Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I am a sophomore at a top university. I have gotten many comments from classmates that I may have had an easier time getting into both the school and my program because I am a “double” minority; I am a minority woman in a male-dominated field.
I graduated at the top of my class from a reputable private school, was an AP Scholar, president of various clubs and participated in both music and theater programs. Even now, when instructors post average scores for tests, I am far above the average.
Quite often, when fellow students don’t get the internship they want, they assume it’s because of their race and/or gender. I have tried to defend myself by listing my qualifications, but then I am accused of being a braggart.
What response would you recommend that does not include me blasting the individual with a list of my accomplishments?
— Trying Not to Be a Braggart
Trying Not to Be a Braggart: Oh my goodness. No, please don’t offer any accomplishments to defend yourself — or offer any defense of yourself, period.
Why do you worry about being a braggart, when they’re the ones who should be worried about making racist and sexist assumptions? Or, even better, worried that they’re making excuses and blaming outside forces for their shortcomings instead of looking within?
Don’t reward such faulty thinking and self-pity. Instead, I suggest you reflect what people are really saying back on them by rephrasing it: “You do realize, I hope, that you just said you’re smarter than I am because you’re white and male.”
Or you can nod slowly and say, “Okay, whatever you need to believe.”
Or you can say, “Really?”
Or you can death stare.
Or you can laugh so hard you fall off your stool.
Or, mix and match.
But explain yourself? Never. Again.
Dear Carolyn: My 65-year-old father only calls me when he wants something. That “something” is usually no big deal, just a small favor, but it’s annoying that he never calls just to ask how I am.
I’ve never had a particularly good relationship with him. Should I just chalk it up as the way he is and be grateful we still have some reason to talk, or should I try to improve our discourse?
Anonymous: The things he “wants” could be the excuses he comes up with to justify calling you. Because he thinks he needs an excuse to call you, because some people just have blockages in their emotional connectors, and maybe he’s one of them.
It can be annoying when people do this, yes, and it can feel as if they don’t care about you as much as you care about them, but these valid feelings tend not to get you anywhere on their own. The fact of the person’s (apparent) limitations remains.
And the fact of his calling you remains, too. You can appreciate the what without dwelling on the why.
So, yes, take it as the best he can do, and work with it: Decide to accept that the small favor du jour is his version of, “Hi, howaya.” Kind of sweet, actually, if you squint a little.
Write to Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost....Read more