Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “Jealous Friends”

This week, R. Eric Thomas and Chau Tu discuss a Prudie letter: “Jealous Friends

R. Eric Thomas: Chau! This is our last Prudie Uncensored chat! It’s bittersweet! Because I am not a jealous friend, I’m wishing you well. But I wonder what you made of this week’s letter and the tension between our letter writer and Claire.

Chau Tu: Aw thank you Eric! Indeed, it is my last week at Slate, but I’m excited to keep reading Prudie and to keep up with all the tension-filled letters like this one. When I first read this, I felt the basic question from the LW seemed easy to answerof course not everyone is a “jealous friend.” So to address the dilemma, there has to be some more reading between the lines, right? Is that how you first approached the letter?

Eric: Yes, I got the same sense. I felt the LW was diagnosing a problem that may only be an issue in one friendship or one series of relationships. I don’t want to put the onus on one person at the expense of looking at the whole issue, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the common denominatorthe LWhad more to do with the issue than they might have thought.

Chau: Yes, exactly. Maybe I’m reading too far between the lines, but the LW mentions their superior education off the top, and that their friends had been jealous of that before. But now that the LW feels their career achievements have matched up to this education, they’re ready to move on from these friends?

Eric: Right. And the new job situation is only 6 months old. So, at a really basic level what I’m seeing is someone who got a lot richer very quickly and possibly feels like it was deserved and a long time coming. So, I strongly suspect that this is less about jealousy and more about the discomfort of a friend suddenly having a lot more cash to throw around.

Chau: Yes, yes, that sounds right. And that’s real—to feel uncomfortable with your new status, and not sure how to relate to some people anymore—and that’s why your advice to think about talking about subjects other than jobs or money or fancy trips made total sense.

I was confused by this line: “My parents were those happy-type people and actively tried to bring out the best in others. Because I grew up with those parents, I just didn’t think the people in my life weren’t happy for me.” Is it that the LW thinks the parents are being fake when they act happy for others?

Eric: That puzzled me also. It could be that, or it could be that LW has parents who were hyper encouraging of the LW’s pursuits and so having friends who just aren’t as interested may be shocking. I wondered how much of this is the rocky transition from college and the coddling that can happen there to adult friendships.

Chau: Oooh, that makes sense.

Yeah, jumping from being so close to all your friends and knowing what everyone’s ambitions are, to actually facing the real world can be really tough. Especially if some of the careers already feel competitive themselves. I do hope this LW finds some peace with their new career/status and whatever they’re feeling with friendships! Adult friendships can take some tough transitions though.

Eric: Yeah, I do, too. I think their impulse for writing in makes a lot of sensewe should be around people that make us better and if LW isn’t finding that, then it’s healthy to keep looking.