And, scene! The holidays, the boo and the friends may be a recipe for disaster, but getting people to act like someone they're not won't ever work.
I love my boyfriend as is, so let me start with that. Among so many characteristics I truly cherish is his intelligence and grace at expressing himself. From art to politics to social justice and beyond, he is so observant and articulate.
He has a great education and lots of success, and it shows, but I’m afraid exactly what I like about him will be the thing that completely turns off my best friends. They are self-built business owners, and they are leery of anyone they see as “showing off.” They deem intellectuals as privileged elitists.
I want everyone to get along, so is it OK to have my boyfriend tone it down a bit? I think if he avoids big vocabulary words, speaks plainly and tries not to go into elaborate descriptions of nuanced concepts, my friends can get to know him instead of his style. I can also ask my friends to open their hearts in advance and explain that he can sound a bit haughty.
I’m afraid my friends will distrust him and discount everything he’s accomplished if they view him as privileged. For his part, my boyfriend is as populist as can be and would never insult them on purpose.
Which side do I take if my plan goes awry and I have to choose one?
Dear Stage Director:
People cannot act like someone they're not for very long, and definitely not when trying to do so at your behest. But trying to control them them is only your first mistake.
You can’t stage-manage this scene. Instead, let’s look at what you can control: You. Look at your preconceived notions and deal with those.
You don’t trust your friends to see through the vocabulary to the person, and you don’t trust your boyfriend to find ways to communicate. What may be worse is that you don’t trust yourself.
With emotion invested in the outcome, you forget to trust that you are good at choosing the people in your life. Chances are that they feel the same way about you, so while you can’t make them like each other, you can probably trust them to make the most of the meeting for your sake.
Whatever you do, stop trying to determine what happens in advance. When the time comes, resist the urge to jump in and cheerlead each side to the other. The more real you keep it, the more at ease everyone will feel and therefore the more likely they are not to choke.
As for which “side to take,” choose your own side. If things go sour, align yourself with the people who are being the least obnoxious. If your friends are so fake-woke that they can’t look for the good in others, that’s one sign. If your boyfriend is so self-absorbed that he won’t try to build bridges, there’s another.
Trust yourself and everyone involved to figure it out. Imagine them behaving as their best selves instead of their worst, and you can concentrate on representing yourself in the same way.
Illustration by Brad Gibson
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