Friends and Enemies

Why do I have so much self-esteem? I work at it.

Self esteem. Pass it on.

Clearly, I would not be friends with people who are not awesome, so I am mystified by one friend's low self-esteem. I told her that, if I could, I would gladly give her some of my self-esteem because sometimes I feel like I have too much. We were chatting online with a few of our other girlfriends at the time, and one asked why is it that I have so much self-esteem when they have so little. I didn't always.

Why do I have so much self-esteem? Innate narcissism is the most likely answer. Thinking that I am better than most people I meet can't be hurting either.

Kidding! Mostly.

It's much easier on yourself if you are kind to yourself and think nice things about yourself. You can stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself. There's a psychological technique called thought-stopping that is rather simple to master. If you Google it, you'll see that it doesn't work for panic disorders or chronic worry, but it absolutely works for replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Have a couple of positive phrases about yourself worked out in advance. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself, say, "STOP!" in your mind, then think the positive thought. It is that easy.

I am not the prettiest, or the slimmest, or the smartest, or the funniest, or the anything-est, but I am great. I like who I am. I like most things about myself, and I am actively trying to change the things I don't like. That is the best that I can do, so there is no need for me to be the one to berate myself for anything. I am a pathological overachiever. This makes me come down very hard on myself, but it is almost always about how much I can achieve, not who I am.

Rejection is difficult for anyone, myself included. It stings, but I shake it off with no damage to my self-esteem. When I am rejected (for a job or a potential client, by a man...), I chalk it up to fit. I don't take it personally, at least not for too long. I like who I am, and I can't be anything else other than that, so if I am rejected for something about who I am, it's fine. It means I was not a good fit, and that situation would not have ended well.

It does not mean I was not smart enough, talented enough, pretty enough, funny enough...

I am more than enough. I am awesome.


Remembering My Friend, Vladimir Reid a.k.a. Volodiya a.k.a. WAYNE!

Volodiya-grad1997b

I don't remember the first time I met Volodiya, but it was sometime in the first few months after I transferred to University of Alaska Fairbanks, so it would have been in the late Winter or early Spring of 1994. He was an RA in another dorm, but was friends with some of the girls in my dorm. He and I were friendly, but we didn't become friends until the Fall semester, when I became an RA and we worked in the same dorm.

Volodiya and I got into the habit of watching Letterman together. We'd order a Supreme pizza and hot wings from Pizza Hut, then go down to the little store in the lobby of the dorm complex to buy a couple Fruitopias while we waited for the pizza to arrive.

V spent a semester in France. He was either forgetful about the time difference or a very inconsiderate friend. Either way, I'd occasionally get a 5 AM call from him. He'd tell me about the boys he'd met and I'd catch him up on the gossip.

One year, for Spring Break, we stayed at a lovely cabin in the woods where V was housesitting for a professor. There was drinking, and inappropriate behavior amongst all of our friends, and it was so much fun.

One of our favorite bars to hang out in was the Captain Bartlett Inn. Volodiya would give me tarot readings there and tried to teach me the meanings of the cards. I have a terrible memory for things like that so I usually reverted to making things up based on the pictures when I would give him readings.

We graduated from college in 1997. Our class voted for Volodiya to be the graduation speaker. His speech was fun and nostalgic, like an internet meme. He talked about roller skates and parachute pants and Madonna.

Some time after graduation, when I was back in California, V was living with his boyfriend in Seattle. I visited them for a weekend. It was my first time there. I loved his urban life. Seattle was like Alaska Light. A lot of my college friends settled there.

The last time I saw Volodiya in person was about nine years ago. I went to Seattle for a visit and stayed with my best friend, Joanne. We spent one of the evenings with V and some others, hanging out like old times.

After that, we kept up through phone calls, but mostly online, through MySpace, then Facebook. A few months ago, when I posted a new picture of my slimming self on Facebook, he commented, accusing me of getting a facelift and saying he'd scratch my eyes out if I had.

Last week, I saw fake tarot readings in a sitcom and it prompted me to post that memory of us on Facebook. I tagged him in it and I am glad I did. Because of that post, one of his friends reached out to me today to let me know that Volodiya died yesterday, after a long bout of pneumonia. When he was living in Seattle, he contracted HIV, so the manner of his death does not come as a complete surprise. I did not expect it to come so soon, though.

