Dear E. Jean: I’m not the richest or most glamorous girl on the block. I’m not able to buy whatever I please on a whim, such as the Jimmy Choo bag I’ve been saving for, but I dress stylishly and receive lots of compliments. My best friend, whom I adore, means well, but she can drive me insane when she thrusts in my face the latest Gucci wallet she just bought. It causes me to feel inferior and to envy what she has. Not only that, I start to feel really competitive, and this puts a strain on our friendship. What can I do to fix this without going on a shopping spree that will put me in debt?—Trying to Chill
Chill, my charmer: Oh, please. I once rolled with the hautest of the haut monde—the Ennis Montana Ladies Side Saddle Club, and hunny, you haven’t lived till you’ve been cut dead by a pig farmer’s wife dressed like Queen Elizabeth II astride an old barrel horse. Did I feel “inferior” because I possessed not one item of a riding habit? Yes. Did I feel “competitive” because I actually had no idea how to ride sidesaddle? Yes. Did I feel “strained” because my apple pie sucked at the Side Saddle Club Tea, and I did not provide the ladies with amusing little napkins that I embroidered myself? Yes. Yes. Yes.
And then one day, I arrived at the ring and blew them all off the landscape. How? I washed my horse’s mane and tail in Farrah Fawcett Shampoo. Here’s what happened: The mare looked better—no exaggeration—than the official Montana entry in the Miss America Pageant. The effect? The adrenaline levels of the ladies of the Ennis Side Saddle Club were pushed so high, every one of them competed more brilliantly in the exhibition. Friends are supposed to feel competitive, Miss Chill. It spurs (ha!) you to greater achievement—not just for yourselves alone, but for future generations. It’s how the human race advances. It makes a better world. If you don’t “die a little,” as Gore Vidal says, “every time a friend succeeds,” then you’re dead already. Acknowledge to your friend that the Gucci wallet “drives you insane,” wish her many more wallets stuffed with everything she desires, and then, with a chuckle, leave her in your dust. Good luck!
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.