Due to the volume of responses I receive, I am unable to...um, not really. I'm sure I'll have more than enough time to mull over your question.

Today's Column: Is there a cure for toxic neighbors?

 

Dear Chloe,

I am having a terrible time dealing with a "friend" of mine who has made it painfully clear that she is extremely envious of me and just seething with bitter resentment. I know this by her mean-spirited comments, screwed-up facial expressions and tone of voice. I have known this woman for 4 years and our children are great friends. At first I thought she was my friend and I would try to ignore the (now) obvious hostility she felt, as I couldn't believe a friend could really mean to be so cruel, but after so much of it, I can no longer try to excuse her behavior.

A big problem is that she attacks me in such sneaky ways that it is hard to call her on it. Here are some examples of what she says to me and it's almost always in front of a group of mutual friends:

"You have your a/c on? (like I'm very strange) Doesn't your house stay cool without it? Mine does." (She doesn't have a/c.) "Look how she's(me) sweating, it's not THAT hot, you need to turn off that a/c so you can deal with a little heat." "She MAKES her POOR CHILDREN walk ALL THE WAY HOME in this heat while she sits in her a/c house" "Some of us pick up our children from school" and many more similar digs, all with a smile on her face, like it is funny to imply I am a bad mother, or how stange I am. She even asked my son, who was carrying a small box home one day: "Do you have to walk all the way home carrying that?", like she felt so sorry for him. We live very close to the school, where many children walk, this woman lives too far away to even have this option. I have never heard her make similar comments to anyone else with a/c or who also lives close to the school and lets their kids walk, too.

She is also very envious of the time my husband spends with me and our children, and will question him why he's not at work when he has arranged his schedule to be with his family for something, to somehow make him defend a good thing like putting his family first, and defend why he's not at work instead. Her husband rarely spends any time with her and their children. My husband enjoys spending time and playing with our kids and their friends, and has even entertained all the kids at her child's birthday party. Instead of praising him, she found ways of poking fun at him, and never so much as a thank you from her. When she heard my kids excited about the playhouse we just had built for them, she said "You mean you had a handyman build it, why didn't your husband build it?"

I work part-time, she does not. When I first got the job and was very excited about it, she tried her darndest to try to ruin it for me. When that didn't work, she then asked me not to tell her husband or he will want her to work too. In all honesty, I took a job for self- fulfillment, since my husband makes good money, and to keep busy while the kids are in school. She is constantly complaining about not having any money, the house needing repairs, etc. This should inspire her to work. Apparently she compares herself to me in every way. She even questions her kids about what my kids bring for lunch. Pretty scary.

I like to volunteer at the school whenever I can, but do not have trouble saying no sometimes. She volunteers often, but does nothing but complain about it, so I think it really angers her that I say yes when I want, and no when I want. She will constantly make remarks in front of others how she helped out for something that I didn't, and ask "Where were you? SOME of us help out." She even pointed her finger at me from 3 rows ahead at a school meeting, when volunteering was being discussed, like I don't help out at all. Like before, I have never heard her make similar comments to anyone else who doesn't volunteer for everything, and even those who never volunteer.

At the local town pool, she would charge over to me, if I sat with a book in another area, (and didn't sit near her and her clique) and loudly say how "THEY all wonder why I sit all by myself" (implying I'm anti-social and pathetic) and how "You CAN join us." Or, things like "I guess she thinks she's better than we are" etc. If I did sit with them, I was subjected to the endless complaints and gossip, in addition to her attacks and then having her say things like "Look who's joining us today" or "Am I allowed to sit with you, today?", making sure I felt as uncomfortable when sitting with them as when I didn't. She would comment on my bathing suit and point out how it is two-piece (I work out, she does not), say "look how tan she is, she's gonna wrinkle like a prune." She even would ask "What kind of mother puts their children in white?" if my kids were wearing a white t-shirt. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. It got to the point where I would drive further away to other lakes and waterparks just for some peace, which my kids enjoyed but they would also complain about wanting to see all their friends at the town pool. It's a shame that I have to choose between my children's happiness and my sanity.

She has even resorted to lying about her children, since she is also envious of my children as well, it seems. My sons are very outgoing and quite popular. Her boys are very nice and I am quite fond of them, but they are rather shy and passive. One of my son's good friends moved away recently and his name was brought up somehow, and she started saying how this child was such good friends with her son and was at his house all the time, etc. My son told me that they never even played together. This is beyond pathetic.

I recently had the bad timing of being at an intersection at the same time as this woman and 2 other mutual friends. They smiled and waved. I smiled and waved back. Later one of the other women in the car brought this incident up in front of a large group of women at a school function and asked if I saw them because they didn't see me wave. Of course, I did and told her so and she still said how she didn't see me. Then Mrs. Nasty said how I should wave more enthusiastically. She went on to tell me how they were coming back from lunching together (I never asked) and how next time they will invite me too. How kind of her. I have come to expect this stuff from Mrs. Nasty, but not also from a woman I have been friends with for years, who is now joining her.

My sister and husband have also noticed her obvious resentment of me. My sis was shocked when after bringing my children to a swimming lesson for me when I was sick, this woman could not even hide her rage over this. She angrily questioned my sis about why I wasn't there and looked quite disgusted that I had my sis available to help me out. She never showed any empathy for the fact that I was ill. Her disgust became even uglier when my sis told her how my kids would be visiting with their grandparents for a few days. She actually walked away seething and could not even hide it or even to pretend to be happy for my children. Unfortunaely, she does not have this kind of family support and closeness. If my husband was with the kids, he would see similar behavior from her.

