When I visit my country of birth and am asked what I do for a living, my mother visibly cringes when I say I am a housewife and insists I talk about my education, projecting that she is ashamed to have me as a daughter. What is a good comeback line to shut her up?
SAHM: So tempting. But I’m not sure a comeback is your best friend here. You’ll sound defensive, plus, no matter how well you know your mother, you’re still projecting her projection of shame.
Instead, I suggest you stay with the truth, delivered as calmly as you can:
“I’m more interested in” — or “invested in” or “proud of” or whatever — “what I’m doing now. You’re welcome to talk about whatever you’d like.”
This is most effective if you can then excuse yourself from the conversation.
As the child of a narcissist, you do know as well as anyone that you can’t make your mom stop drawing attention to herself; you can only be true to yourself and adjust your exposure to her to protect your own health. That rule applies here as well. State your emotional position, then, as you’re able, change your physical one.
Dear Carolyn: My friend "Cassie" has developed a romantic interest in my friend and co-worker "Joe." They met through me. Cassie has invited Joe on a number of dates, the first few of which he agreed to. The fourth time he asked me to tag along and turn it into "a friendly thing." Since then, he has either declined her invitations or asked me to play buffer.
I feel bad because I know Cassie's interest is not reciprocated, but I really hate to involve myself when they could easily work this out as adults. Am I obligated to stay out of it, or to tell Cassie plainly, as Joe has not done, that Joe is just not interested?
Philadelphia: Oh, Joe.
Next time he asks you to tag along, tell him no, you won’t keep helping him dodge Cassie.
For what it’s worth, Joe has told Cassie, about as plainly as he can without actually telling her, and she has opted not to hear it. This is on her, too, just less so.
Dear Carolyn: A neighbor's wife is an alcoholic. The husband and my husband are friends. She asked me today if she could share a surplus of veggies from her garden in exchange for a few beers. I replied that I had none, so sorry. Should I let her husband know? She is recently out of a 10-day stay in hospital due to alcohol poisoning.
Neighbor: Yes, the husband needs to know, because it’s life and death at this point. I’m sorry. It is a lousy spot to be in.