Dear Amy: “Carol” and I used to work very closely together. I still see her occasionally at work, and we usually enjoy a long catch-up.
When I recently saw Carol (from a distance) at the office, I noticed that she’d lost a significant amount of weight.
I had not seen her in months, so it seemed conceivable that she had been working to lose weight.
I was with a client, but I wanted to say something to Carol before she left the office. Carelessly, I called out across a few yards, “Hi, Carol! You are looking good!”
When she turned and looked at me with a wane smile/grimace, I knew I’d made a mistake. I wanted to immediately see what was wrong, but by the time I was done with my client, Carol had left.
Usually as a rule, I do not comment on weight loss unless the other person brings up their own weight/fitness first.
Later that same day, I ran into another old co-worker. She informed me that Carol had taken ill in the previous months with COVID-19 complications and had been in a coma. It’s a miracle that she is alive and walking around now.
I was shocked and ashamed over what I said and the way I said it.
Is there anything I can or should say to apologize?
Maybe it’s better to simply say I’d had no idea what she was going through, and express my very genuine relief that she is recovering?
Help me find the words!
— So Ashamed in Maine
Dear Ashamed: Please hum this phrase to the famous tune from “My Fair Lady”:
“The shame in Maine
Should not cause so much pain…”
To some extent, you seem to be blinded by your embarrassment and are making this encounter just a little bit about you.
You did not call out: “Hey, Carol, wow, you’re so thin! Way to go!”
You simply said, “You are looking good!”
Honestly, given the health-Hell she has been through, to have recovered enough to be at work is the very definition of “looking good.”
You should email, text, or call her. Say, “It was great to see you in the office. Susan mentioned how sick you’ve been! I had no idea, and I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope you’re on the mend and feeling a little better every day. I’d love to catch up when you feel up to it.”
Dear Amy: My closest friend has been virtually out of touch for almost two years — since her mother died.
I saw her twice the first year and not at all last year. I dropped off her birthday present so as not to disturb her — and she loved it.
The pandemic is partly to blame, but mostly she is focusing on work, and during the weekend she has her own routine. Interacting with others causes her anxiety to flare. For that reason, she is not even up for a five-minute phone call.
I’ve let her know that whenever she is up for seeing each other, to let me know, and that I won’t sweat it no matter how long it takes.
I send her innocuous text messages of love, usually once a week. She seems to prefer a single emoji.
While it has been difficult not to worry about her or to take it personally, I respect that she has let the majority of her friendships go, as she feels that is what she needs to do for self-preservation.
I miss her and care about her, but I don’t know what to do.
— Patiently Loving from a Distance
Dear Patiently: Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t press her to discuss her mental health. Share memes, text her about the latest show you’re bingeing, and yes — keep the channel open.
You sound exceedingly understanding, patient and kind. Surely this is taking a toll on you, too.
Dear Amy: The competitive teenage girl (“Lonely at the Top”) who tried out for all the teams her best friend tried out for sounded obnoxious. Now she’s going after a slot on the ice hockey team, even though she has no experience, while her friend has been working hard for it.
I can’t believe you encouraged her.
Dear Upset: Male teen athletes are praised for their natural talent and competitive impulse. The same should go for girls.
I do think “Lonely” has a slippery slope ahead of her making the hockey team, however. Ice hockey is no skate in the park.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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