I'll miss my friend dearly. He was the type of friend I could pick up with after many months without contact and everything would be just as it always was.


Call for Opinions: What do grown-ups do for fun?

Jamie asks:

My husband and I have discovered that we are the most boring people on earth. With every day being a 12-hour workday we don’t have a lot of free time, but what little we have, we have no idea what to do with. When we were younger we loved to go out and party, but we’ve outgrown it. And we never replaced these activities with anything else. Also, all of our friends have either had kids or never grew up, so we don’t really associate with anyone anymore.

So, basically we have no friends (we both work at the same place and everyone here is either way older than us, or has kids, or is weird or all of the above) and no hobbies. All we do is sit and stare at each other going “What do you wanna do? I don’t know, what do YOU wanna do?”

Is there some sort of match-making site for couples in their late 20’s-early 30’s to meet other lame people with no friends? If not, there should be. It’s hard to make friends as an adult.

Anyone have any suggestions for hobbies? We are not athletic and are both very accident prone, so anything with sharp pointy things (like darts) or heavy things (like bowling) or physical activity (like, um, sports) is not good. Also, anything that takes a long time (we have no attention span), or involves weirdos (like Renaissance fairs or Civil War Re-enactment) is out.

This is a good topic, about which I have surprisingly few opinions. My husband and I watch TV, go to the movies, and hand out with family (I have lots) and friends (we have few). We don't have tons of free time, though. We both have long commutes. We have two small children. I am taking MBA classes. I have to blog, and tweet, and post reviews on Yelp or the world will end. My husband plays online games. We're both fat because we don't exercise.

Anybody have some ideas for Jamie?


Free Babysitting Against Your Will

Joanne asks:

Periodically a friend asks me to take care of his child for him.  The kid and I usually go do some activity since my apartment really isn't set up for a 5 year old.  Here's the problem... he rarely gives me cash to pay for the kid's activity. And I suppose either I feel petty or uncomfortable saying, hey this is going to cost x pony up.  This has been going on for awhile, I never said anything originally because it wasn't happening that often (less than once a month), but lately I've been doing it more and it's getting expensive.  Sunday I hung out with the kid for over 6 hours.  I fed him two meals, which my friend knew, and he offered me no reimbursement.  So I guess my question isn't that I have to say something, clearly I do, but more how to say it?

Based on my knowledge of you and this friend, I know that your friend is aware of how your financial situation compares to his. I also know that he isn't always sensitive to it. My advice is to be direct with him.

I would reiterate how much you enjoy spending time with his kid but that since your apartment isn't a great place for kids, and since you are watching him more often lately, taking the kid out every time is creating a bit of a financial pinch for you. Ask your friend how he would like to handle it and give him two options: he can send the kid with cash, or you can let your friend know how much you spent at the end of the day. The problem with the first option is what to do if he doesn't send enough cash. If he does prefer that route, then I would be clear about what your plans are for the day and how much you expect it to cost.

Your friend has been a parent for long enough to know that he is making out like a bandit by not having to pay a sitter $50+ just to sit in his living room for a few hours with the kid. He should be willing to at least reimburse you for expenses. If he isn't, I suggest you start saying no to his requests for babysitting, or plop the kid down on your messy couch with the Nintendo DS and feed him gluten-free crackers, cheese, and Pepsi.


How to Handle a Racist Friend

Kate the Peon asks:

I have a friend who often makes racist comments. I call her out on them but she still continues to make her comments. Example: Today we were in the parking lot and she was waiting for a Chinese woman to turn, so that she (my friend) could then pull into a spot. My friend said, "Damn Chink! Move it already!" When I called her out, she said she is tired of "foreigners." I tried to explain that they're not "foreigners," this is America for fuck's sake and they live here, but nothing changes.

I don't want to offend my friend, but her comments offend me. How can I handle this in the future?

It would be helpful to know specifically what you said to your friend when you called her out on her behavior. I am guessing that you said something about her actual statement and not about how it offended you.

