Archive for the 'friends' Category

20
Nov
13

setting the ex up with someone new

Reader N.G. writes:

I casually dated a guy for a while, and things didn’t work out. It wasn’t a bad break up and we’re still technically friends, although we don’t hang out alone together or anything — we just spend time in the same social circles. A few weeks ago, I brought a new friend to a party, and she was asking me questions about him. I think she’s kind of interested in him, which is great, because he hasn’t been dating anyone in a long time. I would be totally happy if he started dating a new girl, and I’m not jealous at all, but I don’t know if he’s her type. Still, I think she has a right to figure that out on her own. Of course: she doesn’t know we ever dated. So, should I tell her we dated, or tell her I don’t think he’s her type, or encourage her to try things out with him anyway, or what?

Dear N.G.:

It’s very kind of you to think of the happiness of both your new friends and past exes. It’s also great that you’re capable of moving on, especially since you only casually dated this guy and you still hang out in the same social circles. Good job on keeping things from getting awkward. Hopefully he feels the same way.

I tend to believe total honesty is the best route in all things relationship. However, given the casual nature of your relationship with both of these people, I don’t think it’s necessary to divulge that you dated the guy in question to your new friend.  Unless you know something really damning about him (like, he’s abusive or he has an STD), let her get to know him on her own time. Some relationships should just take their course.Who knows? They may be perfect for each other.

Unify and conquer! Photo by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

Unify and conquer! Photo by stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net

Telling her straight up that 1. you used to date him and 2. you don’t think he’s her type can make you look like a jealous, territorial girl, even if you’re not at all jealous and actually want them to date. If she gets really deep into asking you questions about him, you might mention it for full disclosure, but I would not lead with it. Wait until she’s pretty close to having her own ideas about him before you plant that in her head. The fact that he’s casually dated you may taint her impressions of him, obviously.

On the flip side, I would not go overboard in trying to set them up, either. Pushing her on him could be just as disastrous to the unawkward vibe in your current setting as warning her off him would be, especially if he really isn’t her type. He will probably hear of it and figure it out as well, and it can be somewhat insulting for an ex to set you up with someone new; it could be seen as a “you can’t do this yourself and I need to get you out of my hair” gesture, depending on the guy and your relationship with him.

To sum up: my best advice is to play this cool. Don’t offer more information than necessary; keep the past info to yourself until it’s relevant; ask more questions than you offer details. Let this blossom as organically as you’d let any relationship between acquaintances or casual friends. Save the real matchmaking for your besties.

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13
Mar
12

getting married in a hurry

Reader E. E. writes:

I have two friends who are eloping and it really bothers me. I just don’t think they’ve thought it through. She’s not pregnant (that I know of) and I just don’t think it’s wise to rush into a marriage, especially given the current divorce rate. How do I get them to think about it?

Dear E.E.:

By the time two people have announced they’re getting married, it’s far too late in the game to tell them they need to “think it over”. In fact, the more you tell them you don’t approve, the more likely they are to go through with it and just not invite you to the ceremony or the after party.

Telling someone you don’t think they should get married is just like telling a friend you don’t like their significant other — it’s going to drive a wedge between you. People who have decided to get married are every bit as headstrong as people who are dating, if not more so. If you are that certain that this elopement is going to completely ruin their lives and you’re willing to sacrifice your friendship over it, then by all means, tell them.

One ring to rule them all

Image: vichie81 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you were a parent or direct relation to the engaged parties, your say might have a little more weight. You could withhold inheritance money or something. And in fact, if it’s really that serious to you, saying you can’t be friends with them if they’re making this decision might sway them, although I doubt it.

I can understand your concern, of course. According to every statistic out there, our generation takes marriage about as seriously as we take reality TV (by which I mean, not at all). Britney Spears can do it in Vegas and get it annulled six hours later; gay people aren’t allowed to do it; half our friends and family members have gone through divorce, and it’s never easy or pretty, even if it’s mutual.

But don’t believe for a minute that eloping means they’re not taking marriage seriously or that they haven’t thought it through.

First of all, the fact that they’re not having a giant, stressful wedding could be a life saver for their relationship. We put a lot of pressure on people to make their wedding days the best days of their lives, and sometimes that’s a death knell.

Second, the length of an engagement is not a good gauge for a couple’s commitment level. We all know stories about people who met and got married within a week and are still together 50 years later. It’s not how long you’ve known each other that makes a marriage last; it’s how willing you are to work on staying together.

Third,  they’re adults, and you have to let them make their own decisions, whether it’s going to be a complete mistake or the best idea they’ve ever had.

