Author Topic: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!  (Read 6676 times)

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donnamos2

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This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« on: October 25, 2012, 01:06:59 AM »
I have a problem that has cropped up a number of times, and need a few tips on graciously getting untangled before the ever-popular "bean-dip" diversion is uttered...

I have two friends who occasionally (but not always) turn my personal likes into some sort of personal referendum on themselves: if I like something, or do something, it's not really because I like or enjoy it, but rather, it's all a big statement on how I feel about them.  A perfect example: I collect silver, the more ornate & crazy, the better.  So I had a dinner party not long ago where I served the dessert, ice cream, in little old trophies (with engravings such as "3rd Place, Little Tidewater Guppy Race, 1922," etc.), and with silverplate dessert spoons, all from diffferent patterns.  Most people thought it fun to talk about what was on the trophies, but Friend thought that I was looking down on her with this "extravagant display." She cornered me during the dish clearing, and after asking a seemingly innocuous question about where I got the trophies (online auction sites), proceeded to unload about how thoughtless I was, that now she would forever and always feel self-conscious when asking me to dinner, because she wouldn't serve everything with silver, and how badly I must think of her with her stainless, et cetera ad nauseum.

The thought that I just like to collect silver/silverplate and use it hadn't even occurred to her.

This isn't the only example, but these two friends I have are like landmines. They only occasionally do it, but they get so overwrought when it happens that I find myself warily checking myself in all of my interactions with them.  Any question from them about something about which I've expressed even just a passing interest indicates a possible tripwire, and I find myself tensing in anticipation of some sort of epic crisis of self-esteem.

My STBXMIL did this all the time, but I just lumped that in with the rest of her craziness and shrugged.  This is different, b/c I like these people. However, I don't like these meltdowns, or feeling like I have to constantly censor myself to avoid hurting thair apparently oh-so-tender feelings. 

What do I do?

violinp

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 01:11:16 AM »
I think I would start distancing myself from people like that. I have lots of very nice things, and I would be very hurt if people I cared about and supposedly cared about me berated me simply for having what they lacked.
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends" - Harry Potter


Ceallach

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2012, 01:15:09 AM »
These people are just completely self-absorbed.   They think of everything in relation to themselves, which is why the thought that you might be doing it just for *you* really doesn't occur to them.   Many teenagers and small children think this way.  Fortunately many of us grow out of it.  Sadly some do not.

IMHO the best way to deal with it to treat it as a "don't engage the crazy" type situation.  Treat it as a joke or a puzzlement.  "Oh don't be silly, I just like silver!" and laugh it off.   Don't apologize for something you have no reason to apologize for, and don't ever legitimize their nonsense by pandering to it in any way. 
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


Rusty

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2012, 01:16:10 AM »
Firstly let me say that you sound very inventive, I would never have thought of doing anything like that. Very clever. And I think that is the crux of your problem. I get the feeling that possibly your friends might view your inventiveness as oneupmanship, that you are raising the bar so to speak. They probably could not be bothered coming up with an idea like yours, so it puts them on edge, like "Oh here she goes again, just trying to make us feel like we are boring and etc. etc.   I may be wrong, but anyway I think your friend was incredibly rude to tackle you about it.

CakeEater

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2012, 01:29:03 AM »
How tiresome. I have a friend who decorates her home beautifully. That is not my area of expertise or interest at all. I can't tell what colours will look good together or what cushions will look good with which curtains.

What an absurd idea, to think that she might be decorating her own house in order to 'show up' me who doesn't and that she would be thinking badly of me for not sharing her interest. 

Maybe a very puzzled, "Why would you feel self-conscious? I don't expect everyone to share my silver-collecting hobby."

donnamos2

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2012, 02:05:22 AM »
Rusty, thanks so much for the compliment. It really means a lot, especially since the event I was describing was my first dinner party since my divorce, & having it go well was really important to me.  When I was married, my XH was "big cheese," always inviting people and being such a fun, great guy that even though I did all the planning, shopping and arranging, that was nothing compared to his fabulosity.  He even told me that, which is when I stopped doing it and he got all pouty (gah!).

When I as clearing the table and Friend started "helping," I had just started to relax and was thinking, "See, you ARE a good hostess, too, and wasn't that so much more fun than to have to listen to XH and his pomposity." Then Friend emotionally sucker-punched me, and I thought, "Oh, for the love of everything, REALLY?!"

Auntie Mame

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2012, 02:07:15 AM »
Why are you friends with them?  Someone treats me like that, I cut them off.
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Rusty

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2012, 02:14:21 AM »
Well sounds like you are well-rid of the XH. Perhaps a couple of "friends" could go the same way.  Tell me, are these friends married because sometimes when one member of a group gets divorced some of the women go all weird towards the now single in the group. But if this is just a general pattern of behaviour from them then I would be tempted to start limiting time with them.

girlysprite

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2012, 02:24:38 AM »
Maybe call them out on thier reasoning? Me DH did a few of those things a long time ago, he could be quick to see things I said or did in a PA light.
So something like 'do you really think that I am the kind of horrible person who wants to oneup her friends all the time? Is that how you see me?'
If she goes like 'no, but...' comtinue with 'I like to collect silverware and use it in funny new ways. Why did that not occur to you, but did you think it was a PA move instead? It is not nice when people jump to the worst conclusions about what I do.'

