Thursday, December 13, 2007

My friend suggested I was smelly!

Dear HTT,

A friend just called to arrange to carpool to a clothes swap tomorrow. She closed by making sure I wasn't planning to go running right beforehand, since she doesn't want to try on clothes someone sweaty has tried on first. I didn't know what to say, so I said I, uh, planned on being clean. Then I hung up and started fuming.

How does one interpret a comment like that? The obvious choices are:

(1) You're always running and you smell; or
(2) You're too dumb to know that you should shower before trying on clothes, so I'm just letting you know.

A reasonable third option might be,
(3) I have an aversion to sweat, and that time I dragged you to the thrift store right after you went running, even though you pointed
out you were all sweaty, actually really grossed me out, but I didn't know how to tell you then, so I've saved that thought for three months and am letting you know indirectly now.

This is a friend who prides herself being "direct" about verbalizing
what she wants.

How does one respond to a comment like that? And how does one explain to an adult that there's a difference between being direct and being tactless? I have enough baggage with this friend already that it's hard to imagine discussing this without pulling out all her dirty socks. So I'd also appreciate advice on how to stay focused on the insult-at-hand rather than generating some new ones.

--Fuming But Not Smelly

P.S. If she ever discovers your website, she's gonna be pissed...

Dear Fuming,

I think the best response would have been something quick and sharp like, “Actually, I was planning to eat a head of raw garlic, run a few miles, and smoke a fat cigar before we went to try on clothes together. Duh.”

You have to consider the source of this comment. She obviously lacks tact, but since I’m feeling charitable, I’ll suggest that she’s probably not aware of how rude she comes across. Perhaps a tart response would jerk her back to the reality of how she sounds to others.

Once, I strutted into work, proud of an electric-blue faux leather jacket I’d found over the weekend. One of my friends gawked at it and declared, “My, you do love a gaudy accessory, don’t you?” I just burst out laughing and thanked my lucky stars that, unlike her, my entire wardrobe didn’t come from the old-lady rack at Talbots!

So, I guess if I were you, I’d just shrug it off, unless these sorts of comments start coming more frequently. If she continues in this manner, the next time she offends you, calmly point it out to her. (You know, use “I” statements and all that jazz.) Try not to pull out every example you have tucked away. But one or two might be helpful to show that your anger is caused by a pattern of rude behavior and isn’t just a factor of you being overly sensitive.

Good luck, thanks for writing, and sorry for the very late response!



Wow, I knew I'd neglecting my blog, but now I realize just how much: I couldn't remember my password when I tried to log in just now! I've been traveling (to Florida for fun and to Arlington for work), the holiday season and all related errand running and festivities are underway, and I've just been super busy. So, my apologies to all the friends and other readers who've sent me questions over the past few weeks. I really, really appreciate them (and you!), and I promise to get to them all soon.