Q: There’s a woman at my gym who I believe is stalking me. Oh, and I’m a woman. It’s not romantic. We got into an incident a year ago in the parking lot. She thought I bumped her car as I was backing out, although I didn’t, and she was terribly weird about it. Ever since, she’s often at the gym the same time as me, staring at me. She just gives me such negative energy. I try to smile and say hi, but lately I don’t do that, because why bother? How do I handle her?
A: It sounds like you’ve been handling her as well as possible, trying to stay civil and not fan the flames. It’s hard for me to know whether this is simply a nuisance that interferes with getting your Zumba on or whether you are getting a creepy feeling about your safety. If it’s the former, keep up with the frozen smile, but don’t engage further and try to change your routine if possible. If it’s edging at all toward the latter, you might consider talking to gym management or changing gyms.
Yes, switching gyms might be letting her “win,” but if your workouts are stressing you out, they’re not doing much for your health.
Q: My grandmother recently passed away. She wasn’t a kind woman. When I was a child, she constantly called me chubby and belittled everything I ever did. As an adult, it was no better. Needless to say, she and my mother had their own issues. But now that she’s passed, my mother is acting like it’s the greatest tragedy to befall the world. She’s mourning like my grandmother was some saint. I refuse to take part in the hypocrisy. But I don’t want to hurt my mom.
A: Losing one’s mother is complex, whether you were BFFs worthy of a bad sitcom or completely estranged. So your mother’s grief is probably far deeper than might be understood at first glance, and the conflicting emotions have somehow translated into extolling your grandmother’s virtues.
I urge you to be forgiving of your mother. It’s psychologically important for her right now to view her loss in this way and come to her own reality. Simply being there and focusing on your love for her, without shutting her down, would be immensely helpful. Then escape to the bathroom occasionally and roll your eyes to your heart’s content.
Andrea Bonior, a Washington-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly mental health advice column in The Washington Post’s Express and is author of the new book, “The Friendship Fix.” For information, see www.drandreabonior.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @drandreabonior.