The Luv Doc: Debbie Downers
It is truly fascinating to witness the beautiful butterfly squeeze back into an ugly caterpillar
Dear Luv Doc,
Me and a group of friends I have known since college have Wednesday wine nights at various places around town where we get together and drink wine and catch up with each other. Usually it starts out fun and we talk about films, current events, etc., but after an hour or so it always seems to turn into a huge, negative bitch session which, for me at least, is not fun at all. I would like to think I am a sympathetic ear, but there is only so much I can take. Most of the complaining is from the two newest members – both of whom are friends of members of the original group. When one starts to complain, the other one jumps in and soon enough everyone at the table is crabbing about something. I know they are just processing, but it really drags the whole night down for those of us who do our processing elsewhere. And usually (not always) the problems they complain about are of their own making. I think we would all prefer these nights to be fun instead of depressing. Any tips on how to turn this ship around? It doesn't have to be a pleasure cruise, just not the Titanic.
Usually when I am drinking wine I am complaining about how bad wine hangovers can be, although technically I don't know if Boone's Farm Tickle Pink can be considered a wine. Furthermore, I do not know the Boone family or where their farm is located, but I have a strong suspicion they are direct descendants of the Marquis de Sade. Boone is a French name too, right? Hmmm ....
Along with the wicked hangovers, the problem with drinking wine – much like the problem with drinking – is that it tends to exacerbate predispositions. In some cases those predispositions are hidden beneath a well-polished veneer of respectability and even charm, but after two or three glasses, the veneer wears off ... or at least wears transparently thin ... and an entirely new person emerges. Those cases are rare and confined mainly to country clubs and PTA meetings, but it is truly fascinating to witness the beautiful butterfly squeeze back into an ugly caterpillar.
Most people however, are very much the same person they were when they began drinking, only slower and louder. A witty person is still witty, you just have to wait longer for the punchline. A boring person is still a boring person, it's just that the boredom is much louder and more oppressive; an asshole is an even bigger, louder asshole; and a self-absorbed whiner is, unfortunately, even more self-absorbed and whinier.
I don't buy that "so-and-so is a totally different person when he/she is drinking." More often than not, sober so-and-so is just much better at hiding the ugly parts – at keeping it all buttoned down. There is societal value in that to be sure. We don't need everyone running around in id mode all the time, but on the other hand, all that posturing seems a little disingenuous – especially once the beast has been unchained.
My bet is that wine or no, these two women are Debbie Downers to some degree in their daily lives. You could hang out and make fun of them, but that seems cruel and counterproductive. They seem like the types who hold grudges. Your better bet is just to walk away when things get decidedly negative. Feel free to cheerlead and captain that ship to calmer waters, but you know who goes down with the Titanic, don't you? OK, well, nearly everybody, but definitely the captain.