Finally, try to take a step back and see if you feel like they shouldn’t married because you wouldn’t be ready in this situation, or because you really think they’re not ready. Your feelings on marriage are your own for your own reasons, and they’re perfectly valid, but remember: you’re not the one getting married. I think you will have a much better time with this if you ask your friends their reasons for getting married rather than telling them you think they’re too hasty, which comes across as judgmental. Talking with them about their reasons for such a quick wedding might actually put your mind at ease; just don’t plan on your input changing their minds at all.

My best advice: be happy for them. Whether they’re going to last together or not, they’re going to need your support and love, and that’s all there is to it.

23
Nov
11

a little potluck etiquette

Reader E.W. writes:

It’s potluck season! Can you please write a post about etiquette for these gatherings? Not for me, for my clueless friends.

Dear E.W.:

Why, sure!

Potlucks are supposed to be a way for a host or group to diffuse the burden of feeding the group among the group’s members. That way, no one person has to do all the work. (That’s the goal, anyway.)

If you are invited to a potluck, be prepared to bring a dish. If you’re a good cook, it’s your time to shine. Prepare to make that thing you make that everyone loves. If you’re not a good cook, prepare to order something from your favorite bakery/deli/bbq joint and bring it with you.

If you are hosting a potluck, be gracious. Prepare something big so that if the people in your group don’t read my blog, you can feed them anyway. The world is full of mooches who don’t recognize their own mooching, and they probably have a great rationale for why they don’t bring food with them (I’m a bad cook; everyone else makes more money than I do; whatever). Appreciate their company if nothing else. The only thing you can do to a shitty potlucker is not invite them to the next potluck.

For you shitty potluckers who don’t want to get kicked out: You probably run with a group of people who do potlucks all the time. Think of the people who consistently bring good food. What do they bring? Can you ask them for advice? And can you relieve them of the inevitable “I’m the provider” fatigue that accompanies being the person who always brings good food to the potluck?

Here are a few good pointers to being invited back:

My potlucks never look like this.

Image: Rosen Georgiev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make a main dish or at least an exciting and substantial side. The problem with potlucks is that it is a diffusion of responsibility, so people don’t think they need to bring anything important, and you end up with a bunch of chips and salsa and 2-liters of diet soda.

If you’re really smart, you will contact other people going to the potluck and see what they’re bringing, so that it’s not a battle of the enchiladas or a spread of slaws. A great host will even assign you an item to bring, or at least a category of food to prepare.

Bring enough food for yourself and everyone else in the group. If you’re bringing alcohol, bring enough for you to drink, and enough for everyone else to drink. One bottle of wine? Okay, if there are only three people at the potluck. One six pack? Same rule. Bring more. And bring a variety. As a friend recently said, “If you bring a bottle of wine and drink the whole thing yourself, you are NOT contributing.”

If you have a food allergy or “alternative” diet, this is not the time to preach about it. Also, a potluck is not the time to try and punish people for not subscribing to your extreme vegan diet. Bring a dish you can eat and make sure there’s enough for everyone else. Make sure it’s something delicious so they’ll say, “Wow, maybe she doesn’t just eat hay all the time!” Be kind about it. Food is a tough subject and people are crazy, and that includes you.

Make something that is easy to reheat or doesn’t require reheating. Something in a crock pot is a good idea, or something that will maintain heat from your way over to the event (potatoes!), so you don’t have to line up for the microwave or oven. If you’re bringing a tray of something, be careful about meat and milk. Food poisoning sucks. Being the person who poisoned everyone at the potluck sucks more.

Also, be prepared to bring your own serving utensils, and keep track of your dishes. It’s a good idea to put masking tape on the bottom of your dish with your name on it. If you buy cheap kitchenware like most people, it’s highly likely they saw the same sale you did and stocked their kitchens in an identical manner. If you are a host, have extra utensils and serving available, in case someone forgets them. (Nothing quite like microwaving something in a tupperware container and getting melted plastic as part of the meal.)

Be prepared to handle leftovers, either by taking them back home with you or having your own tupperware. Your host may want to keep the leftovers, so offer to give them to him/her, but don’t just assume he/she wants a fridge full of other peoples’ food. Don’t expect the host to wash the dish for you, either.

Finally, when you do go to a potluck, try every dish that you can, at least a little bit. (“Can” is determined by food allergies or dietary restrictions, too.) There will probably be dishes that are preferred over others, and when you go back for seconds, you can have those. Just make sure you’re not eating so much that other people don’t get food, or so little that it’s obvious you’re picky and ungrateful.

Remember that the word “luck” is in the title of this event, and so what you get to eat is at the whims of the other people involved. But you can make your own luck by bringing something you like.

