Most of my girlfriends want to talk incessantly about problems, and I’m the one they come to for support. It’s making me crazy.
I’m not their free therapist!—Jill
I hate that, but I do it, too, throwing “Listen to meeee” stuff at my unqualified and probably uninterested friends. So I asked my smart friend—we will call her Mary, for she is saintly—who’s the first to get deluged by emails when something is wrong. She speculates about your pals, “Anxiety has a tendency to narrow the world and magnify people’s problems to the umpteenth degree, leaving no room for anyone else’s needs.” Truth.
Mary adds, “Even though I love that my friends trust me, I don’t always love it when I’m in the middle of doing something super important and there’s an adult-toddler who needs my attention RIGHT NOW.” That’s me. However! You’re on the hook here, too: “Empathic people have a tendency to sublimate their own feelings. If you’re being bombarded with, ‘Oh, my god, this happened!’ and you focus on other people’s problems instead of your own, and then you get resentful, that’s not your friends’ fault for asking you for help—that’s an example of you not being able to set clear boundaries.”
Asking for help and offering it are objectively good, but so many people execute both sides really badly. If you’re using forums that are intimate and immediate but limit communication (think email, text, DMs), consider some ways to restrict access to you. “Make yourself invisible on Gchat, or turn off your ringer,” Mary says. “Beyond that, though, it’s important to have a conversation with your friends to explain what’s going on. Otherwise, they may feel cast adrift in their times of need.” Mention the benefits of constructive problem-helpers like journaling, exercise, or actual therapy, and suggest that you and your friend choose a time to meet so that she can tell you what’s up for real—with context, details, and alcohol—instead of the repetitive bits and pieces of upset. And when you go out, she pays.
I’m 33. People under 30 seem like children, and when they have better job titles than I do, I find it hard to take them seriously. I kind of hate them. Am I normal to feel this way?—Brian
More than half of the world’s population is under 30. (And, thanks to a terrifying explosion of humans, there are way more people under four than any other age. Do you kind of hate them, too?) This is a non-thing, and you’re transforming jealousy into pissy, petty, pointless anger and self-righteousness.
Of course it still feels real, and it’s all probably a lot worse when they’re near you, like at work. That you’re already inclined to feel this way and then have to accept them as more professionally successful than you are is not a bitter pill but a whole gulp of Buckley’s that went bad and was set on fire in a garbage can. It is already weird when you find out that Beyoncé is younger than you, and that 1990-babies are adults now, but 30 is when other, way-younger people start to appear as equals, friends, and bosses, which is extra-extra-weird if you’re used to being considered accomplished for your age.
Which does not mean that 30 is anything other than a social construct. The number itself signifies something about being an adult (which is important for members of our generation, who often have few other specific experiences of adulthood to rely on before then), but so often nothing else really happens for awhile. If you die at age 30, it’s likely by accident. Fertility decreases around age 27, but doesn’t drop (that’s a science word, “drop”) until around age 35. Forty is when your hair changes and your knees hurt, apparently. Dismissing under-30s is a way for you, who feels outside of youth, to get back at it. But, of course, it has the opposite effect.
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