you’re holding a lot of anger. And it’s never a bad idea to let that out. Good luck.
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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