Iris

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2012, 03:37:24 AM »
I long ago realised that when people say "You think you're better than me" what they *really* mean is "I think you're better than me, and I don't like it, but instead of trying to improve I'm just going to try and tear you down."  ::)

If you want to try and continue a friendship with them (I would be inclined not to...) I would go with girlysprite's suggestion and call them out on it "Really? You think I went to all the trouble of sourcing trophies and silverware just so I could make you feel down? If you think I'm that horrible a person I wonder why you came to my dinner..."

Personally I think it's the cutest idea ever and would copy it if there was the remotest chance that I'd put in that much effort :)
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The Wild One, Forever

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2012, 04:45:42 AM »
Firstly let me say that you sound very inventive, I would never have thought of doing anything like that. Very clever. And I think that is the crux of your problem. I get the feeling that possibly your friends might view your inventiveness as oneupmanship, that you are raising the bar so to speak. They probably could not be bothered coming up with an idea like yours, so it puts them on edge, like "Oh here she goes again, just trying to make us feel like we are boring and etc. etc.   I may be wrong, but anyway I think your friend was incredibly rude to tackle you about it.

I agree with this assessment and although your friend probably does not realize it, this behavior says a whole lot more about her than it does about you, if that makes sense.  You did nothing at all wrong, and used your creativity to give your friends a cool experience.  (I find it delightful, personally.)  That level of insecurity is tiresome.  In a similar situation, I think my response might be something along the lines of, "Oh come on, now!  I was just trying to have a little fun!", delivered with a smile and a relaxed attitude. 
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camlan

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2012, 07:37:12 AM »
If you have to be careful with everything you do or say around someone, that person isn't a friend. They are an acquaintance at best and someone to be avoided at worst. You might need to sidestep a particular issue or two with a real friend ("We can't talk about plastic purple ping pong balls around Susie--you know how she gets."), but in general, you feel pretty free to say anything to a good friend.

My take is that she may be jealous and she really doesn't know how to handle her jealousy, so she deliberately makes you feel bad, so that she can feel better about herself. You collect cool things *and* you find interesting ways to use your collection. She doesn't. In her mind, what a mean, horrible person you are, for trying to give your guests an interesting experience and use things that you own.

Most people avoid landmines as much as possible. I know you say you like these people, but I'd stop inviting them to small parties and dinners. If you have to invite them to things, keep it to large parties where you won't have much interaction with them. And I'd weigh carefully how much you like them against what a relief it would be to not have to watch every single word every time you are with them. And ponder if a real friend would make such a big fuss over getting served ice cream in a fun, creative way.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


lowspark

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2012, 09:26:09 AM »
...now she would forever and always feel self-conscious when asking me to dinner, because she wouldn't serve everything with silver, and how badly I must think of her with her stainless...

This phrase right here screams Low Self-Esteem on the part of your friend. Her opinion of herself is so minimal that she feels your actions in your own home at your own party somehow reflect badly upon her?

I have to say that if I had a friend who said something like this to me, I'd probably just react with shock. And I'd probably distance myself from someone who did this repeatedly if only because I don't want to be dragged down by this kind of self-contempt.

WillyNilly

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2012, 09:39:52 AM »
I would react as though it was a joke.  Sometimes its just easier to react to the statement you wish they'd said, instead of the thing they actually said.

Friend: So where did you get all these trophies?
Me: Online auction site X
Friend: Well don't you think using them was a bit thoughtless? Now I'm going to forever and always feel self-conscious when asking you to dinner, because I wouldn't serve everything with silver, you must think so poorly of my stainless...
Me: [chuckling] right?  As if.  Can you imagine if everyone actually thought like that?  Hey thanks for helping me clear up! [big smile]

And sometimes its an eye opener to let someone know you are listening to them, but listening to their words not their convoluted message.  I had a friend who was a bit chubby at times, she up & downed a lot but who was always more petite then me.  She would constantly bemoan how fat she was; it was the classic call herself fat so everyone who jump in with reassurances "you're not fat!"  I got tired of it.  So I started to respond "yeah, you could probably stand to loose a few pounds."  Or "yup your butt is pretty wide."  And then after each 'insult' I'd follow with "I wouldn't have thought it myself, but I've been listening to you say it so much you finally convinced me.  I always thought you were gorgeous, but you turned me over, now I've got to agree with you."  Wouldn't you know after years of her complaints it only took about 1 month to completely cure her of her lamenting over her fatness.  And to positively reinforce that, I make a point to give her honest compliments when she looks good.

JenJay

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Re: This is Not A General Referendum on YOU!
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2012, 10:28:48 AM »
I think your trophies sound fantastic and I would have LOVED that!

Would it work to diffuse these tense moments by treating the comments with less seriousness? "Judy, goodness relax! I used the trophies because I thought it would be FUN!" Then make an excuse to walk away.