A few months ago, a friend got married. I wasn’t able to attend the wedding but heard all kinds of stories about Elise. Apparently, she threw a tantrum because Ken was in the wedding party and walked another girl down the aisle. She also wore a highly inappropriate dress that showed a lot of cleavage. Think Christina Hendricks at the premiere of I Don’t Know How She Does It, but not nearly as classy. Well, a week ago we all attended another friend’s wedding and she wore the same dress. Everyone at the wedding was staring at her, from the priest to the bride and groom’s parents to the little kids. Some of the guests were laughing at her, others glaring. I was seated next to her at the reception. She looked highly uncomfortable and kept looking down at herself as if to see if she had a stain on her dress. I asked her if something was wrong and she told me she felt like everyone was staring and laughing at her. I explained that she was showing a bit much cleavage for a wedding. I said this kindly, not at all judgmental. She looked down at herself and you could see the light bulb go off in her head. She suddenly looked mortified and a hand suddenly went up to her chest as if to cover herself, so I suggested that if she was uncomfortable she could put on the cardigan she brought with her and button it, which she did. Though she received less stares and glares, she didn’t seem comfortable for the rest of the night. I don’t think Elise wore the dress to attract or steal attention. She thought it looked good on her and was just clueless as to its appropriateness. I wouldn’t have said anything about the cleavage if she had been unbothered by the stares or enjoyed them. I only said something because she was upset at the attention, and I was careful to stay away from words like “inappropriate,” “disrespectful,” or “slutty.”
After the wedding, Ken told me that Elise was upset that I had said something about her dress. Apparently, I embarrassed her, was being a mean girl and jealous of what God had given her. Ken seemed indifferent to the whole matter. I apologized to her and told her it wasn’t my intention to embarrass her. She accepted the apology. However, I’m no longer sure how to handle this girl. When things go over her head, should I continue to clue her in or just let her remain ignorant and mocked? Elise grates on my nerves something fierce, but I hate seeing someone made fun of. Yet, I don’t want to be attacked for helping her out either. — Dealing with Clueless
Elise has made it clear that she neither appreciates nor welcomes your “help.” I put “help” in quotes, because as strong of a case as you made that your motivations are altruistic, I don’t completely buy it. I wouldn’t say you’re necessarily jealous of this girl or threatened by her, even though she’s young and apparently quite beautiful, but if she grates on your nerves “something fierce,” it wouldn’t seem far-fetched to assume there’s some satisfaction on your part in sort of calling her out, making her feel kind of stupid, or reminding her that she’s an outsider. I don’t even mean you’re consciously seeking out the satisfaction of belittling her, but it’s important to be aware that it may exist on a subconscious level.
But if you really want to help the ignorant lass, why not talk with some of your “mean girl” friends about taking it easy on her. If they’re always so quick to mock her or gossip about her behind her back, and you hate seeing someone being made fun of, then attack the problem at the base. Tell your friends to knock it off. Remind them that none of you probably had your shit together at 20 and that for as silly or ditzy as this girl comes across, she’s never done a mean thing to any of you and doesn’t deserve the treatment she’s been getting. For the girls in your group to make mean comments about her right in front of her face — comments that she has to pretend not hear — is really nasty and, frankly, “immature” behavior. It’s not how sophisticated late 20-somethings/ early 30-somethings should be behaving, that’s for sure.
Finally, remind your friends that this girl makes Ken happy. She may not be who you’d choose to befriend or spend your time with, but she makes your buddy happy. That in itself should be enough reason for you and your mean girl friends to embrace her as much as you can — even if it means muzzling yourself when she acts like a moron.