Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I think people are a whole lot more sensitive than we think they are. I
am a managerial type but I have learned (the hard way) that every
word, expression, even nuance can be very hurtful, especially to a
person who is primed for emotional injury. With friends there is usually
more give and take, but people think I am a whole lot more robust and
immune to an unkind word than I really am. I just hide my sensitive
side well. A very close friend hurt me by a sarcastic remark. I think
she thought she was teasing but it stung very badly. Perhaps because
it was a body image/food comment, an issue I have struggled with
wince childhood. I feel like now is the time to say something, given the
High Holidays. But she is not Jewish. Can you help me with words
about why I am saying something so belatedly? I feel both overly
sensitive and cowardly.


Dear Stung:

Even with our friends we should try to be kind. Perhaps especially with
them, since we want them be there for us when we need them, and to
support us through the proverbial thick and thin. Most friendships fall
into patterns over time. There’s an assumption that teasing someone
about a characteristic is ok, “because if a friend can’t tell you, who
can?” Other friendships become nothing but terminal whining sessions,
with each person dishing up horrors about their partner, or boss, or
another friend not present for the conversation. Over time the content
and the social roles get entrenched, so it is harder to shift the

Try this on you friend: [Name], you know how I talk about going to
synagogue more often this time of year? Well part of what we Jews do
as we celebrate a new year, is to make apologies for any hurts we
have inflicted on anyone, and to try and clear the air so we can rebuild
our friendships and relationships, both intimate and casual. I know you
didn’t mean to hurt me when you said blah-blah-blah. But you did.
And I’ve been quiet until now because of how much I love and value
you. In the spirit of this time I wanted to clear the air, tell you how
much I am struggling with this issue, and ask for your kindness and
support as I work on it. I know folks think I’m tough because of what I
do But I’m a hurting mush ball just like the rest of you. Then ask her if
there’s anything equivalent she wants to say to you. After a cry, a
laugh, and a cup of tea, you should be fine.