The problem: I’m a financially independent woman with a career in the scientific industries. I recently attended my high school reunion and ran into an old friend who was very popular in those days. She talked at length about her messy divorce, the affairs, the fighting, the arguments about who got the kids, the financial settlement and on and on. I listened and consoled her for about 30 minutes. Then she asked me about my life. I told her that I never got married, at which point she looked at me with this shocked expression and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry for you!” I was amused, but also a little offended. How do you respond to that? 

Low road: Say, “I appreciate it. You do make it look like so much fun!” 

High road: It’s easy to see what’s going on here. She’s deep in misery and she wants company. Her current friends probably have stopped taking her calls or are ducking behind their cars when they spot her in the parking lot.

It was good of you to listen without judgment. Beneath her tantalizing tell-all, the popular girl from high school is likely feeling angry or sad or embarrassed or confused, or all of the above. Her life imploded, her kids are hurting, and there you are, poised and happy, and never married, too! With time, distance and much needed therapy, she’ll heal and gain insight about her contribution to a failed marriage so that she can create a healthier one in the future. Or not.

Without trying, you kindly provided her with an aha moment, demonstrating that she can be strong and content and unapologetic with or without a partner. I wouldn’t be surprised if you met an entirely different woman at your next reunion. 

Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad