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My best friend loves to talk about our mutual girlfriends. I have to admit that she is funny and sarcastic. It’s entertaining and weirdly bonding for us, so of course, I join in to some degree. But here’s the thing: I know she must talk about me to them. And our mutual friends are undoubtedly talking about me too. I am just now realizing the toll that is taking on me. I don’t feel safe with these people, and I can’t really be myself.
These women are my closest friend group. I should mention that we are all in our forties. I feel like it’s too late to find new friends. Plus, I have known them forever.
Too Much Talk
Dear Too Much,
First, I just wanna say, it’s never, ever too late to find new friends! But back to the matter at hand. I have found that one mainstay of conversations between women is indeed other women. Sometimes they are unfortunately a bit gossipy, and other times, they’re just exploring the rich psychological landscape we all inhabit.
Also, I think you have to assume that if you are gossiping about others, others are gossiping about you. I know I do! You have to admit, gossip is pretty hard to resist, especially when it comes with a dollop of sarcasm and a soupçon of funny. But it sounds like you have a good interior barometer of when a conversation crosses over from constructive to destructive. When you feel the conversation creeping toward the cringy, it is time to speak up and say, “I’m not comfortable talking about Leslie when she’s not here. Should we try the new chocolate store in town?”
Setting up some parameters will make you feel safer with these old friends. Patterns and habits are hard to break, so consider this a good place to stretch those atrophied muscles. The more you stick up for yourself, the stronger you feel. The stronger you feel, the less acquiescing you will do. The less acquiescing, the stronger you feel, beans, beans with every meal.
Whether you stick with this group or move on, trust yourself and treat yourself like the queen that you are. Then, join a new group just for fun – biking club, ham radio operators club, toby jug collectors club (a trip to the Evanston toby jug museum perhaps?) or better yet, start your own club! – and to prove to yourself that you’re never stuck if you don’t wanna be.
I feel strongly about reducing the amount of consumer goods I consume. I try to recycle, upcycle, and thrift when possible. This includes gift giving. I bake desserts, create art, give “coupons” for chores, and purchase gently used items – always in good shape, just not brand new – at thrift stores. I mentioned this to a friend who was horrified, saying it was “gross” to give something that had been previously owned. What do you think?
Dear Thrifty Gifter,
I am so, so, so, so with you on this! While I also know people who are a little grossed out by shopping at thrift stores, I say to them, hello? Have you ever heard of a washing machine? Have those same people never shared a toothbrush, a beverage or bodily fluids with anyone? I mean, go ahead and spend $100 on a pair of workout leggings at Lululemon, while I pay $3 at Goodwill. Be my guest.
I would rather receive a homemade dessert or thrifted item any day of the week. We don’t need 90% of what we have, and if someone else will get joy out of it, it’s a happy win-win. I applaud your thoughtfulness and personally I wish more people took a page out of your playbook. If your friends don’t want your “pre-owned” gift, they can re-gift it, which will be the perfect continuation of your recycling efforts!
I live in a small rural town with no ubers or cabs. I just got my drivers license. My younger bro and I don’t have the best relationship. He is very popular (hanging out with friends, some of whom I know) and often calls me to come pick him up late at night on the weekends, most likely because he’s been drinking. I feel like I can’t say no because of the status of our relationship and because I want to make sure he gets home safely.
Should this sister act?
Dear Sister Act,
This is one problem you do not need to take on, even though you clearly feel pressure to. He is your brother, yes, but his transportation home is not your problem. Even if you don’t get along and you feel that doing him a favor would improve your relationship because you’re doing him a solid, ultimately, playing the part of his chauffeur, available at any hour, will just make you resent him.
There are other ways to improve your relationship, like asking him to lunch and then talking about neutral topics, like, say, how crazy the family is. The more you share with each other, the better you will get along. After all, love ‘em or hate ‘em, your siblings are the only other witnesses to the insanity.
You do not have to be his savior or his disciplinarian. Just tell him you can’t drive him home and tell your parents the same (no reason need be given). Then let the grown ups do their job. If he gets mad, it’s their problem, not yours. Sweet dreams!
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at email@example.com.