Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Bad Things Happen to Ok-ish People

I try not to be a hater. I think a lot of shitty people just lack awareness about how their behavior affects others.

I've probably talked before about the one woman I really can't stand here in Podunkville. DH and I affectionately (privately) call her Skeletor, because she looks, well, skeletal. More on that later. Skeletor is the wife of one of DH's business partners, who I call Bill Clinton, because he is one of those guys who just oozes sleaze - I don't know how else to describe it. He has never done anything inappropriate in front of me, but trust me, the name works.

Anyway, Skeletor and Bill Clinton moved here 5 years before us, and actually helped convince us to move here. Skeletor warned me that she had been unhappy here initially, because she had a hard time finding a best friend, and she missed the shopping opportunities of a bigger city. She is only 2 years older than me, and her youngest child is only 22 months older than DS, and actually when we first met I thought she was ok. So, given her history here, I assumed she would get that a new person like myself might appreciate the occasional phone call or invitation to play at the park, or even just some friendly advice about things to do here with kids, when we first moved here almost 2 years ago. Nope. I was always the one who had to call and eventually I stopped trying. She never lifted a finger to help me fit in. Familiarity turned to contempt. Luckily, DH's older partners' wives took me under their wings, and did all the things a well-adjusted person would do to welcome folks to their new lives in the middle of nowhere.

Small town life really shows you a person's true character - that is, if you believe the gossip. And there was and is plenty to go around about Skeletor. Things like "OMG, Becky, Skeletor hangs around with this one woman who is like her only friend, who dresses like a total slut, she has breast implants," etc, plus the ones I've personally witnessed where she says things that make other people feel bad like "the high school play was horrible" to the kid with the lead role's mother. Oddly, Bill Clinton is a very well-liked guy, but a few people have seen how he really is. DH is one who has seen Bill Clinton's true colors, and has had to explain to me the concept of "guy code" as the reason why Skeletor needs to continue not knowing certain things about her husband's extracurricular activities. But the whole town knows. Yeah, life here is like high school.

Then Skeletor went and joined my shitty book club a few months back - the one that I am in the middle of quitting, to beat that poor dead horse yet again. It was awkward because once she realized I had been invited to be a member by some of her own friends she had never introduced me to (and who had been trying to keep her out sadly enough) somehow that raised my esteem in her eyes. And she started calling and asking me to do things, way out of left field. By that point DH had decided that any friendship between me and Skeletor would just inherently be a bad thing given all of the carnal knowledge I had of Bill Clinton's deceit, so he said to me "Hush, I never tell you what to do, right? Well I'm telling you now so you'd better hear me: don't be friends with Skeletor!!!" So I didn't - and it was easy because clearly I never got along with her anyway.

Now I feel bad. Because it has finally come out that Skeletor's family including Bill Clinton just did a full-blown intervention on her and sent her to an in-patient program to help her through her exercise anorexia, which she has apparently been grappling with for ages. So I guess mom was right: be nice to everyone, you don't know what they're going through. And when you live in a small town, never take the gossip bait.

I really don't know where I was going with this post. It has just been on my mind as I think about why we are where we are and what that all means. What do you think?


mom2boy said... much to say on someone else's anonymous blog. Her anorexia doesn't excuse her rude behavior. Everyone deals with their own shit but I have no patience for people who are just rude. I don't need in your face falsity - but a simple Hi, how are you would you like to join my friends and me (as you are new and I am exquisitely aware of this fact) for lunch one time as an ice breaker, wouldn't kill anyone even if all they ate for days was lettuce and mustard.

Jac said...

I am naturally a bitchy, judgemental person and I have been working really hard over the past year to try to change that. This post reminded me exactly why. I guess you just never know the shit people are dealing with in their life.

I'm not a psychologist but it seems to me that there is a direct correlation between the husband's "extra-curricular activities" and the wife's anorexia. This woman is clearly in pain. Maybe she didn't want to be friends because she didn't want anyone getting a glimpse into her real life. Or she knew that your hubby knew about Bill Clinton's affairs, and she was embarrassed to be around you.

My ex-BFF (the emotional vampire) was a major gossiper. And I totally bought into it and we had lots of awesome little catty conversations about everyone, but I really began to dislike myself for it and it began to feel like the only time we were laughing was at someone else's expense. So, part of my work this past year has been to try to assume the best of everyone, rather than the worst. It's not easy, and I am still fairly bitchy and judgemental, but I am slowly becoming more self-aware about it and more forgiving of others.

There's a great Buddhist philosophy that you should treat everyone you meet with compassion, as though that person were dying. Because they are: from the moment we are born we are all dying.

I also think it's much easier on me to feel sorry for other people, rather than to be angry or resentful of other people.

Cloud said...

I don't think you should feel bad. You weren't mean. You didn't stab her in the back. You just didn't "click".

I agree that her exercise problem is probably linked in some way to her husband's infidelity. Who knows which came first? But wow, what a mess now.

In your shoes, I'd probably try to be a little nicer than I had to be on the surface, but not force a connection that is not there. And I'd focus on the relationship that really matters- your relationship with your husband.

hush said...

@mom2boy - So true. I can't abide rudeness either, and am sure her health issues are no excuse. Your comment really made me feel validated, thank you.

@Jac - I've always said it is easy to be friends with someone who dislikes the same things & people you do. There is an odd appeal about someone who "gets it," and has a really sharp wit about her opinions... but it can easily go too far and become ugly. And make you wonder if she is also gossiping about you from time to time. Love that Buddhist philosophy, thank you for that.

@Cloud - Great advice as usual - it is always good to be nice. Today we start marriage counseling, so I will definitely focus on the relationship that really matters to me. More on that in a forthcoming post.

caramama said...

Yeowza! That's a tough situation. Too bad that she's had issues, but what can you do. As @mom2boy says, it still doesn't justify rude behavior.

I also think your mom was right. Don't you hate it when that happens?