Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shunned and Confused

The letter writer who calls herself “Confused” is so confused that she has written to Ask Polly. It will be like the blind leading the blind. Or better, like the blind leading the blinder.

Confused has a problem. She has, of late, become somewhat estranged from a group of women she counts as her closest friends. She explains it in terms of social media slights, but apparently, for the millennial generation those count as real life social interactions. You will understand that people who communicate through Facebook and Snapchat and Whatever are not in very close contact with each other. Such is life. The compensation is that slights are more easily quantified. If all the girls are responding to each other and not to you, you have an objective factual record. So, no one can say that Confused is just making this up.

With regret that, as often happens in these letters, Confused does not provide us with nearly enough information to make a judgment, we can still suss out the problem.

Confused writes:

I feel like while everyone is kind to each other in the group and celebrates their successes and lives, I am overlooked and even ignored, often. It sounds petty, but if I post anything on Facebook, a couple of the girls often don’t “like” it, even though they meticulously like each other’s things. They haven’t even added my boyfriend, who I’ve been with for two years and who they have met several times. He’s a very kind and likable person, by the way, so there’s no reason for them not to have added him.

I  don’t know if it’s as simple as jealousy (I am pretty successful in my career as a scientist) or whether I’m just not a very likable person. I try to be nice, and never disagree with or criticize them….

I always feel like they’re being saccharine sweet to each other and then when I write anything no one replies. And when we meet up in person, one of the girls in particular really gives off a strange vibe toward me and stares at me sometimes in an unsettling way.

I don’t think you have to go too far out on a limb to see that the problem is the kind and gentle boyfriend. These women are trying to tell Confused something. They are screaming about it, in a muted way. From the information available I do not think that they are jealous because she is a scientist. I think they are trying to tell her that her boyfriend is unacceptable.

If they all hang out together all the time and if they have only met said boyfriend a few times in two years… it’s a sign. I have no idea whether he is kind and likable or even whether Confused herself is sufficiently likable, but, truth be told, people are included or excluded from social groups for reasons that go far beyond being kind and likable.

I find it interesting and even encouraging that the group of friends has not intervened directly, has not told her to her face. If the boyfriend is the problem they do better not to tell her directly. But, they are telling her, in a subtle way, that they want to remain friends with her but do not want him to be part of their crowd.

They may be right. They may be wrong. But, Confused is facing a stark choice.

One also notes that Confused was spurred on to write because one of the group is getting married. We wish her the best. But, Confused does not say whether she is a bridesmaid. One assumes that she is bringing her boyfriend as her date, and perhaps her friends fear that she will marry him, and that this will cause them to lose her forever.

Naturally, Polly misses the point. Completely. But then again, if she were capable of getting the point she would not be going on at excruciating length about feeling her own feelings.

In truth, Polly wants this woman to feel better. Don’t we all? But, she tells her to be blind and deaf to the message that her friends are sending her. Polly says that even though Confused is being shunned by her sometime friends, it isn’t about her. Call this the consolation prize. Call it the booby prize, if you prefer. It might make Confused feel better, but it is a lie.

Polly writes:

The point is, it’s not personal. These are your old friends, yes, but maybe it would soothe you to recognize that they don’t match you the same way they match each other. They’re not rejecting you, they’re just being who they are. When they act the way they act, it’s not a verdict on who you are.

It might be that Confused needs to make some new friends. And yet, she ought not to be encouraged to blind herself to the message her friends are sending her. It might be that the friends are wrong and that her boyfriend is a prince among men. It might also be that the friends are right and that the boyfriend is a toad. From the information available we cannot reasonably answer the question. But, Confused should not be told to think that this is not about her.


trigger warning said...

This a powerful argument for more womyn in STEM. A "scientist" who is distraught over submeticulous "likes" on Facebook and pours out her heart to Ask Polly.

Sam L. said...

I note the absence of any mention of the other women's boyfriends/husbands. Perhaps they all don't like men?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

One of her friends is getting married.

Sam L. said...

Could be a woman she's marrying.

trigger warning said...

Or her bicycle.

Ares Olympus said...

I wouldn't guess that her boyfriend of 2-years is the problem, but perhaps I'm more a scientist-type, not wanting to make any assumptions. Could that hypothesis be tested?

And scientists also like direct questions. Asking an open ended question "Is there a problem here?" with perhaps her closest friend of the bunch might help. But if that friend plays dumb, then you're left with pointing out circumstantial evidence, which can easily be denied, and make you look paranoid.

If we accept Stuart's hypothesis, she could also "go fishing", perhaps starting with a closest friend in the group, that is try to imagine what her friends might not like about him, and imagine herself what traits might be problematic, and just happen to mention one or two of those and see what response is offered.

Or even better, she might try this with family members who would be outside of her friend's potential hidden gossip circle.

A while back Stuart shared the topic of "external awareness", about knowing how we're seen by others objectively, while this is always a hard thing since people would prefer to not say uncomfortable things directly. So the advice was you have to find "loving critics" who will tell you what they see because they want the best for you.

Walt said...

As an occasional visitor, I'll jump in gratuitously to say I agree with Ares, almost straight down the line. On the evidence presented here, the Boyfriend Theory seems a jumped-to conclusion. And besides, if she's happy with him, it ought to be irrelevant what these sometime-friends think (barring their knowledge of his secret criminal record). That part aside, if she's really hurt and curious, she ought to ask one of them instead of a columnist but the answer might be as simple as she's outgrown this group (or the other way around). That happens in life. There are situational friendships; people who once upon a time shared interests move on in different directions and no longer share them--which might be why they no longer comment on her posts. Seems like she needs to accept that Done is Done and find another group of friends.

James said...

It's obvious were this woman's behavior is headed: