Dear Carolyn • Four great friends do a lot together, “Jeanne,” “Sophie,” “Kaylie” and “Penny.” Over time, Sophie constantly “finds faults” with Jeanne and begins to alienate her from the group. Sophie doesn’t share this with Jeanne and doesn’t want her to know. Penny and Kaylie tell Jeanne the “faults” Sophie sees. Sophie leaves the group. No longer wants anything to do with any of the friends. Now Sophie wants to be friends with Penny and Kaylie, but refuses to be around Jeanne. This puts Penny and Kaylie in an awkward situation. What would you recommend for Jeanne? Walk away from everyone? Avoid Sophie when she is around? Be cordial to Sophie, but no more?
Friends on Sophies’s Terms
Dear Friends • Sophie, Kaylie and Penny frighten Carolyn. (Jeanne just confuses Carolyn a bit.) Penny and Kaylie are not in an “awkward situation,” they’re in a decency test — and failing it with flying colors. Here’s the answer to Sophie that prevents a snake pit: “Join us all, or don’t. Up to you.”
Dear Carolyn • My husband’s parents are divorced and both remarried. My mother-in-law’s husband is wonderful, but my father-in-law’s wife is overbearing in every sense of the word. She is also very critical of my husband, me, my sister-in-law and her husband. When my sister-in-law had a baby, my father-in-law’s wife suddenly became even MORE overbearing toward her. What irks me most is that the wife insists on referring to herself as grandma. I don’t want my future child to call her grandma, nor do I want her referring to herself that way. How can I politely ask her not expect to be called grandma by my children?
Dear Help • Nothing like riding a stream of contempt for someone, then landing, thump, at a straight-faced request to express this contempt “politely.” You neither can, should, nor have any business trying to, shove The Wife off the grandma shelf. Grit out some pleasant engagement instead — including, when she gets mean, “I’d appreciate your support, not criticism.” Diplomacy, not war.
Carolyn Hax’s column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.