The first thing I want to say is I hate myself for feeling the way I do, which is why I am even writing you. I went to college with a woman I’ll call Beth. Beth actually never finished school (she wasn’t all that bright) and she got pregnant at 21 and married the father. Two more kids followed pretty quickly.
19 years later, she and the father have divorced and she has remarried a much-older and very wealthy man. She and I are members of the same tennis team (although she plays more than I do because of my hectic work schedule) so I see her fairly often.
What’s bugging me lately is her bragging about her wealth in both direct and non-direct ways. What I mean by non-direct is she comes to play tennis literally dripping in very expensive jewelry. She takes the “tennis bracelet” to a whole new level.
She’s also constantly putting things on Facebook about her vacations, her new home in the desert and her “amazing, wonderful, generous hubby!” She posts a lot of these things directly on my wall, which I really don’t understand.
I know I shouldn’t be jealous, but I am. My husband and I do OK, but we can’t afford fancy vacations and jewelry. Why can’t I ignore this woman and figure out how to let this stuff go so it doesn’t bother me?
Dear Penny (and compared to her, it sounds like that’s about all you got!):
You aren’t jealous, you are envious. Sorry, but I’m picky that way. WORDS MATTER!
Thank you for letting me share our email exchange with our readers, which I will summarize thusly:
1. You and your husband have a very happy marriage and she does not (according to those who know her well, despite her constant crowing about how great it is);
2. You have a challenging and rewarding career (as does your husband), two kids who are almost grown and a nice circle of friends to spend time with, while she is estranged from her children and spends most of her time with people 25 years older than her and who don’t seem to enjoy her company;
3. Speaking of your career, you are a successful doctor specializing in pediatric cancer research. Um, wow?
4. You were raised poor. You are not poor now, but you carry with you the frugality that comes with growing up in a home in which there was never enough money.
5. Even though you aren’t very good friends, Beth goes out of her way to show off her wealth (purchased with her snatch) to you – more so than she does to others. You said she called you last week to get your opinion on where to stay in Paris this summer, even though you are pretty sure you mentioned at practice a couple weeks ago you have never been.
Ugh – I hate this woman.
OK, Penny, I think I’ve got this whole thing figured out. Have you ever considered that Beth may be envious of you? Doesn’t it seem kind of obvious?
Beth has things that can be purchased. You have a life that is a result of your hard work, determination and persistence and which is filled with love.
Beth has a husband whom she openly mocks to her friends and on whom she cheats on a fairly regular basis. You have a life partner and best friend who still thinks you are funny and smart and hot. You guys still laugh together every day and are planning your retirement about 7 years earlier than the average American.
Your family is close and your kids are well-adjusted. Beth left her kids behind to party after the divorce and chase this older, wealthy man. As a result, they hate her.
Life doesn’t have to be lived in competition with others, but some people insist on doing just that. Usually it’s because they don’t feel very good about their lives. Walking around feeling like a gold-digging loser whose kids don’t like her must feel pretty awful, so Beth concocts little competitions that only she can win because they are based solely upon money.
How can you avoid feeling envious of her money? Simple. Ask yourself this very basic question: would I trade my life for hers? You already know the answer.
The other day I was feeling pretty down, which is weird because honestly my life is in the best shape now than it ever has been. I couldn’t figure out why I was so depressed, so I did what I used to do and engaged in some retail therapy.
(I know, I know, they look a lot like another pair I have, but I got them on sale on eBay!)
As it turns out, the few days of Bummerdom were brought on my my lady bits, so everything is fine. But what was really interesting to me is I waited with great anticipation for my boots to arrive, and when they did, I was SO EXCITED AND HAPPY!
For about 60 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong: these are smoking hot and I love them, but it took another day of working through my cycle and some especially intense exercise to get my good mood back. The boots, sexy though they surely are, did nothing for me.
I feel a little bit sorry for Beth. She’s obnoxious and repugnant, but with all the things she has, she has nothing. You should assume that the reason she rubs your particular nose in her (husband’s) wealth is because she is tortured by the good life you are living.
As for advice on how to deal with Beth, here are some suggestions:
1. The next time she waves her money in your face (I assume she only does this figuratively), do a verbal slap-away. Make sure lots of people are around. Here’s how I picture it:
Beth: “Penny, did you see the new ring Rupert bought me? Check it out – it’s 3 carats!”
You: “Wow! I’m curious, though: does that ring make up for living in a loveless marriage replete with infidelity and unhappiness?”
If you don’t want to be so direct, you could try humor. For example:
Beth: “Hey everyone, did I tell you Rupert and I are going to Italy for a month this summer? He has such amazing connections and we are going to get an audience with the Pope!”
You: “Are you going to confess about your special ‘private’ lesson you had with the golf pro last week? Tee hee hee, just kidding!”
If she literally waves her money in your face, do a real slap-away. Or grab the cash and run – that’s what I’d do.
Regarding Facebook, that’s pretty easy. Just set your privacy settings so that nobody else can post things on your wall. Then go to her profile and click “I don’t want to see posts from this asshole anymore” or whatever it is you have to do. If you aren’t sure, ask most of my “friends” on Facebook, I’m sure they could tell you.
If she asks you why you don’t let her post things on your wall anymore, you can tell her that you were starting to feel like all her posts were a cry for help, and you began to feel she might be embarrassing herself quite publicly.
Penny, you are living the dream. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Remember that the next time you feel a twinge of envy over Beth’s latest acquisition. These “gifts” she brags of come at a very high price, because when you marry for money, you earn every penny.
Love your life, Penny, it’s a good one!