It seems as if you would like to remain her friend and it is clear that you will not be able to influence her thinking on the subject. Given those two things, I think the best approach is to say something like this to your friend:

I know you are frustrated by [Chinese people], but I would prefer if you would not make comments like that when I am around.

If it doesn't work after only one time, say it again the next time, if you think it feels appropriate. If it doesn't work at all or if you are uncomfortable saying it again, you might reconsider how much you want to keep this friend. If I had a friend who was that racist, I would likely limit my contact with her or discontinue the relationship.


Phasing Out an Online Friend

Anonymous asks:

I know you've given your opinion on phasing out a friend, but what is your advice to phase out an online friend? I have a few friends that I met online over the past couple years. Things have escalated to the point where there have been visits, phone calls, regular emails, etc. I'm at the point now, though, where these friendships only tap into the bitchiest part of me, and I really have no positive thoughts about the other person. Every amount of contact just annoys me and strengthens my resolve to back out of the friendship as gracefully as possible.

How can I do this, though, when these people have my phone number and expect to visit when they're in the area? I'm already not returning phone calls or showing any enthusiasm when I do respond to emails. I already feel guilty about this but not guilty enough to play the role of a true friend.

Also, does your opinion change if you learn that one of the people agreed to do me a favor 7 months ago and has still not come through?

I never said it would be easy to phase out a friend. You are bearing the weight of the angst so that you can spare your former friend's feelings by not coming straight out and telling her that you no longer want to be her friend. If you keep in mind that a slower, longer phasing out, rather than an abrupt ending, is more for her sake, than yours, I think it will help you feel better about it.

You are on the right track with what you are already doing. It sounds like you have ended phone contact, which is good, since it is more personal than email.

There is no reason for you to feel you need to indulge your friend with a visit when she is in town. I wouldn't expect friends I have known since childhood to be able to accomodate me every time, so I certainly wouldn't expect it from an online friend. Putting her off with a made-up excuse about work or previous engagements is sufficient.

You are on the right track with email as well. It sounds like this is the last stage of your phase out. Your emails are already less personal so what you need to do now is lengthen the time it takes you to respond to each one. Let's assume your response time is two days right now. The next time you receive an email from her, don't respond for three days. Keep the three day span going for all subsequent emails in the same trail. When a new email trail starts, lengthen your response time to four days. If she is still sending you emails once your response time has reached two weeks, just stop - enough already.

The fact that your former friend hasn't come through on a favor has no bearing on my opinion. I am sure it is just one of many reasons you want to phase her out.

There is one area of contact that you didn't mention, but I am going to assume that you have a blog and that she has a blog and that you comment on each other's blogs. If you haven't already done so, stop commenting on her blog immediately. If she comments on your blog and you are the type who responds to each comment, I suggest that during the period when you are phasing out her emails, you stop responding to all comments on your blog. You can respond to selected commenters by email, but don't respond publicly on your blog. Also, be prepared for your former friend to continue following your blog even after she has been phased out.

If you have follow-up questions, let me know in the comments and I will respond, since I am not phasing you out, Anonymous.

Note: After re-reading this, I think an old work friend recently phased ME out!


Addressing Grievances

Kate the Peon asks:

What's the statute of limitations for addressing a wrong? Someone wronged me a few months ago and I am not yet over it. I have not addressed the wrong, but it still keeps me up some nights, and I'm wondering if I need to suck it up and move on, or if I am justified in speaking my piece.

I don't expect an apology, but I am thinking that speaking my mind will at least grant me some peace. And sleep.

I am glad that you said that you don't expect an apology. One thing I cannot stand is an indignant person demanding an apology. Those people should get over it and move on. You, however, have a legitimate reason to air it out.

Depending on the level of confrontation you are comfortable with, or the level of response you need from the wrong-doer in order to feel better about the situation, I have two opinions about how you should handle it.

Minimum Level of Confrontation - No Response from Wrong-Doer
I would email the wrong-doer and tell her (him?) how her actions made you feel. Be specific and non-accusatory. For example: You said that you would be there for me if I needed anything from you while I was going through this difficult family time, but when it came down to it, you didn't return my phone calls and never made time to see me. I felt betrayed and hurt by that. Or: You slept with my sister. I felt betrayed and hurt by that. Then: I don't expect you to respond to this and I don't need you to apologize to me. I just wanted you to know how your actions affected me.

