Carolyn Hax: Weighing whether to dish the dirt on an old friend to a mutual cohort

Carolyn Hax
Columnist April 11

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I have an old, really close friend who has her own old, really close friend. (My friend “Jane” and I met after college; Jane met her friend during college.) Jane and I are having a fight about Jane’s behavior toward me. She’s got a bad temper and I think is a bit of a bully sometimes.

Meanwhile, Jane’s old friend “Mary” and I have been becoming better acquainted lately. We’ve been starting to communicate and talk outside of Jane’s presence. Is it unfair to ask Mary about Jane’s behavior? They are much closer — obviously, having known each other for years. But I think it would be interesting to know if Mary sees the same thing in Jane that I do. I’m not asking her to weigh in on our current fight; I just want to know if she has had the same experience. Mary is a sweet woman and I believe wouldn’t run to Jane to tell her I’ve been talking to her.

Bringing Dirt to Other Parties


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

I think it’s fine in an “I struggle to understand Jane sometimes. Can you help me?” kind of way, but if you’re not certain you can keep this out of the muck of Jane-bashing, then don’t even try it.

Another way of putting it: If you want to fix your friendship with Jane, then understand that what you need to accomplish this are new ways to see the good in Jane, and Mary can help you with that. If what you want is validation for disliking this aspect of Jane, then don’t even touch that with Mary.

Dear Carolyn:

Do you think it’s rude for people to ask if you are still breastfeeding? I breastfed my children longer than most (more than a year, less than two). While my family and friends knew I was breastfeeding, it’s not something I loudly campaign for, and I prefer to do it discreetly.

Yet, people think it’s okay to ask if I’m still nursing my 15-month-old. I think it’s a question along the lines of asking people when they’re going to settle down and get married or when they’re going to have kids — that is, none of your darn business.

What’s your opinion, Carolyn? By the way, I always answer the question simply and honestly with a yes or no because I’m happy with my choice, but the reactions from people run the gamut, which might be why I’m sensitive to it. Some say “How wonderful” or “Good for you,” while others are exasperated: “Are you REALLY?”

Rude?

“That’s kind of an odd question. Why do you ask?” That way you’ll see whether you’re getting interest from people who are weighing their own choices or judging yours.

Or you can solve it after the fact: “Had I known you were just looking to judge me, I wouldn’t have answered so politely.”

Re: “Are you still breastfeeding?”

“Of course not! My mother weaned me long ago!”

Anonymous

Oh to be this quick, just once. Thank you.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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