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Friendships (4/19/06)

Dear Zelda,

My best friend and I work for the same company, (both of us are in management for a large retail clothing chain), and two weeks ago I was promoted and now am her boss (I work really hard). Up until 2 weeks ago we pretty much did everything together from high school to college to now. All of the sudden she's busy all the time and she always jokes (in a non-joking way) that I'm the big boss and she needs to be careful. I don't even know what that means. I'm really sad about it, but I do want to excel at my job and move up with the company.

I feel like I've been fired from our friendship.  Help!

Friendship GAP

Dear Friendship GAP,

Congrats on the new promotion! In today's competitive work environment, getting such a big promotion is a REALLY BIG deal, and reinforces the fact that your company values your talent and abilities. You should feel no need to apologize for your hard work, or for the rewards you reap from it.

It's time for your best friend to lose the bargain-basement attitude. The jealousy routine is not appropriate, especially at work, and especially if she's your best friend.  Promotions are the natural offshoot of hard work, but unfortunately your best friend sees this as a blow to her ego instead of a kudos to you for your performance. You may be her boss, but there will always need to be a mutual amount of R-E-S-P-E-C-T between the T-W-O of you in order for the friendship to continue.

That said, it's up to you, in the position of power, to make her understand that her friendship is still size XL (my favorite size!) in your book.  But go easy on her.  You can give her attitude a dressing down without putting her down. Try leaving behind the confines of sales, price checks, and spring halters, and invite her out for coffee or a drink. Even if she claims she's busy, persevere and find a time she can't manage to refuse. Being in an atmosphere outside of work will hopefully rekindle a spark that will remind her of just why you two were best friends to begin with. If that's not enough, sit down with her and have an honest talk about your concerns, and why you feel your friendship has changed. Don't be accusatory, and be sure to be sensitive to her feelings of insecurity about your promotion.  But, let her know how important her friendship is to you, and that your relationship runs deeper than any job-related issues. Fortunately, being friends for so long you've built up a steady reserve of good memories and shared experiences, which should allow you to weather out this storm. Sometimes all it takes is a simple gesture to stir up fond of memories and light the sparks in an old friendship.

Good luck!


Dear Zelda,

My best friend and I have been friends for two years. This year would be our third. In third grade she was always rude and picking on me and now she is doing it again! Last Friday she purposely scratched me across the chest quite hard. I was talking to one of my other friends when she came up and started talking to me like there was nothing wrong. I don't want to be friends with her anymore but she'd be crushed if I just said that. Do you have a way of telling her to buzz off but still be nice about it?


Dear Don't-Want-To-Be-Friends-With-A-Jerk,

You may not have realized it, but that scratch across your chest probably wasn't meant to hurt you. That scratch was really your best friend trying to say "hey, notice me!" without knowing the right way to do it.

Often when we're jealous or insecure, the only way we can make ourselves feel better is to make someone else feel... worse. Your friend is obviously feeling left out, especially if you have other friends with whom you spend time. She probably just wants to feel special, and if she is your best friend, she should feel special. That's what having a best friend is all about: sharing secrets, sharing clothes, and scratching each other on the chest (just kidding!).

If she really is bugging you, you can either choose to ignore her, or you can talk to her about it. Ignoring her will only make her mad, and might even cause more scratches, at least until she grows out of that phase or finds a new best friend. Can your chest take it?  I didn't think so!  Really, you two need to talk. Just be honest with her and tell her you don't like it when she acts like a bully, or, if you really don't want to be friends any more, tell her that you have other friends and you like hanging around different people. Let her know that you've decided to make some new friends, and that you want to get to know other kids in your school. If she wants to be part of it... great! If not... her loss!

You're at an age where feelings can get hurt easily, and casting someone aside for new friends can be extremely hurtful. Before you decide to you don't want to be friends with her any more, make sure you take time to think about it, and make sure you're not just mad at her too because she's being a bully. Remember, she was your best friend once. My best friends Zoe and ZeeZee nip and scratch me too, and they are both "Bullies" all the time! Whatever choice you make, I'm sure it will be a good decision.

Good luck in school, with lots of licks and wags,


Dear Zelda,

Talk about "failed friendships," a couple of months ago my husband and I wanted to celebrate our anniversary by taking a trip to Hawaii.  One of my "friends" volunteered to take care of Sassy, our four-year-old boxer, while we were away. She promised to spoil Sassy and that Sassy would be treated "Like a princess." All seemed well and we went off on our vacation happy that Sassy was with a friend we could trust. However, when we returned and picked up Sassy she seemed different.  When we would go to pet her she would shy away from us and her reactions to us were quite different.  It is like she is now afraid of people, us included.  Two questions for you, first how do we make Sassy trust people again and second, should I ask this "friend" what happened to Sassy?  Did anyone hit her or punish her with physical abuse? I need your advice Zelda.

Fear of a Fraudulent Friend

Dear Fear of Fraudulent Friend,

To really get to the bottom of this I think we should answer the second question first - did someone mistreat Sassy while you were gone? Such a drastic shift in behavior definitely requires attention. It's her way of telling you that something's up, but it doesn't always mean that it was physical abuse. Perhaps it's simply her way of telling you that she was unhappy about your absence. Was this the first time she'd been separated from you for such a long time? This may just be a case of "the pouting pet," in which case she should get over it on her own. The one thing that does worry me, however, is the fact that she cowers down when you go to pet her. This is not normal, especially for a dog that's never demonstrated that type of behavior before.

Since Sassy can't give you her version of the story (unless she has an advice column too), you're going to have to go to the source. Don't be embarrassed; if anything, your "friend" has some explaining to do. Something did happen, but whether it was a direct result of someone's maltreatment, you'll never know until you ask. The question is, how do you ask this kind of thing? One solution is the straight-ahead course: just explain the situation, and ask if anything unusual happened while you were gone. "Did you yell at our dog while we gone? Did you leave her in someone else's care while we were gone? Did you horribly mistreat her you awful, awful person?" etc... I think you get the picture. If this approach seems too direct, you might just try asking your "friend" about her time with Sassy in less threatening ways. For example, ask her if Sassy was well-behaved while she was at her house, and listen carefully to her responses. If she complains at all, or answers in a strange or guarded manner, be more suspicious. You won't know how to fix the problem until you know what it is, and it also might not be a bad idea to take Sassy to the vet for a physical just to be safe.

As for getting Sassy back to her old self, there's no magic solution: it's going to require a lot of loving - without babying. Babying will only encourage her current behavior, so you'll need to reinforce good behavior with praise and rewards, being careful to keep the obedience part consistent, but not overwhelming. This will help rebuild her confidence and gently bring her back to her old self. If possible, I would shy away from leaving her in anyone else's care for a while. If you have to go on a trip, try using a recommended boarder with excellent references. In the meanwhile, give her time... a little bit of love goes a long way. As for your friend, it sounds like you're going to have to talk with her and decide for yourself what happened before you'll be able to trust her again.

I know this sounds painful, but without that trust, your friendship is already heading down a dead-end street.