Dear Betty Mo,
I was hoping if you had some advice for me about a friend. I have a close friend whom I used to live next door to. We’ve gone out and partied together many times and been there for each other through rough times, particularly last year, you could even say we were best friends for a while.
I have not been wanting to hang out with her this year though because shes always negative about everything, and she seems to relish in it.
I am afraid she might be borderline racist. She has gone on dates with neo-nazis/very racist men before and I don’t see how she doesn’t think its a problem (especially me being a a woman of color).
She is always making colorful jokes and she seems to lack any sympathy for people of color (she has empathy for poor people though, her being one of them). She grew up self-described “white trash” so in the past I’ve been able to shrug off some of her comments are just having been raised that way but its really starting to bother me. So I have heard made racist jokes many times before but she claims she doesn’t REALLY think that.
We both hated our school last year but I decided to pick my battles, move on, and try to enjoy my life, while all she seems to do is complain about our school, be superly antisocial, do lots of drugs (mostly prescription drugs), and dates terrible guys who are assholes. Everytime we talk about guys, and she complains about how the guys shes dating are jerks, and I tell her to date nicer guys, she says she is just attracted to guys who are assholes and can’t help it. I tell her she can do much better, but she says that she can’t do much bettter because shes fat (I don’t think she is, she is a bigger woman but she goes to the gym way more than I do.). I really like her I do, but shes way too much negativity to be around, and I don’t know what to do. What should I say? I feel like she always has a negative attitude when I see her, and I feel like she’s content trying to bring me down with her.
She frequents goth clubs and I’ve gone with her, but she seems to surround herself with negativity. I love countercultures but all these combined behaviors worry me.
A Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned Friend,
When I received your message, I felt heavily for you and reflected on past experiences of my own dealing with people who were negative or “toxic”. This isn’t an easy situation, because while you care about your friend and have history with her, you still have a right to look out for your own well-being and feel comfortable about those you share your life with.
Since you are a student, it sounds as if you and your friend are both young and therefore still getting a grip on your new “adult” identity. Self-confidence is a major issue facing young women today. When we make bad choices, it can be because we don’t think we deserve something better, or we don’t know what those better options are. It is sometimes a challenge to identify the higher road to take.
That being said, one problem you describe is your friend’s racist comments that offend you. Whether you or she are black, white, or blue, a friendship is ideally based on mutual respect. When your friend makes derogatory comments about race, you have a right to be offended, and a right to express that to her. It’s important to do this in a way that is not perceived as an attack, but rather sharing your own view and requesting compromise. If this friendship is important to you, you’re going to need to attempt communicating your needs to her and give her a chance to meet them.
If you have the unfortunate experience of hearing more racist remarks from her in the future, you may want to consider pulling her aside and gently saying something like: “I want to ask something of you. I know those jokes about race [insert specifics here] are humorous to you, but they really make me uncomfortable because [insert specifics] and I would feel better if you would not say them around me. Thanks, I would really appreciate it. “
As for her disastrous taste in romantic partners, I wish there was a magic wand I could wave that could save all women from bad relationships. Unfortunately, people cannot be changed unless they are ready to change. Self-awareness is a constant struggle to be honest with oneself about why and how we live our drama-filled lives. Not having a positive male figure in her life growing up may have contributed to her lack of ability to find healthy partnerships as a young adult. Certainly don’t spend time with her and her unsavory partners if they make you personally uncomfortable. Giving her the number to a local domestic violence group to “keep handy” might not be a bad idea either, but is perhaps too presumptuous in this situation. In any case, you are not responsible for her bad choices, and while you can and should tell her that she can and should do better, the consequences are not yours to bear.
As with any problem you may face with a friend, it is reasonable to bring your concerns to their attention in a way that allows them to respond with a friendly and cooperative attitude. If their behavior in response to your petitions are filled with more negativity, denial, blame, or any other unhealthy behavior, you also have the choice of wishing her well but cutting your ties and moving on with your life.
If you have another close friend or two, it wouldn’t hurt to let them know what is going on and how you plan to handle the situation, now and in the future.
Generally speaking, “goth” clubs and other alternative-lifestyle scenes are fine and good while people are exploring it in a healthy, safe, and creative way. Anything that starts to become unhealthy or dangerous, however, require immediate concern and action to remove oneself from the situation. Remember also that actions can sometimes speak louder than words, so be a good role-model by “walking your talk”.
I consulted the Native American Medicine Cards for you this evening. A card literally jumped out of the deck as I was shuffling and reflecting on your situation. The wisdom of the Medicine Cards calls upon an animal to share its teachings with us. Your situation has summoned quite a cute little guy…
Prairie Dog – Keyword: Retreat
When situations like what you face take so much out of your time, energy and emotion, it can literally be a “drain” on your life-force, and may consequently affect other areas of your life. Remember to take care of your Self first, and if that requires hiding away from the world or a situation for awhile, Prairie Dog encourages you to do so.
Here is a link from another blogger which shares the full text interpretation of the Medicine Card for Prairie Dog.
Thanks for writing. I hope your friend is responsive to you when the right opportunity is found to discuss these issues, for both your sake, and hers.
With the love and support of the Goddess,