23
Aug
11

stupid little facebook quirks

Reader F. F. writes:

Can you just tell people some basic Facebook etiquette to remind them what not to do?

Dear F.F.:

Okay, my passive aggressive friend! Nothing quite like using an advice columnist to get out the ideas you just don’t have the balls to tell people.

Beyond the usual “don’t ever post anything on the internet you don’t want to come back and bite you in the ass later”, here are a few quirks I’ve noticed on Facebook that people need to learn not to do:

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

– Quit liking your own status. Unless you’re trying to be ironic or funny, if you are a page, group, person, business, whatever, when you post something and then “like” it, you look like a moron. It’s not going to ruin your career, probably, but people will probably think you’re stupid.

– Stop caring about and then correcting people’s spelling errors. Yes, it’s fun to correct the spelling of the idiot who just posted some flamingly stupid post, but their flaming stupidity speaks for itself. Everyone makes typos on quick media like Facebook or Twitter. It’s embarrassing enough. Let it go. When you accidentally post something about “erection” rather than “dereliction” because your phone auto corrected, people will be much less likely to repay your spelling Nazism with their own brand of it. Save your red pencil for stuff that really matters. Like your resume.

– When someone posts an intentionally flame-y political or religious post (and there’s no stopping that, or it’d be a bullet point here), quit pretending you can be the voice of reason in the debate. There isn’t one. Even if you’ve got statistics or proof, people who post strong things about “right” or “wrong” will not be swayed. Let it go. It’s only going to devolve into name-calling, anyway. (It always does.) Confirmation Bias works for everybody, so you’re just as likely to believe something irrationally as the next guy. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, k.

– Always include a personal message with a friend request, especially if you’re sending this request to someone you’ve never met in real life or haven’t talked to in a long time. Don’t just assume they’ll know who you are or why you want to be friends.

– Remember that there’s no BCC on the Facebook messaging system yet, so if you email your entire list of friends, every time anyone replies, it’ll go to the entire group of friends. And it’ll get annoying. Use your actual email for giant mass messages if you can, and save the Facebook convos for more intimate times, or introducing friends who don’t yet know each other (which is my favorite thing to do ever).

– If you haven’t done it yet, go through your friend list and separate people into pertinent lists. This way, you can block certain people from seeing certain things (like status updates, pictures, etc) or send pertinent information to them and only them. It’s like Google+ Circles, only less … visual. Or something.

– Don’t indiscriminately invite everyone on your friend list to an event. Only invite the groups of friends that are pertinent to the event. Obviously, it’s not something that seriously takes away from your quality of life; but it’s annoying. Getting invited more than once to an event that isn’t in the town where you live makes you think the person has no idea who you are, which means, you get a defriending.

– It’s not other peoples’ jobs to know your privacy settings, so keep those up to date on your own. If someone tags you in a photo you don’t like, untag it, and/or ask them to remove it. Block apps that bother you rather than complaining about them. Leave groups if you’re getting too many messages, or, better yet, manage your messages and notifications. Facebook is highly customizable. If you are afraid Facebook is going to threaten your job/home life, and you can’t manage your own privacy settings, get off Facebook. It’s not a right. It’s a privilege.

UPDATE: – Quit posting the “scam” posts. If you must post them, at least look them up on Snopes.com or whatever first. Don’t just repost whatever someone else has posted thinking it’s been proven or is true. Do your research.

– Keep posting interesting links to articles or inspiring YouTube videos. Those are fun. I appreciate them. And if I don’t, I won’t click on the link.

Alright, advice blog friends, what are your pet peeves on Facebook?

16
Aug
11

vanity

Reader T. M. writes:

I have been accused lately of being too vain. What can I do to stop this?

Dear T.M.:

I have several suggestions on curbing vanity. While none of these things will actually help with the vanity inherent in your personality, it may strike a blow or two to your ego, or at least convince you to care about other things for a while. Self-absorption tends to be the issue people have with vain folks, so focusing your attention outside your own looks is your best bet.

so vain.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being vain isn’t necessarily the worst flaw in the world, either. While it is associated with being cocky or self-centered, vanity tends to make people take care of themselves. And people who take care of themselves can be rather nice to look at, if nothing else.

Nevertheless, if you feel as though you need to change, then I have a few ideas.

Some of these suggestions are things over which you will have no control. I’ll start with the ones you DO have control over:

Get a really bad haircut. If you’re a young woman, shave your head, or just cut it really short. If you’re a guy… just get something awful. Not stylish-awful like a mullet. I mean like a bowl cut.

