I live in New York and have been in the same group of friends since graduating from college 25 years ago. We get together once a month in the city for lunch or dinner.
Cynthia, one of my favorite women in this group, remarried about a year ago after a very unhappy marriage and bitter custody battle that lasted almost 3 years. Her new husband is a successful investment banker and she has much more money than she used to.
While I am very happy for Cynthia, she has developed a habit I find frustrating and distracting: name, brand, and price dropping.
She talks constantly about her new friends (well-known in NYC social circles). She brings up the brands and prices of everything she wears to our monthly get-together. She is also constantly showing off vacation photos or shots from her big new kitchen remodel of their home in the Hamptons.
Robin, Cynthia is from a working-class family in Ohio. She was never like this before. Everyone is rolling their eyes and wondering if we should extract her from the group or at least confront her at our next lunch. What is your opinion?
Some people don’t know the difference between “cost” and “value.” Cynthia may be one of those people. She may not be.
Because I have a more holistic process than any other advice-givers out there, I emailed with you to delve deeper. Something is going on, because it’s odd a woman her age would make such a sudden shift in her values.
Most of Cynthia’s marital assets were spent on legal fees and she struggled to stay afloat for years after the divorce.
Parenting Time Loss
Cynthia lost her custody battle because she was drinking too much during the divorce. She got her shit together (back to just the occasional drinks) and negotiated 50/50 parenting time with her ex-husband, but for several years she only had her kids 35% of the time.
Poor Girl/Rich Girl
She grew up in a working-class family and for years felt intimated by women who came from more monied backgrounds, including several gals in your group. Her father died when she was in high school and her mother worked two jobs to put Cynthia and her brother through college.
She usually wore clothes from a second-hand store and worked at night for three of the four years of college to make ends meet.
Jane, cut Cynthia some slack. You told me she has always been a good friend and a down-to-earth woman. This venture into Bitchy Rich Snotland is more likely a temporary detour than a final destination.
Your group of “friends,” and I use that term loosely, sounds like an acrid little bunch of assholes.
You’ve identified two options: freezing out Cynthia or “confronting” her. Don’t you know the difference between a confrontation and a conversation?
What is it about groups of females that turns them into a vicious pack of blood-thirsty vultures? Have your cycles synched and everyone is PMS-ing simultaneously? I’ve seen this in groups like yours many times – it’s always someone’s turn to be the odd gal out and now it’s Cynthia’s turn.
Last year it was you when the women were gossiping about your weight loss. Before that it was another gal, when everyone speculated she was cheating on her husband because she was seen having lunch with her boss in a hotel restaurant (as it turns out she was boning her boss, that little whore, but that’s not the point).
You all chit-chat via email and the chains can get pretty salacious and accusatory. More than once some idiot has accidentally copied the target/victim of gossip.
Yikes. You guys need to grow up and start being nicer to each other. Have you considered auditioning for The Real Housewives of PettyBitch Junction?
Advice for Jane
Invite Cynthia over to your home for vodka cocktails. Normally I would suggest wine, but since I’m giving it up for the next 28 days I can’t suggest anyone else drink it or I’ll have jealous fits.
2. Make a list.
Draft and memorize a list of specific examples illustrating Cynthia’s new annoying bragging habit. Be direct but kind.
3. Go it alone.
Leave the other women and their opinions out of it.
Nothing will make a person more defensive and less likely to absorb your words than pulling the “everyone says so” grade school bullshit. If those women want to speak for themselves they should. But this conversation should be about your reactions to Cynthia’s new obsession with social status, possessions, and money.
4. Talk, listen, and learn.
Tell Cynthia you don’t believe she is a shallow woman. Ask her questions and listen to her answers.
- How is she adjusting to her new marriage and custody schedule?
- How are the kids and husband handling the changes in the family structure?
- Does she feel insecure around the new group of wealthy women that came with her recent marriage and with whom she needs to socialize because of his job?
- Is it weird for her adjusting to such a different economic situation?
Instead of coming at her with “you are doing this and it bothers me,” try “you aren’t acting like yourself and I’m concerned about you – what’s going on?”
Remind her that you love her for who she is, not what she has. I think you’ll get to the bottom of this fairly quickly, along with the bottom of the vodka bottle.
5. Get her home.
Call her a cab to take her home, because drunk driving is stupid.
6. Set those bitches straight, and yourself too.
Tell the other women you are not interested in an accusation gang-bang nor in excluding Cynthia from the toxic stew of jealousy, resentment and judgey-ness that comprises your lunch group. Consider (and ask them to consider) whether you have a case of serious Envy-itis going on.
I know I’ll need to deal with Envy-itis soon when I’m fabulously wealthy and famous and therefore too good for everyone and everything around me.
7. See how it goes.
If she is open to your dialogue and stops the brag-fest, great! It may take some time so be patient. If she can’t quit the name/brand/price dropping you’ll have to decide whether Cynthia’s good qualities outweigh these new negatives.
Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes good friends are worth keeping even if they have characteristics that drive you a little crazy.
Ask my two friends; they will concur.
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