I could go on with so much more, believe it or not. My point is that she is obviously in some sort of sick jealous torment and competition with me. I am a very nice and humble person, and just want to live my life, without having to hear her constant digs. I have in all honesty never done anything to her, and never rubbed my blessings in her face. I have always been very nice, and have just ignored her nonsense, figuring she would grow tired if I didn't play along and take her "bait." If I occasionally zinged her back, she would make it worse for me. And it was hard when no one would say anything to her in my defense. But unfortunately, she continues and it seems to be getting worse. It is quite hurtful as I have done nothing to her, other than have a happier life, I guess. What is even more frustrating and quite bizarre is that everyone seems to think she is just great. No one ever says anything to her when she makes these comments. In fact, people praise her and put her on some sort of pedestal. I just don't get it. There are many other(thankfully) nice people who do not feel the need to put others down, who do not get the praise she does. I can't even talk to another friend with out her name being brought up and how wonderful she is. Even among those whom she has insulted. Lately, a friend whom I have known for years who recently became friends with this woman who insults me, has been singing the nasty woman's praises in front of me all the time and even told her son once when she had to leave him that if he needs anything he has Mrs. "Nasty" there, even when I'm right there too. (the same woman who said she didn't see me wave) This friend couldn't make a class trip and knew that I would be chaperoning as well as my insulting friend. She again told me how she insisted with the teacher that her son be with Mrs. "Nasty" or she wouldn't allow him to go. Of course my nasty friend was eating this up, that my friend could be so rude to imply that I was not as good as the nasty one. It was very immature, insulting and hurtful and most uncalled for, as I am very nice to her and everyone's children.

I live in a very small town, where everyone knows everyone. Everyone I am friends with is also friends with her too, so I have no one to vent to. I am forced into being around her at school functions, scouts, birthday parties, play dates, etc. There is no avoiding her, or even talking with others instead of her, since everyone I know is also friends with her. If I avoid her, I am left standing alone. This I am sure would make her happy.

I also want to continue our children's friendship and not have a big confrontation. She would just deny it and take pleasure in my telling her how hurtful she is. She knows this already and I don't want to give her that satisfaction. I want her to just know that I know how envious she is of me and that she doesn't bother me and that I pity her instead. But I don't want to come right out and say it. Any suggestions?

Sorry for such a long letter, but it is cathartic for me to just put it all into words. Thank you so much for listening to me vent. I appreciate any word of wisdom you might have.

Sincerely,

J.

 

Dear J,

Well, I can see why she doesn't like you, Ms. Mary McPerfectson! Hee. Just kidding.

At first when I read your letter, I thought, "No one could be that mean-spirited and..." but then two-fifths of a second later I realized, "Oh, wait, in America, people have the dosh-garned right to be spiteful and malicious. And often for no apparent reasons!" Well, not apparent to you, possibly even not apparent to her.

I'm going to take your words at face value, that you truly haven't done anything to insult or offend her, at least nothing that does not exist in the Land of Imaginary Slights (LIS). Unfortunately, the LIS is very crowded, indeed. Quite frankly, she is just a miserable bitch on wheels. Is it any wonder that her husband doesn't spend any time with her? I don't think so.

Having said that, I must note that you claimed she is "extremely envious of me and just seething with bitter resentment", "she is also very envious of the time my husband spends with me and our children", "she is also envious of my children as well", and that you "pity her." Yada, yada, yada. Well, you're coming off as a wee bit smug, and you're also making a lot of assumptions. Since you've made it clear to me that you feel superior to this woman, and that your children are better than hers, it's likely clear to her as well. You might want to turn that down a notch. I'm just saying.

She may very well be jealous of you. Plus, she sounds @*^&%! nuts. I don't think there is anything you could do or say to her that would make any difference. And sure, it's distressing and irritating, but you are wasting entirely too much energy fretting over her. You are reacting exactly how this woman wants you to react. You MUST IGNORE HER. And that goes for her friends on The Dark Side, too. (What's up with those sheep? I can't figure it out myself.) Be civil and pleasant, but don't invite her to your home. Even though you live in a small town, I am sure you can avoid her, if you really tried. I have never had any problems not talking to someone I didn't want to deal with. You can, too, and you don't have to isolate yourself, either. Life is too short for this b.s.

If she makes those annoying comments at the pool, smile and courteously say "Thank you, but I wouldn't be very good company right now." Don't get snippy, don't lose your temper, the key is to maintain an agreeable demeanor because that will make you look good and her look not so good. If she starts questioning your husband or your kids, (um, what business is it of hers, exactly, that compels your husband to defend himself?) just have everyone say the same thing: "Why do you want to know?" You don't owe her any explanations. None. If she starts complaining about having no money, offer to help her find a job. I am sure she won't take you up on it. If she starts complaining about anything else, say, "What are you going to do about it?" That always shuts people up in a hurry. If you feel yourself getting rattled, take a few deep breaths and remember that she is INSANE. You cannot engage reason with an insane person. I've tried, and believe me, you can't win.

I am sorry to report that there are some people in this world who are bitter, unpleasant human beings and there isn't anything anyone can do about it. There are some people who are never going to like you, no matter what you do or don't do.

The only person who can remove the bowling-ball sized chip from her shoulder is she. Please, for your own sake, don't let her get to you. I know that's easy for me to say. Don't tell her you know she's envious, etc. and that she doesn't bother you because she so obviously does bother you and it probably shows. As much as I hate to use trite expressions, it's true that the best revenge is living well, and it seems you've made a pretty good job of it. Don't let her take that away, because that's what she's trying to do.

Hugs and kisses,

 


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Disclaimer: This column is for entertainment purposes only. I am not a professional therapist or licensed anything for that matter. But that doesn't mean that I don't care.

I reserve the right to edit for grammar, brevity, content, etc. If you'd like to discuss something you've seen here, I invite you to share your experiences.

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