Do something you’re really bad at as a hobby. Bad at languages? Take a class in something that doesn’t use the Roman alphabet — like Greek or Chinese or Russian. Not sporty? Join a sports league. If you are sporty, join a volleyball or softball team that always loses. Bad singer? Start going to karaoke religiously. Sing in front of strangers til they boo you off the stage.

Start riding your bike everywhere. You’ll be sweaty and gross all the time. You won’t be able to wear cute clothes or shoes, and bike gear is always ugly. Plus, if you’re new to it, you’ll be falling down in front of people. A lot.

Get rid of all the mirrors in your house. You don’t have to throw them out or sell them, but hide them. Try going a week without looking at yourself. (This is extremely difficult — there are mirrors everywhere.)

Do some seriously gritty charity work. I don’t mean charity fundraising or walking the dogs at the animal shelter. I mean the ugly, hard work — cleaning toilets, cleaning out the cages at the animal shelter, picking up trash on the freeway, painting over graffiti. The stuff that doesn’t get you accolades. The stuff that’s really difficult and messy that no one else wants to do.

– Apply to jobs that are just out of your qualification zone and ask for too much money. They’ll turn you down, and they won’t say it was because of the money. You can just assume it’s because they found you lacking in every aspect of your existence.

Really pay attention to how people react to you. Your friend that accused you of being too vain may not be the only person who finds your behavior annoying.

Things over which you have little to no control:

Get hives. Big ones. Big itchy ones that you can’t stop scratching. Not only will you be terribly uncomfortable, but people will think you’re probably contagious. If you know what you’re allergic to, roll around in it. Otherwise, just wait for the plague to strike.

Get acne. Same thing as hives, only less itchy. Just uncomfortable. You can probably achieve this by not washing your face very often.

Get turned down in several romantic opportunities. Sure, this is unpredictable, but you can have a part in it. Make advances on people you know are way out of your league, especially if it’s intellectually or based on appearances. When they turn you down, ask them why, and hope they actually bother to let you know.

Come down with a really serious illness. I’m talking the kind that puts you in the hospital for weeks and leaves you all skin and bones. Obviously, this will make you realign your priorities.

Okay, you probably don’t have to go to such extremes to conquer vanity. Simply being aware of your vanity can help you at least get it under control. But if you want to go all out, do a combination of any of the above and see where your head’s out a few months later.

06
Jul
11

the highly sensitive person

Reader S. I. writes:

I have a friend who freaks out about everything, and it’s really starting to bother me. She takes everything really personally. Like, one of our friends got her email address wrong in an email about a girls night out, so she didn’t hear about it until I forwarded the email, and then she said she didn’t think she was really invited, so she wasn’t going to go. Stuff like this happens all the time. What can I do?

Dear S.I.:

I understand the frustration you feel. It sounds to me like your friend is a Highly Sensitive Person, and the bad news is: if it really annoys you, there’s not much you can do about it, beyond leaving the friendship altogether.

The good news is, you can be aware of what’s going on, and maybe clue her in, too.

A Highly Sensitive Person is someone who exhibits traits of higher sensitivity than others. (Kinda’ obvious from the title, I think.) It’s not a diagnosis of  mental illness, it’s not on the autism spectrum, and it’s not caused by eating too much gluten, so don’t get too excited. It’s a personality trait that some scientists estimate 1 out of every 5 people is born with. Your friend was born this way.

sensitive

Image: Naito8 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

HSPs tend to take things more personally than others, and many HSPs are also shy. However, the sensitivity doesn’t just center on their personal interactions; they also tend to be sensitive to physical stimuli, like noise, light, and even caffeine. HSPs get overwhelmed easily because for some reason, they are more sensitive to what’s going on than many of the people around them. If your friend is an HSP, she can’t help “over-reacting” — her sensitive nature just processes stimuli differently, and she honestly feels like your other friend left her out of the email chain on purpose.

As someone who is apparently HSP herself, I can tell you that it kind of sucks. I am often convinced that people don’t like me because of flippant comments, or how they react to my blog, and I don’t respond well to teasing. It’s embarrassing sometimes how personally I take things. Also, I can’t have more than one cup of coffee in the morning, because I get shaky and can’t sleep at night. I also get overstimulated by jack hammers in the street, loud parties, barking dogs, and screaming babies. It makes me feel really impatient and kind of ridiculous. I’m aware of what’s going on, but there’s not much I can do about it other than accept that it’s happening, and/or try to escape into a dark, quiet room.

However, there are benefits to being an HSP. People who have this trait tend to be more aware of nuances around them, and are great hosts at parties because they know exactly what someone else would need to feel comfortable. HSPs are also deeply moved by music, theatre, and art, which is kind of a bonus. We’re supposedly a bit more empathic, too; I’ll bet when your friend isn’t freaking out over some misunderstanding, she’s one of the best friends you’ve got.

