Dear Harlan,

I overheard a conversation between Girl A and Girl B, in which they were talking about how strange and unaccepted Girl C is. B says that C is strange, and every time C approaches her wanting to hang out, or wants to be invited to parties, or wants to group together in class, B tries to scare her away. Girl A continuously asks why Girl C is so strange. Girl B says that she wears the same dress all the time and has a lesbian friend with a mohawk, and therefore is too strange to hang out with. As I witnessed this conversation I wanted to turn to the girls and say “Remember (name of any school shooting)? Don’t you think this is the kind of behavior that induces those?” But I could only stay silent, thinking that maybe this isn’t one of those situations. Should I have spoken up?


Dear Bystander,

Feel bad for the ugly girls making the ugly comments. They are the miserable ones. The reason Girl A and B are consumed with making everyone feel like less is because they never felt good enough. Had you interrupted them, you would have been another target for them to attack. The best way to handle people like this is to stay out of their hate circle. Be extra kind to all and fill the world with joy and compassion. Should a friend or acquaintance make other people feel like less, take the opposing side. Help them see the world through a lens of compassion. If they get irritated, don’t apologize – being kind isn’t wrong. Let them learn from your example.

Dear Harlan,

I’ve had a friend since fourth grade, and we’ve been best friends since sixth grade. I know this sounds cheesy, but for the longest time I always believed — truly believed — that she would be the maid of honor at my wedding. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that we’ve grown apart. It’s not just the way she’s been acting since college started this year, it’s been her behavior through the years. I feel like I can’t be her friend anymore. In a lot of ways I’m not her friend anymore.

My roommate and I are her two oldest friends. We both have amazing boyfriends who really dislike her because, in their words, they don’t like how she’s always trampled all over us and taken advantage of us. They’re right. Our friendship has always been very one-way, and I, for one, am tired of it.

I can’t deal with her anymore, but she is in my high-school group of friends. She’s been so miserable lately. What do I do? I need advice.

Fading Friend

Dear Fading Friend,

As a soon-to-be ex-friend and never-to-be bridesmaid, at least be honest. But first, take a step back. While you might feel resentment — it’s not completely fair. No one can take advantage of you without you letting him or her take advantage of you. Be upset with yourself that you weren’t able to set limits, but don’t blame her. She needs help. Explain that you care about her and bring up the idea of her getting help. See what happens. If she doesn’t get it, distance yourself from her. If she tries to trample your feelings, set boundaries and step aside. But be nice. That’s what ex-friends do.

Harlan is the author of “The Happiest Kid On Campus: A Parent’s Guide to the Very Best College Experience (for You and Your Child)” (Sourcebooks). Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614.

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