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.