Venting and tattling: when should I?

Dear Robin,

Yesterday, I was sitting in the waiting room of my car dealership when my husband’s ex walked in. She was there to get her new car serviced. We were the only people in the room. The reason this matters is because we pay her $63,000 a year in permanent alimony. She does not work even though she was also paid $20,000 in rehabilitation alimony “to finish her education up to a Master’s degree.” She purchases a new car every 3-4 years and refers to my husband as her “annuity.” 

In addition, she has not changed her last name even though both daughters were adults when they divorced and have since married and changed their last names.

Here is the question: She and I did not say a word to each other. I have been stewing about it ever since. I wish I had said something to her that could shame her or make her uncomfortable. Do you have any suggestions? Or is she just an entitled, worthless, and parasitic human being who will burn in hell someday?

Feeling Used and Abused,

Tampa, Florida

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Dear FUA from Tampa:

The subject of public shaming and calling people out on their shitty selves has long been a subject of hot debate in my household.  My husband Tom is a very circumspect and discreet man, and he has admonished me on several occasions when I am tempted to lash out at someone who has done me wrong or who is violating the social code in some way. 

Tom once buried his head in his hands in shame and embarrassment when I took the microphone at a charity auction and lambasted the auctioneer for a lousy thing he had done to me at the previous year’s action.  Tom was slightly relieved when the sound guy managed to cut the power to the mic, but let’s just say he wasn’t amused.

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 What?  This isn’t about me?  Whoops, sorry!  Back to you…

Part of me (a big part, my ass maybe?) wants to feed you a line to deliver to this bitch the next time you see her.  For example: “It’s weird that you want to share a name with my husband when you haven’t shared a bed with him for years,” or “It must be nice driving a fancy new car around as you do nothing all day,” or “I hear you refer to my husband as your annuity, would you like to know what he calls you?”  If you prefer to send something in the mail, may I suggest a copy of Britney Spears’ new album titled “Work Bitch?”

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The problem is I don’t really think you will get any satisfaction from making those types of statements.  If this woman is truly never intending to support herself and believes that she is entitled to being taken care of like a child for the rest of her life, she cannot be shamed or made uncomfortable, which you stated was your goal. 

In addition, you mention that there are grown children in the equation.  Take it from someone who knows – if these kids have a good relationship with their mom and you publically disparage her, it can have unintended ramifications for your relationship with them and in turn your relationship with your husband.  Specifically, if they think you are a See You Next Tuesday and if decide they don’t want to be around you anymore, it is your husband who will suffer due to your actions, not his ex-wife, especially once grandchildren come into the picture.

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My advice to you is to smile, wave and even approach her for small talk should you run into her again.  Which do you think is going to piss her off more: you being obnoxious and angry, or you acting as if you are above her affecting your life?  I’m betting the latter.

Finally, while I understand how annoying it must be to have this woman running around with your husband’s last name, remember that she lived with that name for many years, and changing your last name isn’t always easy, even when you sit around and eat Bon Bons all day.  You’d have to get a new credit card to pay for the Bon Bons, change your driver’s license to legally get to the store to buy the Bon Bons, etc.

One of the hardest things to do in life is to put yourself in the shoes of someone whom you despise, but this is a situation in which doing that might give you some peace.  After all, she may have a new car, and she may get $63,000 a year from your husband whose name she clings to, but guess what?  You can’t snuggle up to a car at night (unless you are willing to sleep in the garage), and money is a poor substitute for love and affection – something you enjoy with your husband and she does not. 

It’s almost enough to feel sorry for her, isn’t it?  Let go of the anger and you will find an even deeper appreciation for your life and husband than you now know.  

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-Robin

 P.S. As to your final question, I don’t believe in heaven or hell, so I can’t comment.  Please refer to your spiritual advisor.

 Dear Robin:

 I live in a fairly small city and have been socializing with the same group of friends since high school and college (I am 43).  Last year, one of my friends told me that another woman in our group, “Sally,” was trash talking me at a soccer game.  My understanding is that she was criticizing how much I work (she said I wasn’t a good mom to my two kids) and that she thought I had a thing for her husband (I don’t).

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About a year has gone by since I heard this, and I have said nothing.  Secretly, however, I have been pretty angry with her, and my husband and I have been doing our best to avoid her and her husband.  I also haven’t heard from her in several months, which proves that she has an issue with me.  The thing that gets me is I thought we were really good friends and very close, and I am hurt about what she said.  I miss her.

 Here’s my problem: there has been a rumor going around town that her husband is cheating on her with a co-worker.  This is not his first affair, but the word is that this one is pretty serious and has been going on for months.  Apparently many people have seen them in places where they shouldn’t be, looking pretty chummy.  I don’t know if Sally has heard the rumors, but it seems like everyone else has. 

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Last week, I had to travel to Seattle for a business tr
ip and I saw her husband and his co-worker
embracing in the hotel lobby in a very non-businesslike manner.  I don’t think he saw me, because I ducked into the elevator lobby as fast as I could.

