Adapted from a recent online discussion.
HI, CAROLYN: Six months ago I gave birth to twins, and shortly after we got home from the hospital, our friend “Jane” brought over several meals she’d made for us to put in our freezer. About a week after that, our friend “Bill” lost his wife suddenly.
We wanted to get food to him ASAP so I pulled from the freezer some of Jane’s food and some things I’d made while still pregnant and sent my husband to drop them off at Bill’s house. A few weeks later, Jane brought over a casserole and I mentioned to her how much we appreciated it since we’d given some of what she brought to Bill.
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Fast-forward to last week and Jane admits to me that she was really (teed) off that we had done that. She said she’d made those meals for us with love and was annoyed that we would just give it away like that. Said we could have gone to the store or had something delivered rather than taking her food to him.
Our twins are a week old and we’re supposed to go shopping when we already have prepared food in our freezer?
As a result of our decision to help out our friend, she decided at that point to stop making food for us at all. I apologized for hurting her feelings but was too stunned to say much else. Am I being unreasonable in thinking that’s a little insensitive?
DEAR REALLY?: I’d call it exhausting, actually, for Jane. Isn’t life hard enough without finding extra reasons to take offense, and without acting on them in the form of “never again” decisions? And dredging them up as fresh wounds six months after the fact?
To be fair, calling Jane’s overreaction “insensitive” flirts with completing the circle of huffiness, because it implies that she wounded you by being wounded by you, when what this situation really needs is for someone to stop the madness. Better to greet Jane’s harrumph with a “Gosh, we sure didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, we were just trying to help a friend,” and leave this whole stretch of social misfires in the past. To the extent Jane lets you, at least — if she holds on to it, then this might be something you can’t leave behind, but instead must accept as a precedent for “Jane being Jane” and a cue to thicken your skin.
DEAR CAROLYN: How do I get out of a carpooling arrangement with a co-worker? Even though it is way cheaper and more convenient, making conversation with her for two hours every day has totally worn me down. But because we live and work in the exact same buildings, her feelings will be (understandably) hurt if I back out for no real reason.
DEAR MARYLAND: I’m sure you can come up with something face-saving that isn’t a total whopper, but I see powerful incentives to make this work. Audiobooks, maybe? (Reader suggestions: podcasts, language lessons, drive separately some days each week.)
Do admit, though, that talking wears you out and it’s not personal, it’s just you. If you’re introverted, then blame that. It still might hurt her feelings, but then maybe you can make Susan Cain’s “Quiet” your first audiobook.