With this path, there is a chance of salvaging the friendship because no one has been made to feel uncomfortable and the wrong-doer will apologize if she wants to continue being your friend. If not, your email will go unanswered, you don't have to have an uncomfortable friendship-ending conversation, and you still feel better for having aired your grievances. If this was in regards to a romantic relationship, well, it was over anyway, but now you have some closure.

Higher Level of Confrontation - Some Response from Wrong-Doer
I would call the wrong-doer and say the same things I suggested you put into an email. Two cautions for this route. (1) Be prepared for your phone calls to go unanswered. (2) Be prepared for a highly uncomfortable conversation ending with a hollow apology from the wrong-doer that is only given because you have put her on the spot.

With this method, I think you can count on the friendship pretty much being over with unless the wrong-doer is surprisingly mature and was innocently unaware of the wrong-doing. If that is the case, she will sincerely apologize and you both can move forward from there. Otherwise, no one is going to recover from how uncomfortable this conversation was. Still, you made her squirm and now you feel better, and that's what you wanted, right? If this was in regards to a romantic relationship, well, it was over anyway, but now you have some closure.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope that the end result is what you are looking for. Either way, this kind of sucks. Also, if you want me to read over your email before you send it, I will be happy to do so.


Phasing Out a Friend

Potatoes asks:

I have a classmate who is relatively close to me but I hate being around her because she's slow, and always late, and always asks me to do errands for her. I don't want to wait around anymore and waste my personal time and miss out on a lot of things I could be doing instead of waiting for her outside the loo. Should I just stop being her friend?

If you are like most people, you will find it difficult to stop being someone's friend. I have found that it is easier to phase someone out over time and that the best tool for the job is lying. I am a big proponent of lying when it will save someone embarrassment, including saving yourself from embarrassment. For instance, "Oh, I just had a little head cold. I'm better now, thanks," is a better answer than, "Yeah, I called in sick because I had the squirts and my ass was pretty raw from all the wiping."

In your case, I think it should be pretty easy to phase your friend out, if not completely, then at least far enough to allow you the freedom to do other things. Here are some scenarios that I hope will help you out.

Scenario 1
You two are leaving the dorm to go to class and she says, "Oh, wait, I just need to print this out and go to the bathroom first." Instead of standing around waiting for her and getting pissed off because she is taking her time and making you late, try saying something like, "You know what, I need to run by the post office (bookstore, coffee cart, health clinic, drug dealer) anyway. I'll just see you in class."

Scenario 2
She finds out you are going to the grocery store and asks you to pick up a few things for her or do something else for her while you are out. You respond, "I'm sorry, I can't. I am just going to be in and out of the store because I am going on the way to the dentist," or, "I'm sorry, I can't. I have about a hundred things I have to do today and I just won't have time."

Scenario 3
You have been a good little non-friend and remained friendly with her when you speak but you have been avoiding her calls by using caller ID against her. You have been non-commital when it comes to making plans. You have been rushing off here and there after class instead of accompanying her to the restroom. Now, she is calling you on it. She wonders if you are mad at her and why you have been avoiding her. You respond, "Oh my god, no! Of course I am not mad at you. I have just been so busy lately I barely have time to think. I am on my way to lunch right now. Why don't you join me? I only have half an hour, though, because I have to be somewhere right after."

You are going to have to suck it up and continue to do things with her occasionally until she gets sick of your unavailability and leeches onto someone else.

Good luck!


Blog Stalker

Anonymous asks:

What can I do if someone is reading my blog and possibly other blogs I visit, who only serves to cause trouble? I'll give you an example: my husband's ex-wife who is mean and lies.

Most blog platforms allow you to block an IP address from visiting your blog. If you are able to determine her IP, just block her. She will still stalk you on other blogs, but you will at least be safe on your own blog. You could always change the screen name you use on other blogs to something like, "My Husband's Ex is a Crazy Stalker." She might know it is you, though.