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Dear Carolyn

DEAR CAROLYN: My best friend, who is also my roommate, sometimes makes comments to me such as, “You act so different around X group of friends,” even though there have been hardly a handful of times when we have all been in one room.

I have no idea what change in behavior she is referring to, but these comments really get to me. Whether true or not, I believe they are really petty. What are some ways I can respond?

– L.

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DEAR L.: You can respond humbly and open-mindedly, in a way that befits a “best” friendship and without the acute defensiveness on display in your letter.

Maybe: “Huh — I’m not aware of any differences. What do you mean?” Or, “Do you have examples to help me understand?”

Please put more value in the friendship right now than you do your ego, and have the courage to follow up on her comments with a wide-open mind.

DEAR CAROLYN: I’d love to get your opinion on a topic that frustrates me a bit: kid dominance. For instance, a friend who recently gave birth was talking about another girlfriend for having failed to acknowledge the birth of her child and for having the audacity to invite her to a work event. Her words: “No one cares about her job, I mean, I just had a baby.”

As a woman who is not planning on having kids, this stung. My career apparently means nothing to my friend. Likely she was just hormonal, but do some parents really feel this way?

I’ve seen child-free folks called causes of social decay, selfish, nonadult, and so forth. I would think that child-abusers are those things, not those of us who opt out. By not having kids, I’m actually creating less competition for my friends’ little ones. So what gives with the harsh judgment?

My theory is that parents sign up for this change that dominates their entire life and feel so much pressure that when they see glimpses of their former life in friends without kids, they instinctively protect their choice over the freedom of not having dependents (
i.e., their life is purposeful but tough, so mine is easy and meaningless).

– My Life Has Meaning, Thanks

DEAR MY LIFE HAS MEANING, THANKS: It could be that. It could also be your friend is a clod.

I’ve seen people with kids called causes of planetary decay, selfish, irresponsible. The contempt cuts both ways.

Actually, all ways: While raising kids forces more intense immersion in that life than most other choices do, I think if you step back a bit you’ll see that around every big, life-guiding choice there is a community of self-justification.

You’ll see marrieds scoffing at singles and singles scoffing at marrieds; you’ll see conservatives scoffing at liberals and liberals scoffing at conservatives; you’ll see capitalists scoffing at wage-earners scoffing at the needy scoffing at capitalists, who all scoff at creatives, who scoff right back.

The volume of insensitive comments will plummet when you decide to save your time for people who are comfortable with themselves and their choices. They tend to live and let live.

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