Robin, this woman used to be a good friend of mine.  My husband and I are arguing now, because I want to tell Sally about the affair and he says I should stay out of it.  What do you think?  Should I tell my friend her husband is making a fool out of her and everyone knows it?  I just want her to be happy and to have all the facts.

 -Perplexed in Portland

Dear Perplexed:

First, I’d like to say I’m sorry to hear about your troubled friendship with Sally.  It’s too bad that you let an entire year go by without talking to her and finding out what was said and why.  If I had a dollar for every time I heard a bullshit piece of gossip that didn’t even flirt with the truth, I wouldn’t have to work ever again. 

Perhaps the friend who was so generous as to share the information with you got it wrong.  Perhaps she was pissed at Sally for some reason – you say this happened at a soccer game, so maybe Sally forgot to bring the orange wedges and it wasn’t the first time.  Frankly, I always wonder about those who gleefully share with you when it can only hurt your feelings. 

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Ask yourself: who was served by sharing Sally’s alleged comments with you?  You?  No.  It just made you feel bad and caused you to lose a year of friendship with someone you care about.  Sally?  No.  It just made her look like a judgmental jerk with paranoid tendencies and jealousy issues.   

Only this woman got something out of it.  She sounds awful – avoid her at all costs from this point forward or I predict you may have this sort of problem again.  You need the DesCamp Acquaintance Avoidance System™ so I will send that to you by email. 

Of course, the major issue in your letter is the ethical pickle you find yourself in.  Do you tell your friend her husband is cheating on her, or do you follow your man’s advice and say nothing? 

T.S. Eliot once said, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”  I know, I know, I’m fancy!

And so my question for you is this: what is your true motivation and what is your true goal?  You have described a situation in which you have been angry with someone for a year over something you aren’t even sure they said.  As I discussed in a previous column, if there is an issue with a truly dear friend, we owe it to them to bring it into the light so it can be addressed.  You didn’t do that, which makes me think maybe you weren’t quite the good friends you claim to have been before your falling out.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that your real motivation for sharing information with Sally about her horndog husband is a grudge you have been nursing for a year.  And that, my friend, is truly fucked up.  Pardon my French.  Or not.

What Sally needs from you is not for you to run and tattle on her husband regarding an affair that you think he might be having (and of which, given his apparent indiscretion, she may already be aware).  It sounds to me like Sally could use a friend.  If you truly care about her, call her up and take her to lunch.  Order wine and download.  Tell her why you have stepped back from the friendship and see what she says.

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If you are satisfied with her response, I’d suggest trying to become more involved in her life and giving her a shoulder to lean on during the inevitable shit storm coming down the road.

In the meantime, give her husband a call.  Tell him what you have seen and heard, and let him know he is the talk of the town.  Hopefully that information will help him to decide whether to end the affair or end the marriage.  Either way, your friend Sally is better off if the situation is resolved sooner than later.  But I don’t think it is your place to spill the beans, especially given my reservations about your motivation.  You call it looking out for a friend.  I call it payback.

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 Dear Robin:

A few years ago I fell in love with a married co-worker (Cedrick) while we were engaged in a project together.  I was married too.  After a few weeks of our affair, I began to wonder if he was really going to leave his wife (pregnant with their second child) for me.  I promised him I would leave my husband, and went so far as to tell my husband the marriage was over.  Cedrick was stalling, so I made sure his wife found out.

Long story short: his wife kicked him out and we got married.  We are seriously the happiest couple in the world and I know he loves me more than he ever loved her.  His two kids love me like a mom, and my life would be perfect except for one thing: his stupid ex-wife. 

We are pretty well known in our town, and Cedrick’s ex-wife has been playing the victim since she found out about our affair.  She is still angry about it, and sometimes she fires off tweets about me that are mean.  I tweet too, but only in response to her.

My career has really suffered since I hooked up with Cedrick, and he doesn’t seem interested in working.  I am pretty wealthy, but he is spending my money hand over fist.

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 Robin, what can I do to get this woman off my back and stop playing the victim?

 -LARC in L.A.

 Dear LARC:

Let me get this straight.  You screwed another woman’s husband while you were both married and his wife was pregnant, you made sure she found out, he left her for you only after she dumped him, and you are convinced that you are the happiest couple in the world.  On top of that, you want her to shut her pie hole.

Have I got that about right?

Sorry honey, I’m Team First Wife on this one.  When he cheats on you and subsequently leaves you for the next hot piece of ass that comes his way, maybe you will understand why the mother of your husband’s children has some negative feelings towards you.  Until then, lay low, stop braying about how wonderful your relationship is (methinks you doth protest too much!) and keep your claws out of those kids.  You say they love you like a mom, but you’re delusional.  Kids don’t appreciate the New Wife knocking Mom, so cut it out.

Also, your last album sucked.

-Robin