How do I deal with other people’s resentment?

Dear Gentle Butch,

I’m a woman in my mid-50’s, and through great privilege and luck I’m able to support myself by working as a writing/editing/website contractor just a few months per year, and go on some great trips, too. I call myself semi-retired. Due to bipolar and some physical limitations, it’s hard for me to work full-time for more than a few weeks, anyway.  (But I’m not able to get disability benefits.)

I know my roommate resents it; she’s said as much. She’s 62 and will retire at 70 at best.  I’ll be moving soon — it was a short-term thing so I could save for travel and she could catch up on her mortgage — but I feel it from other people, too. I don’t brag about my situation, but I don’t want to fake a job or  volunteer more than I want to just so other people feel better. Someday I’d like to find a new partner, too, and I think that will be hard(er), because so many guys are still ambitious at my age, and/or would also feel resentful.

And yes, I do spend a lot of my extra free time second-guessing and worrying about how other people feel.

– Lucky but Guilty

 

Dear LBG,

Oh, wow.

This letter reminds me of how people will say shit to me like: “I wish _I_ could get parking right near the door; or “I wish _I_ could take my dog everywhere with me!”

They imagine how great my life is with my rockstar parking and my mutt always by my side, and think it’s unfair that they don’t get those things. It doesn’t occur to them for even twenty seconds that the reason I NEED the damn parking and service dog is because each of my days is more difficult than each of their weeks.

I am incredibly glad that you have been able to support yourself and even go on trips working part-time contract. That must mean, as you say, that you’ve had the privilege and luck of being able to save for retirement, which so many of us just can’t do living paycheck-to-paycheck and/or just not having the option.

Own your privilege! Great! You know that being able to save for retirement is a privilege that you had.

But don’t paint yourself as an heiress, either.

If you don’t qualify for disability, you are probably paying a shit ton for health insurance since you’re in your mid-50s.

I’m guessing you’re pretty good at living on not too much money. I mean, you moved in with a friend to save up for a trip. That’s frugal as fuck.

Your lifestyle doesn’t seem particularly swank. I don’t know what your physical limitations are, but it sounds like you are both mentally ill and physically disabled, and you can’t work full time for more than a few weeks without it taking an incredible toll on you. Sounds like and you’re making the best of your situation.

I’m sorry your roommate resents someone who has been helping her pay her mortgage. I’m sorry she won’t retire until she’s 70. (I will never retire, and I don’t hold it against someone who will be able to retire at 70.)

But I think if she looks at a very frugal person dealing with multiple disabilities who has been able to call her situation ‘semi-retirement’ and then resents her for it, that says a lot more about her than it does about you.

Now. What do you mean by you “feel it from other people, too?”

Do you mean that other people make passive-aggressive remarks like “must be nice” or whatever other dumb-ass shit resentful people say to make other folks feel bad?

Or do you mean that your roommate’s resentment has made you a paranoid — so paranoid that you seem to have actually considered pretending to work more than you do — and you’re extending that attitude to other people?

Only you know, of course, whether this is real stuff or anxious projection on your part. Either way, I think the reaction is the same — don’t let yourself get baited.

I legit don’t know what to say about men. I mean, don’t you think middle-aged women who are attracted to men have all twisted themselves into pretzels enough to try to fit whatever it is that they think “men want?” Fuck it. Enough. Don’t.

Would you really want to be with someone who found partnering with a woman who is semi-retired some sort of disqualifying event?

Perhaps you can think of this situation as an Asshole Detector. Anyone who responds to “Hi; I’m semi-retired” with “ew get away” just isn’t relationship or friendship material.

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