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Dear Amanda:

I have a problem with my girlfriend. I really like her and we have been dating for about eight months, but she is so pompous. She constantly reminds me of her grades (which are better than mine) and how her interviewers absolutely love her and how her firm offered her a job at the end of last summer. I want to hear about her life, but I feel like she is throwing her accomplishments in my face. Am I overreacting?

Sincerely Yours,

Annoyed

Dear Annoyed,

To adopt an analogy developed by one of the blondes of Shaw 2, the Harvard Law ego is like a balloon – it’s inflated, but the tiniest pinprick can pop the whole thing. So who is the balloon? Is it you or is it your girlfriend?

It is the dirty secret of Harvard Law students that they talk about things like grades and interviews and job offers. Some people just don’t have better things to talk about. Others talk about these things to relieve latent insecurities. Why is your girlfriend talking about her grades? Equally important, why does it bother you when your girlfriend talks about her grades? Is it because you’d rather be talking about more interesting things, such as why the best Jewish poker player I know and the worst Jewish poker player I know failed to supply the recent demand for t-shirts and hats at Pheterfest? Is it because you’re threatened by your girlfriend’s success? Is it because it forces you to face your own academic failures? Or is it because it draws your attention to the unfortunate fact that your girlfriend is a self-important witch?

If you sense that your girlfriend is bragging with the purpose of making you feel worse about yourself, then you’re right to be annoyed. People who make themselves feel good by making other people feel bad are not pleasant to be around. You should promptly cut all such people out of your life. In addition to the fact that they may actually succeed in making you feel bad about yourself, they have all sorts of other psychological issues that are a nuisance to deal with. If you think this is the case, break up with your girlfriend as soon as possible.

If your girlfriend seems to be talking about her interviews and her grades because of her underlying insecurities, then just deal with it. She’s seeking some affirmation, and as her boyfriend, it’s your duty to provide it. I know it’s bothersome to have to be the source of someone else’s self-worth, but it’s something that you will have to deal with to a certain extent with almost everyone. Just be thankful that she’s not constantly trying to get you to tell her that she’s not fat.

If your girlfriend doesn’t talk about grades and jobs anymore than the average law student, then maybe you should try seeking some affirmation of your own. You’re obviously just painfully aware of your own lackluster performance and interpret other people talking about their successes as openly hostile. Get over it. Seriously. She’s just making conversation. Either change the subject or send out your own subtle clues that you’d like her to tell you that you’re an academic stud who is going places. If she’s a good girlfriend, she’ll speedily comply.

If you’re not sure what your girlfriend’s motivations are for talking about her grades or what yours are for being annoyed by this, then the ever-controversial communication approach may be your best solution. The next time she starts babbling on about her outstanding job offer from last summer, sit down and explain to her how this makes you feel. Don’t accuse her of being pompous; just admit that her endless blathering about her accomplishments sometimes makes you uncomfortable. If she gets too defensive, she probably has been trying to make you uncomfortable all along. If she’s surprised, confused or contrite, I am sure that you two can work it out.

Yours,

Amanda

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