Make It Stop: “My Friend Is A Charity Humble Bragger!”

Make It Stop is a new weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email anna@shmittenkitten.com with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.

First up, how to cope with an attention-hungry Facebook humble-bragger:

A friend of mine constantly posts status updates humble bragging about some good deed he did — buying a stranger a cup of coffee at Starbucks, covering a soldier’s tab at a pancake house.  It’s obnoxious because it’s abundantly clear that he’s looking for backpatting and compliments on how charitable and wonderful he is, which kind of takes away from the good deed itself, no? Like, do something nice for someone, that’s awesome, but if you’re doing it just to be told what a good person you are, maybe you’re not so good. Anyway, this is starting to grate on my nerves. Is there a tasteful way of saying as much to my friend?

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s trying to be like that Haley Joel Osment movie and “Pay It Forward”: I just gave that homeless man a sandwich. Oooooh, I should post about it on Facebook. Maybe this can inspire my friends and loved ones to do their part to spread some sunshine, too. ::: Takes phone out, types feel-good update, publishes it and rewards himself for his charity work with a Frappucino, extra whip:::

As for saying something to him, yikes, that’s tough. Good luck because if you go about it wrong, you’ll look like a maniac for caring about his newsfeed so much that you’d talk about it IRL.

When you do decide to confront him about it, you’ll both have to be tipsy and in a fun setting so it’ll look like playful, spontaneous ribbing.

You: “You always post about the good deeds you do. Aren’t you afraid that people will get the wrong idea?”

Him, furrowing his brow: “What do you mean?”

You: “Personally, I think it’s awesome. But, I’m sure some people can take it the wrong way, like you’re bragging about being better than them. It’s so hard to talk about doing good deeds without getting some blowback, you know?”

Pay attention to what he says as a response. Find out his motivation. Maybe he’ll say that he is a lifelong Haley Joel Osment fan and wants to pay it forward. Maybe he’ll say that his ex-best friend called him selfish once and he’s on a mission to prove him wrong. Maybe he’ll see the error of his ways and agree that he should keep his mensch-ness offline (hey, you can dream!).

If that sounds too intense, my best advice is to never “Like” his status updates, as that will trigger Facebook’s logarithms to increase his updates in your timeline. You can also downgrade his friendship to “acquaintance” which will decrease his presence in your newsfeed, or unfollow his updates altogether. Life’s too short to be annoyed by Facebook.

My sister has struggled to stay steadily employed over the past few years. She’s been working as a waitress, which isn’t her dream job and definitely not something she’s passionate about. But it seems like she doesn’t even care to hold onto a job. After six or eight months at a place, she either gets fired (blowing off a shift, stealing food, etc.) or clashes with the management and quits. Everything inside me wants to shake her and give her a big sisterly lecture about needing to get her act together. I suppose part of me is worried my sister is not financially secure in any way and may have to live on my couch some day or god forbid be supported by me. Our parents are frustrated with her, too, but are non-confrontational and always have been. If anyone is going to shake some sense into her, it’s going to be me. What’s the right way to approach this?

These jobs sound shitty. Why wouldn’t she hate them? Maybe she takes jobs like this because they’re flexible. Maybe she doesn’t mind doing something that gives her just enough money to scrounge by. Is that so bad?

According to you, your sister is a fuckup. Well, I’m a fuckup too. In fact, I have a long, illustrious history of fucking up. My LinkedIn headline should read: writer, author, professional fuckup.

I’ve worked more temp jobs then there are Duggar children. I’ve done data entry, filing, and all sorts of mindless crap in over air-conditioned offices decked out in itchy Gap khakis and a cheap Target cardigan. And, it sucked. Even now I’m a fuckup. I can’t find a full-time job if my life depended on it. And I have a master’s degree.

I know sisters have a tendency to feel territorial about their sisters’ lives, like her choices are a reflection on you. But they aren’t. You aren’t her parent. Unless she treats you like a parent — i.e. actually depends on you for financial support — it is none of your business what she does with her life.

What’s your goal with this shaking-sense-into-her fantasy? Because most likely instead of inspiring her, you’ll alienate her further by criticizing her life choices. You know why? Because it’s profoundly embarrassing to have a loved one tell you that you’re wasting your life.

In the short term, confronting her could feel productive, like you were the one person in your family who had the guts to set her straight. But what are the longterm consequences of confronting her? Instead of worrying that she’ll crash on your couch in 20 years, you should be worried that she won’t take your calls in 10.

If one of my sisters tried to “shake some sense into me””during my peak fuckup years (roughly 2005 – 2011), I guarantee you I would’ve absolutely withdrawn from her. Why clue her in to my struggles if she’s just going to judge me for them? In movies, getting your shit together is a two-minute montage set to a Blink-182 song, but in real life, it’s a process that can take months, if not years. She’s on her own path, and paths change, especially in our 20s and 30s.

It sounds like this is about you, as your concerns are squarely about how her lifestyle affects your possible future happiness, which is a shitty reason to attack her. Has it occurred to you that she may not be ready to commit to a 9-to-5 job? That if she tries to shoehorn herself into that world before she’s ready to accept that lifestyle, she might feel like even more of a failure than she already does? What would you say to her then? She tried to conform to what you wanted, and now she’s even more miserable. It’s not easy to find a job that nourishes both your soul and your wallet, especially in this shitty economy.

The best, most loving thing you can do is set an example for her. Maybe she’ll see your stable life and want the same for herself. Maybe she’ll see your stable life and want to hurl. Both responses are okay. Maybe she’ll want to hurl now, but in five years, she’ll want more stability like you and will ask for your help then. It’s possible.

Whatever her calling is, you can’t shake it into her. That’s not how it works. The only shaking you should be doing is shaking out a cocktail and inviting her over for a yummy drink and letting her know that whatever she needs, you’ll be there for her. This, of course, is under the assumption that she isn’t harming herself or others with her lackadaisical lifestyle. If she’s not hurting anyone, you’re going to have to trust the journey she’s on and let her figure it out for herself.

Anna Goldfarb is the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and the author of Clearly I Didn’t Think This Through: The Story Of One Tall Girl’s Impulsive, Ill-Conceived And Borderline Irresponsible Life Decisions. (She is, however, thinking through the responses to these questions very seriously.) Follow her on Twitter!

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