The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a woman in my 30s. I’m concerned that my aunt, who is a single career woman, always speaks ill of others recently when we meet. She used to be so cheerful.
My aunt is like an elder sister to me, although she’s in her 50s. I’m also single, as she’s proved to me that you can live a happy life even if you don’t get married.
However, since her mid-40s she’s begun saying things like she wants to get married and has gotten tired. Recently, whenever we meet, she can’t help but complain with a grimace while watching people around us, saying, “I can’t bear that person’s terrible way of eating” and “That person is a dull dresser.” I just brush it off, saying, “Well, sure.” But I feel very sad about all of this.
From what she says, I can sense that she feels uneasy about her future, as she has no motivation for living other than work. I keep meeting up with her because I’m concerned, but I actually don’t want to because I hate to hear her complain.
She’s so kind and humorous that I’m sure she’s always inspired and entertained the people around her. I hope she’ll find a good partner in life and something — in addition to her work — that is rewarding. Is there anything I can do for her?
Y, Gunma Prefecture
Dear Ms. Y:
Reading your letter, I can tell you’re very kind to your aunt and feel very sad about the way she is now. She may be suffering from mild symptoms of menopause due to her age. She also feels like complaining about young people’s behavior and the matters around her because her values have become fixed as she’s gotten older.
However, I understand how hard it is for you to hear her negative comments all the time.
I’m a member of your aunt’s generation. Hearing young people passing judgment on all sorts of good and bad things with “yabai” (awful), I find myself starting to complain, saying: “What? How can they speak that way?” My husband stops me, saying, “It’s no good complaining about how young people today value things.” I often listen to his advice.
So I suggest you sometimes tell your aunt not to grumble by cheerfully saying, “Take it easy, there’s no need to care so much about other people.”
It’s also true that your aunt is getting rid of her stress by pouring out her feelings. She can speak nastily to you because she feels at ease with her niece. I imagine she’s refreshed by doing so and then keeps inspiring and entertaining people at her workplace and elsewhere.
So I hope you can be patient when listening to her — and sometimes take a lesson from her on what you shouldn’t do.