Better Solo

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a friend who has turned mean. Mean as in negative about
everything, always angry, critical, and edgy. From what I can tell there
has not been any change in her external life. She had a nasty divorce
several years ago but turned the corner on it and has even had some
positive dating experiences. We’ve been social in the way single
women are, buying concert and theatre tickets together for special
occasions and touching base spontaneously in case we are both free
for dinner and a movie.

Maybe she was always a grouch and I was needy enough for
company that I didn’t notice. But she seems reflexively critical of
every one and every thing. Sure there’s more than enough to
complain about in the news, but she gets angry and needs to
vent about people from the waitress and to other mutual
friends. I’m reluctant to discuss it with them in case it gets back to
her, and I guess I don’t want to hear whatever she is spewing about
me. But it makes me prefer my own company and that makes me feel

Better Solo

Dear Solo

It’s hard to ask an angry person what’s wrong? But if you care about
her that’s the place to start. When you are having a meal, preferably
after she’s had a rant so it’s clear what you are talking about, say
simply and in a kind voice, Are you okay? For the last while you have
seemed angry at the world and I’m not sure what to do about it. I’ve
tried to let you vent and take the edge off, but it’s become
uncomfortable, so I’m concerned there’s a reason for the change that
you’re not talking about. Is there?

She may feel safe enough to open up. She may say there is no reason,
that she’s just grouchy, and you will have to believe her. But my guess
is that she’ll tone things down at least around you. When you feel okay
about it, talk to a mutual friend saying, I thought X was cranky for a
long time so I asked her what was wrong. She said nothing, but I’m
curious if you notice the same. Let’s touch base and if necessary all go
out for lunch and ask again. You may end with two closer friends or
one less.