Dear Carolyn • I'm really striking out with my boyfriend's friends. The last three times I've seen them, I had horrible menstrual cramps that had me cross-eyed with agony, a work crisis that I had to keep running outside to keep phone calls for, and a major beef with my boyfriend for forgetting to tell me we were meeting up with the guys for drinks. So it's no wonder that his friends' impression of me is that I'm antisocial, uptight and snappish. As we are probably going to get engaged soon, I'd like to change their impression, but I doubt I would buy it if someone apologized to me for being rude on three separate occasions. How do I change my image?
Dear Baltimore • Starting now: Stay home when you feel sick, don't let your fights spill over into other people's time, and don't try to manage people's impressions of you. Your behavior has to speak for itself. I've kind of buried the middle one, but it's huge. A "major beef" over a forgotten piece of information? Really? And it spilled over into the evening? Any negative impression you made on witnesses is accurate, I'm afraid. If you want their next accurate impression to be a good one, then learn to manage your anger. Fuming has no place when something has gone wrong by accident; save it for when people do harm with intent. Either step away and resolve the problem quickly, agree to talk about it later and shake off your foul mood, or excuse yourself graciously and go home. This self-control is a courtesy for others, but exercise it mainly for your own sake. This might not apply here, but so often does: If your "major beef" was a flare-up of a recurring argument, then please also resolve to declare peace, even if it's just a sustainable agreement to disagree. If you can't do that, then consider ending the relationship. Recurring fights don't fall under the "All relationships are work" umbrella so often used to shield them. Instead, they're like jealousy: symptoms of something serious. Even if the recurring-argument issue isn't relevant, the larger point is: The only way to change your image is to change the ways you choose to behave.
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.