Your friend probably has no idea that she’s an HSP. The best thing you can do for her is understand her condition yourself, and be a little forgiving. You can also let her know you think she may be HSP. Send her a link to an article about it, like The Highly Sensitive Person. (NB: She will probably be upset that you felt you had to send her a link about her behavior, but that will pass.) Let her read up on it, and if she can be more self-aware about it, she may be able to pick up on when she’s being over sensitive, and at least temper her reactions in a more positive manner. Why don’t both of you take the self-test and see where you land?

If you don’t think you can handle her sensitive nature, you may need to cool things in the relationship. It’s not your job to make her personality change, and if you are still annoyed with her even after you know what her condition is and have talked to her about it, maybe you two weren’t meant to be friends. That doesn’t make either of you bad people. Sometimes you can’t be friends with everyone.

Hopefully you can both come to terms with her sensitivity, and enjoy a less frustrating friendship.

29
Jun
11

unwanted competition

Reader B.C. writes:

I have a friend who keeps making everything a competition between us. And I mean EVERYTHING — boys liking us, clothes fitting, our jobs. We both do freelance work, and we made a deal a long time ago that we would only go for clients in different fields so we wouldn’t ever be in direct competition with each other. But these days, if I get a client, she has to point out how many more she’s got, or what a crappy client it is, or whatever. The other day I got a weird, extremely critical comment on a blog post I’d written from an “anonymous” commenter, but it included a lot of information about me that I don’t advertise on my blog, so I have to believe it was a friend, and I honestly believe it was her. I don’t want to be in competition with her — I want to be friends. What can I do?

Dear B.C.:

competition

You can't win if you don't compete, you know. Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It sounds to me like your friend has an inferiority complex, which you will never be able to assuage. The best you can do is call her out on it, and let her know it’s bothering you. Hopefully she’ll be mature enough to admit what exactly has brought this competition spurt on, and the underlying issues will come forth so you can resolve them. Don’t even bring up the fact that you suspect her of trolling on your blog, because that will make her immediately defensive. Just tell her you’ve noticed she’s been more competitive recently that usual, that it bothers you because you prefer not to compete with your friends, and you’re wondering if something new has gone on to make this change, or if there’s something you can do about it.

You could also ignore it and let her burn herself out. If she’s got an issue with you that she can’t bring up and can only address through passive aggression, then the problem is in her head. If you can ignore it, do. Continue with business as usual. Maybe point out to her when she’s being unnecessarily mean, but other than that, just ignore her tirades. In fact, be extra nice to her so that she feels even worse. If you quit reinforcing a behavior, it should eventually stop. Criticism can be good for you, even if it’s mean spirited or unwarranted, because it brings us to question what we know, and can help you grow. So even if she’s just being mean, you can use it as a tool to better yourself.

If she doesn’t stop, you can lessen your interaction with her (like, quit telling her who your clients are, and hang out with her less), or you can even end the friendship altogether. It can be hard to tell a girl you don’t want to be friends anymore, and for the most part, relationships between girls tend to just putter out rather than end with any discussion. If neither of you is willing to discuss where your relationship is going or why, I bet this is what is going to happen anyway.

But you could compete back. A little competition is healthy, even for those of us (like myself) who don’t like confrontation. Like criticism, it makes you question your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

Why not push back? Get more clients than her; be a better freelancer (are you writers or graphic designers or what?); get more boys to ask you out. Maybe it will give you more confidence and make you feel better about yourself.

I know, I know, it’s not what nice girls do. Nice girls politely step aside when their friends get fussy, or allow their girlfriends to shine instead of tarnishing them, or whatever. The whole “girls are supposed to be nice” thing is a recurring theme I have to admit I fall into myself. But standing up for yourself is as important as being nice. And forget being viewed as nice. You can’t please everyone all the time.

I’m sure that as a working girl, you’ve been viewed as a bitch, or pushy, or awful at least once in your life. Hell, even outside of the workplace, no girl is nice all the time. Or at least no girl I’ve ever met.

Try fighting fire with fire. If you two can’t have a civilized conversation about what is going on in your relationship, or she can’t admit she wants something you have, then just prove to her how out of reach your life really is. It’ll probably knock her on her ass. If she wants a flame war, start a flame war. Get your friends to leave critical comments on her blog, too. Purposefully bid on work she’s said she wants. Go nuts. Be as bitchy to her as you feel she’s being to you.

True, it probably won’t end well. But you’ll improve your game. And you may scare her out of her present state of mind while you’re at it.




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