Jeans, T-shirt Called ‘Too Stylish’ – Miss Manners

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the mother of a terrific 15-year-old girl. She’s a joy to be around, has lovely friends, does fine in school, is both interesting and interested, etc.

I may be prejudiced, so I’ll name some flaws, as well: She frequently needs to be reminded about chores; she’ll sleep late, and can be forgetful; and now and then there’s drama and arguments over rules.

But I’m not writing for help with those. I need advice about the mother of one of her friends.

This is a relatively small town, so my “Hannah” has known her friend “Chloe” since grade school, and I’ve known her mother “Amelia” peripherally for almost as long. We’re not close friends, but we are good for a chat when our paths cross.

Hannah and Chloe have been thrown together a fair amount recently, in classes and a summer program, with Amelia and I arranging a carpool. So Hannah has been running into Amelia more during drop-offs, pickups and quick visits.

This is where the problem comes in: Amelia rarely passes up an opportunity to compare the two girls — in both of their hearing. If Hannah were coming off worse in these comparisons, at least I’d know how to tell her to defend herself. Instead, Amelia holds Hannah out as an example.

She’ll tell Chloe, “Hannah got an A on her biology test. Why can’t you study like she does?” (Hannah does like biology and did well in that class.) Or, “Hannah’s room is so clean. You should learn from her.” (Yes, her room was clean that day, but it isn’t always.) Or, “See how nice and polite Hannah is?” (Hannah is polite to most people, especially a friend’s parent, but it’s not like Chloe is a horror. She’s just an awkward teenager.)

Chloe gets tight-lipped listening to these comparisons, and Hannah sort of hangs her head. I don’t want to encourage Hannah to put herself down, nor to contradict Amelia, but both girls are uncomfortable when this happens. I don’t like the idea of anything coming between these two girls, who otherwise get along fine.

How should we handle this?

GENTLE READER: Encourage Hannah to speak up for Chloe, enthusiastically mentioning accomplishments that her friend has achieved.

It does not have to be the same things, only things that will boost Chloe’s confidence — and, Miss Manners hopes, point out to her mother the damage of making comparisons.

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