Dear Carolyn:

I'm a "class clown"-type, always cracking jokes, etc. Problem is, I feel as though no one takes me seriously about anything at this point -- whether it's my job, my interests, everything. There's always this undercurrent of my being laughed at. My growing discomfort with this might correlate with the fact that, over the past couple of years, I've had a significant rise in self-confidence. It's like I'm finally realizing (a bit late -- I'm in my mid-30s) that I'm a good-looking guy, in decent shape, making pretty good money, and I am funny -- and smart, too, and interested in a lot of different things, and thus an interesting person. Nobody but me seems to get this. Thing is, I really like my friends, I love them to death -- it's just that I wish I could redefine myself a bit for them. I don't know if that's possible short of my standing up during happy hour and screaming, "I DEMAND to be taken seriously!!!!!" -- which would elicit quite a few laughs, and rightly so. Your thoughts, if any?

Class Clown

Substitute "Thanksgiving dinner" for "happy hour," and you have the plight of every adult who just felt 16 again upon setting foot in the family home.

That's my homespun, holiday-themed way of saying, "Good luck."

It's also an argument for patience. Just as there's a lag as parents adjust to the adults they've known only as children, your friends know you -- and trust you and love you -- only as a doof. It took you two years (and three decades) to change the way you saw yourself, so be generous with the opportunities you give your friends to catch up.

And realistic: To people you've known forever, you'll always be part today, part history. Which can be irritating, but also comforting, whenever "today" isn't going so well and you're glad to be the funny guy again.

Realize, too, that some people never catch up. Some parents threaten to disown their children for marrying out of the faith, or choosing offbeat professions, or, egad, skipping Christmas -- i.e., for having the gall to be themselves. Likewise, some friends will need you to remain a clown, for their own reasons. A fear of change, a need to feel superior, whatever.

Also realize that with your transformation will come a shift in your view of your friends. Right now you may be so busy wanting people to respect you that you haven't yet noticed your dwindling respect for them. A worst case, but it certainly happens.

So, be patient and see what happens. In the meantime, do what most exasperated grown children do, consciously or not: Gravitate to people too new to be stuck on your past.

Dear Carolyn:

Is it weird for a bride to not have a maid of honor? I have close friends but none that fits in the best-friend category.

Bride to Be

If you want weird, try taking families and friends in all their myriad configurations and squishing them into one-ceremony-fits-all, "traditional" roles.

If you want freakish, try squishing them into matching dresses.

(And if you want me to apologize to my bridesmaids for not seeing this sooner, fair enough.) Do what best reflects who you are. As long as it's not a cash bar.

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