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Carolyn Hax: Ex’s gesture makes him a ‘graceless dork’

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: At church or other public functions, my ex-boyfriend comes up and greets my friends with kisses and hugs, when I am standing right there. He gives me a nod. This causes me no end of grief.

My question is about my friends’ behavior. I think out of loyalty to me, they should not allow him to greet them so effusively – or else, he should greet me with more than a nod. I spoke to my one friend about it, and she said she would “try to remember,” but I don’t think that’s good enough. – Frustrated

“No end of grief”? That’s almost as funny as what your ex is doing.

Yes, funny. When someone does such a clumsy, obvious job of insulting you (at church, no less!), it’s actually a backhanded compliment. He’s trying to deliver a scathing put-down, right? But the message he’s actually sending is this: “I am a graceless dork.” As put-downs go, he’s brandishing a crayon scribble as if it’s the Mona Lisa.

You have a range of appropriate responses, all of which will serve their purpose as long as you treat his behavior as the crayon scribble it is. A pointed, “Hello, Ralph,” would do it. Or a gently teasing, “Really?” Or, ideally, nothing except the laugh this slapstick performance deserves.

No appropriate response, by the way, involves trying to control your friends. Cut that out.

One last thought: Could it be he’s not aiming to insult, but instead is just hurt and awkward and at a loss for what to do? If what you know about him suggests that’s possible, then your anger is misplaced and compassion would serve you better, in the form of modeling the civil way to manage this: Extend your hand, “Ralph, hi, good to see you.” No lather, just rinse and repeat.

Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax.
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