The problem: I’m in a group that’s gotten together three or four times a year for 40 years. One of our friends talks nonstop every time we meet. The rest of us barely get in a word. We’re too polite to say, “Shut up!” but it’s getting to the point where I dread going. I don’t think she was like this when we were younger.
Low road: Forget to invite her to your next gathering. Oops.
High road: Most of us have dealt with a too-talky spouse, friend, relative or neighbor. Such one-sided conversations can leave us feeling exhausted and used. Next time, I’ll stay home and send a tape recorder instead!
But, you say you don’t think she was like this when you were younger. This signals some kind of shift in her life. The most obvious is that, as we age, our support system shrinks, which means fewer people to hear our stories over and over. Maybe she’s experiencing a health issue, such as anxiety, or a change in sleep, diet or medications. As tempting as it is to boot her out, I hope you won’t. She sounds lonely, and as if she’s in need of an old friend’s generosity of spirit.
That doesn’t mean she gets to suck all the air out of the room. It does mean someone (read: you) needs to proactively cut in with the skill of an Academy Awards orchestra. Whatever her topic, give her two minutes, then leap in. “Your grandson is already in kindergarten? Can’t believe it! Say, Sharon, how are your grandkids? And, Millie, didn’t you say you were about to go visit your kids Out West?” She’ll get the message eventually.
If she doesn’t, please suggest that another friend buy her coffee, one on one, and gently tell her, “You seem to really need to talk these days. Is everything OK?”
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.