Advice: Book Club Gossip Raises Woman’s Hackles
The book club drama, seemingly aimed at her, sends this member spiraling in an angry plot twist. See what Ask Amy has to say.
I have been a journalist and author since my early 20s – now retired and living in a gated community.
After our last book group meeting, I got a call from our coordinator. (She’s a good friend but was unable to attend that meeting).
She said, “Your friends are concerned about you because your behavior was erratic … and one member said you nearly drove her off the road recently.”
My reaction was, “Well, these women are not my friends. I lost my darling husband eight months ago and not once have any of them reached out to me to invite me to lunch or dinner. Furthermore, if they have a problem with me, why didn’t they address me directly? Why are they hiding behind you?”
I’m cutting our coordinator some slack because her husband is gravely ill.
What do you think of my proposed response at the end of our next book meeting? I will say: “Well, ladies, I’m so busy with house guests and other commitments, plus I’m trying to finish writing my book, so I’m going to have to take a break for a while. But I’ll be back. Oh, and by the way, thank you for all the many invitations to join you for lunch or dinner. I was bereft when my husband died, so that meant a lot to me.”
Of course, I don’t plan to return! These are catty women whom I never see, anyway.
I have sons who visit, two good friends here, and several remote friends with whom I have great conversations.
So that’s enough for me.
What are your thoughts?
– Well Read
Dear Well Read:
You have been told that your behavior is erratic. You’ve been told that you almost ran someone off the road.
This is extremely hard to hear. Extremely. Your wounded and defensive reaction has created a smoke screen, where you have completely glossed over this potentially important information. What’s going on with you?
You know that you are grieving. You are angry. These people have not extended themselves personally toward you at your most vulnerable stage. No – they are not your friends, but they have expressed concern about you through a third party.
Your proposed response is satisfyingly sarcastic, but not honest.
I hope you can sit with this and release your own anger. If you choose to respond, use honest “I” statements: “I’m hurting. I’m grieving. I’m disappointed and upset. But please – I’m trying to be honest. I need to talk about this.”
You might propose that the group read and discuss Joan Didion’s important meditation on mourning: “The Year of Magical Thinking” (2005, Alfred A. Knopf).
If you are determined to leave the group, you don’t need to give a reason.
But please – do not withdraw from your friendships.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from book club drama to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson