Kinder and Gentler

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Two friends and I (all three years retired) recently started to take a
painting class together at the local community arts center. One had
been a fine arts major in college, though ironically became a top-notch
divorce attorney. The other, a former scientist, is all thumbs and left
feet, or whatever the right bad artist metaphors would be. My skill
level is artistically in the low middle, though I have collected from
contemporary artists far more than either. I have no expectations of
this classes or future classes as anything other than a hobby.

 

The friend who’s much better with her brush has been so critical about our
other friend that I’m occasionally embarrassed about what she chooses
to say. I’ve tried to leaven the situation with humor, which has fallen
on four seemingly deaf ears. One person looks chagrined and the other
gleeful. I’ve tried to tell the meanie in a kind way that she can’t keep
being that critical and rude but she’s so prideful about her own palette
and tone deaf about how she’s hurting our friend’s feelings that I think
she is willfully ignoring me the way she would an opposing attorney.
Short of 2 x 4 how can I get through to her?

Kinder and Gentler

 
Dear Kinder:

You need to talk individually to both friends. First find out if you’re
being overly sensitive on the poorer artist’s behalf. If not, you still
have a rude and unkind friend to cope with, but the conversation will
be different. If she’s really hurt and too to speak up, ask her what kind
of feedback would be useful. It may be the fine arts/lawyer gal could
be useful if she didn’t need to enhance her own ego by being better
more.

 
Then talk to the boastful one. Say: It’s not okay to be so mean. You
may be right about the quality of our friend’s painting, but I can
assure you that if you stepped into her lab she could be just as critical
of what you accomplished on your first try. Just like I wouldn’t let you
speak so meanly about a disenfranchised social group, I am not going
to keep quiet now. I’ve tried to make light of it but you either aren’t
hearing me or discounting what I am trying to say. Trying to stand on
her performance with scorn makes you shorter not taller, at least in
my eyes. You have to be more respectful and find a way to make
helpful, encouraging suggestions, or you need to be quiet. If you do
not change, I won’t take any more classes with you. She and I will find
a different way to engage our creativity and find new hobbies on our
own. I hope she gets it. But if not, then go your own way.