My wife turned me onto your blog last year and all I can say is keep it up, woman! Awesome! When can we hear you on the radio?
OK now to my question: my best friend from college (Mike) recently moved back to our hometown with his new wife who is from a wealthy family on the East Coast. I had met her a few times over the five years since they got married but now that they live here my wife and I are spending a lot of time with them.
Mike is a great guy but I can’t stand his wife. She brags all the time about her family’s money and influence and makes digs at our city and even the home my wife and I recently renovated, saying “this is cute for a starter house but when are you moving the West Side?”
I asked Mike about it and he says she isn’t usually like this, but also that the people they hung out with when they lived in New York also came from wealthy families. I know he’s embarrassed but he said he’s told her to stop and she just can’t seem to. Last weekend I mentioned my grandfather worked in an oil field when he was a teenager and she said, “I bet he worked for one of my relatives – how funny!”
My wife is done – she doesn’t want to spend any more time with them. I want to tell Mike he and I can hang out together but not with our wives. My question is how do I do that and not piss him off? How do you tell a friend that his wife is such a bitch that you can’t be around her any more? I know if anyone can give me the script it’s you because I’ve seen you do it before!
Mr. Shakespeare, who really wasn’t Shakespeare at all (but that’s an argument for another day) said well:
There is no skill quite as useless as being skilled at luck, and yet Mike’s wife (let’s call her Muffie) is deeply proud at having won the birth lottery and landing her butt in the butter dish of a wealthy family. Kudos to Muffie, because this may be the only accomplishment she achieves during her time on earth with the rest of us unwashed masses.
You told me when we emailed that Muffie’s parents never worked and of course neither has she. Mike is a tech investor who struck it big a few years ago so even though he hails from a plebeian West Coast city, she found his millions of dollars to be ample consideration for lowering herself down to his social status.
I always find it humorous and pathetic that some people take such pride in the hard work of their ancestors and yet do nothing to make a name for themselves. I guess they figure grandpa already did all the heavy lifting so they will rest on his behalf. As my good buddy Winston C. once noted, “Saving is a fine thing. Especially when your parents have done it for you.”
Today’s advice will come in three parts. Please pay attention.
I. The Part Where we Give Muffie the Benefit of the Doubt.
It is possible that Muffie is intensely insecure and in her efforts to fit in and find her way in a new city far from her friends and family she has caught a treacherous case of Foot-in-Mouth disease.
Let’s assume the best about her: she is a decent person (after all, you told me Mike is a great guy and he loves her) who is flailing about as she tries to make new friends. Call up Muffie and tell her you want to take her to lunch to discuss a surprise party for Mike. She will definitely show up – rich people love parties! Order wine. Duh.
Here’s your script:
“Muffie, I don’t know you all that well but I do know Mike and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t pick a terrible person for a life partner. Unfortunately, I don’t think you understand how you come across to other people. While it is certainly interesting that your great-grandfather raped the land and enslaved an entire generation of workers to a pittance wage, people here don’t care about such things.
“When you brag about your family’s money and influence, you give the impression that you think your background makes you better than everyone else in the room. This alienates people and honestly makes them not like you. I don’t know what your friends are like in NYC but that attitude will not win you friends in this town.
“My assumption is that you are a nice person who is very uncomfortable is social settings because you don’t know anyone here. My wife and I want to get to know you better but in order for us to do that, we need you to drop the pretension and go deeper in our conversations so we can really learn who you are as a human being, not an heir.”
Hopefully she takes this well and doesn’t throw the (now quite empty) wine bottle at you. Now we move to Part II:
II. The Part Where You Use Subtle Conversational Prompts to Shut Muffie Down.
After your lunch with Muffie, she gets three more chances. Hopefully that talk does the trick, but if not you can gently nudge the conversation in an alternative direction when she starts to wax poetic about parties in the Hamptons and complaining about the lack of a Bergdorf’s in your city. For example:
“Did I tell you I went to P-Diddy’s White Party last year? All the people that matter were there, and the next day we played polo on the field named after my father. We are renting a mansion there next summer and I’d invite you but I’m not sure you have the right clothes. Tell me again what your father does for a living?”
“While I’m not surprised you would attend something called a ‘White Party,’ I am impressed that you deign to socialize with a black man. How very progressive of you! Polo at the Lazy Lucky Bastard Jr. Field must have been fun for you, although I pity the horse that had to carry the weight of both you and your misplaced yet enormous ego.
“Thank you for the invitation but we are spending next summer in the beautiful city of Salem, right next to the prison. My father? He resides there. ‘Nuff said, am I right?
“Have you noticed the new quarter carat diamond ring I bought my wife? Nice upgrade, no?”
If your efforts to dissuade Muffie from bragging don’t work, we go to Part 3, which answers the only question you really asked of me. Sorry, but I needed more than two dozen words for today’s blog.
III. The Part Where you Tell Mike you Hate his Wife.
This is easy, because men don’t tend to have deep conversations and aren’t as easily offended as women. Sometimes I really wish I had a penis.
Take him out for a drink, tell him you have really tried to get along with his wife, point out specific examples of her behavior that you just can’t deal with and express your hopes that you can still get together with him on your own (perhaps while Muffie is on her monthly shopping trips to NYC?).
Then slap him on the back, wish him luck and give him a referral for a good divorce lawyer because I suspect he may need it someday.