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posted: 8/26/2012 2:19 AM

It takes a village to teach a rude child manners

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Q. My best friend's daughter, 10, is a little (twit). She never smiles at you, and if she deigns to speak to you, it is a one-word answer spoken with hostility. When I walk into my friend's house, her daughter looks me up and down and refuses to say hello. If she speaks, it is by whispering either to her mother or a friend, and I can tell she is talking about the people present.

But, of course my friend thinks the sun rises and sets by her daughter. She tries to be "mom of the year" and admits to feeling guilty about travel for her job and the fact that Dad is absent working six months out of the year. I don't want to ever be around this girl again, and I am going to have to refuse invitations to visit their home.

I broached the subject with a mutual friend. This lady let loose about how this girl bullies her own son. She is questioning whether to remain friends with the mom. Clearly there is a problem.

My friend would be devastated to learn we feel this way and are considering ending the friendship, yet she gets defensive and refuses to hear any criticism of her daughter. Do I just forget the friendship, or is there a way to approach this with my friend and try to do some good?

A. Apparently you've tried to approach this with your friend, and her defenses knocked you back.

And, you've reached the point where you'd consider ending the friendship over the daughter's rudeness.

Add it up: 1 + 1 = liberation. You have nothing to lose here and society much to gain -- not by having a better-worded heart-to-heart with her mom, but by addressing the demon daughter herself, on the spot, with Poppins-like playful restraint (nastiness undermines your point):

When she looks you up and down, "Does my outfit meet your approval?"

When she whispers to her friend, "Ooh, a secret! Please do share -- you wouldn't want to be ruuuude."

When she answers you with hostile monosyllables, "Hm. You appear to be old enough to speak in full sentences ... maybe I should try again."

Let her mother hear this.

In other words, village up: It's the adults' job to teach snippy children the rules. Pull your societal weight. It's your friend's prerogative to abdicate that responsibility; however, it's also your prerogative to correct children who fail to respect an adult.

Q. I have just been "friend dumped." A very close friend of a few years stopped talking to me, and when I asked why, she ended the friendship with an Internet message. She claimed (in literally three sentences) it was because the friendship is unhealthy.

The friendship was unhealthy at times -- I have jealousy and fifth-wheel issues -- but it was because we lived together, and we don't anymore. I can't wrap my head around the idea that someone I trusted so much would do this to me so easily, without feeling bad or giving me even a paragraph of thought.

The worst part is, I will have to see this person regularly in school. I know I need to move on, but I am very deeply hurt. I did so much for her, and I was always there for her. How do I stop obsessing over this and feeling bad?

A. I'm sorry. Getting dumped hurts, and getting dumped abruptly hurts even more.

Be careful, though -- an abrupt end can also be distracting to the point where valuable information gets lost in the why-me haze.

Please turn your attention not to the how-could-someone-I-trusted-do-this-to-me-so-easily question, but instead to those "jealousy and fifth-wheel issues." What was your part in the undoing? Did your friend ask too much of you, or did you ask too much of (or do too much for) her? Was the silent-treatment breakup about her cowardice, or about your inability to hear bad news without melting down? Or were you smothering her and this was her way out? What clingy behaviors got you in trouble? What did being roommates have to do with it? What are the chances you'll repeat your mistakes with the next roommate/friend? If you were to trace your insecurities, where do you think you'll find the roots?

I know this veers toward victim-blaming. I also deplore silence as a means of ending relationships except when one party fears for his or her safety.

It's just that being wronged often provides -- after time to grieve -- useful information for preventing a next time. As a student, you have access to mental health resources that workforce-dwellers often don't. Make the call, try a session, take your fifth-wheel concerns for a spin. Grief always hurts less when it spurs something good -- like figuring out healthier ways to be friends.

• Email Carolyn at, or chat with her online at 11 a.m. each Friday at

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