Successful Career Change Sours Longtime Friendship

Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am 39, married, and a professional woman with a good income. My best friend, "Barbie," and I both went to work after high school without completing our education. However, after several years I decided to go to college and get a degree so I could change careers. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. My income has more than doubled.

Barbie is obviously jealous of my new life, which affords me opportunities to travel, take vacations, and have the money to buy things I couldn't afford before. She and her family barely make ends meet. Although we have been like sisters since childhood, I now feel as if I must walk on eggshells around her -- guarding my conversation lest I mention a new purchase or having time off. If something does slip out, Barbie becomes defensive and sarcastic.

Abby, I shouldn't have to apologize for my new lifestyle. I worked hard to make a change for myself. What can I do? I really like her, but this is becoming difficult.

An example: We went shopping last week. She bought only a gift she had to have for a birthday -- nothing for herself. I felt uncomfortable with my purchases, even though they weren't extravagant. She made a comment to the effect that "it must be nice to be able to buy something so frivolous."

I should mention that Barbie's parents are still willing to send her through college or a tech school, even at the age of 39, but she chooses not to make the effort. -- TIRED OF FEELING APOLOGETIC

DEAR TIRED: When your friend commented that it must be nice to be able to buy something frivolous, you had an opening to tell her that before you earned your degree you couldn't either, which was one of the reasons you decided it was time to change your life by returning to school. Your friend is fortunate she has parents who are able (and willing) to pay for her college education. How sad that she lacks the determination and drive to get one.

As things stand, the nature of your friendship with Barbie must change. If the relationship is to continue, you will have to forgo the shopping trips together and any references to your new lifestyle. Otherwise, they will be perceived as bragging, and the comparisons may be painful to her. Be prepared to be sensitive to that, or move on.


DEAR ABBY: I am the owner of a small boutique for women. My only full-time employee is everything an employer could ask for. However, she often comes in looking like she just crawled out of bed and doesn't own an iron.

What can I say to help her become more aware of her appearance? I don't want to hurt her feelings. I jokingly told her to "retire" a pair of slacks she frequently wears because they are too tight and the rear end is shiny. But this week she came in wearing them again -- so evidently, she didn't get the message.

Please help. Thank you. -- ANNE IN MISSOURI

DEAR ANNE: Because your employee didn't take the hint, you must be more direct with her. Explain that you expect her to dress more carefully for work because: 1. Her attire represents the image of the shop, and 2. a salesperson who is sharply dressed inspires customers to shop. Then tell her exactly what you expect from her, and offer to help her coordinate some acceptable outfits -- perhaps by giving her a discount on some items from the store.

If that doesn't work, consider putting together a "uniform" for her to wear when she's working. It's what some of the top designers have done in their stores.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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