I’ve read your blog since the beginning and I love your philosophy on breaking away from toxic friendships regardless of how long you’ve been friends with someone.
I have a little twist on that and a question for you: About 8 months ago I finally withdrew completely from a woman (Carrie) I have known since I was in college. Over the years she had grown increasingly bitter and angry and honestly we have very little in common anymore.
I slowly pulled away and that seemed fine. No problems, or so I thought.
Last week a mutual friend (Allison) came to me and told me Carrie had said some pretty awful things about me and she thought I should be aware these things were being said. What shocked me most was that Carrie has been gossiping about me for a long time, not just since I “pulled away.”
Allison then gave me the names of a couple of others who could and did confirm Carrie’s behavior. Here’s my question:
Why are women so mean? And should I confront her?
That’s not one question; that’s two. I’m afraid I’ll have to charge you double today. Please send a letter of complaint to your 1st grade math teacher.
Let’s start with the easy one first:
Why are women so mean?
I’ve been exploring this issue for years and finally stumbled upon a study* that explains why women are so terrible to each other. It’s not our fault: it’s in our DNA!
Back in the old old olden days, women outnumbered men because men were often killed in the hunt. Women enjoyed the gathering of nuts and berries, cooking, child-rearing and basket-making duties, none of which was terribly dangerous unless you were killed by a lion in your search for food or suffered a bizarre weaving accident.
Because women outnumbered men, competition was fierce for partners, especially if a woman lost a partner and had children. She now needed a man to bring fresh kill to the table for her and her children, not to mention give her the old Flintstone in her Wilma once in a while.
While men would battle other men when competition arose between them, women could not fight due to lack of strength and general female decorum. This stuff mattered, even back in the caveman days!
Therefore, women developed, mastered, and implemented the art of the Snipe: eliminating competition via character assassination. When done properly, not only does the Snipe make the target less attractive to men, but it alienates her from the other females, making her more susceptible to the challenges of life before Pinot, Pilates, and and Pitch Parties.
Women in Groups are especially vicious.
While some evolved women have been able to extract this characteristic from their DNA and throw it in the garbage where it belongs, many have not. That’s how you end up with Carrie and the millions of others like her and like me, prior to my Robin Reformation.
Should I confront Carrie?
My advice is based squarely upon what is being said about you, to whom, and whether you think it could affect your life in a negative manner.
Let me explain by exploring two examples:
1. Dangerous gossip
Carrie is telling anyone and everyone who will listen that you are cheating on your husband and embezzling money from work (you aren’t).
Dangerous gossip needs to be confronted. If you think what she is saying has the possibility to harm your reputation and cause problems for you, confrontation in an intelligent manner is appropriate.
Since you and Carrie never had a blowup, you may be able to talk her into getting together for coffee or a drink. I don’t suggest lunch because it takes too long and besides, she’s lunching with the ladies anyway.
Here’s your script:
Carrie, I think you would admit we have grown apart over the years and really don’t see each other anymore. I think that’s a natural part of life and I would never wish anything but the best for you.
However, several people have come forward and shared with me some disturbing things you have alleged. I don’t want to litigate whether or not you said them but I will tell you many people have exactly the same stories so I tend to believe it’s true.
I’d like you to keep in mind all the good times we shared over the years and ask you to stop your campaign against me. I am happily married and love my job and I don’t want those two things threatened because you aren’t happy with me right now.
Can you commit to me today that you won’t gossip about me anymore? While I have yet to partake in that sort of behavior I will make the same commitment to you.
2. Harmless but still hurtful gossip
Carrie is mocking you in a derisive way in front of others and ridiculing your life choices, including your career, husband, and dog.
Let it go and play my favorite game of “Scoreboard.”
Scoreboard is a fun way to remember how fortunate you are whilst simultaneously coming to an understanding of why you are a target of people like Carrie.
You are in a very happy marriage. Carrie isn’t. 10 points!
Your career is on fire. Carrie hasn’t worked since the 80s when she manned a coffee kiosk at the mall. 5 points!
You enjoy several solid relationships with really great friends from all walks of life. Carrie has been living in the movie Groundhog Day for 20 years: the same people, the same parties, the same shit, different days. 7 points!
Your dog just saved a baby from a house fire. Carrie has a cat. Cats are evil, therefore Carrie is evil. 5 points!
If life is a game made up of winners and losers, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who is whom in this scenario.
As for which approach you should take, unfortunately you told me Carrie is engaging in both #1 and #2 types of gossip. Therefore, I’d employ method #1 and while you’re at it, ask her what she has against your dog.
In closing, I would love to hear from you women in the comments.
What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever done to a former girlfriend? What’s the meanest thing a former girlfriend has done to you? You can be anonymous, so sound off!
Here, I’ll start:
1. I told an ex-friend’s boyfriend she was cheating on him left and right and in-between. She was, but that wasn’t cool for me to divulge, especially since I knew he was cheating too. The funniest part? He didn’t care.
2. A former friend kept a favorite belonging of mine for a year and when I saw her wearing it on Facebook and asked very nicely that she return it, she doused it in what my dry cleaner estimated was at least a few ounces of perfume.
The friend knew I loved this belonging and yet didn’t return it until I asked for it back (I had no idea she had it) and even after three trips to the dry cleaner, it still stinks to high heaven.
Also, she hadn’t spoken to me in a year and put her family Christmas card, which I used to receive in the mail, in the bag with my ruined belonging. Ouch!
This was someone I really loved and wasn’t friends with anymore because I found out she was engaging in Gossips #1 and 2 about me and actually kind of hated me, all the while pretending to be my friend for some unknown reason.
That one hurt, so kudos to her for achieving her objective.
OK, I shared, now you do the same!
*I made this study up but I guarantee you I’m right.