September 16, 2015
I have an acquaintance, let’s call her “Madame X,” that I know mostly via her kids, who hang out at my house along with a bunch of other youngsters (I play “surrogate auntie” for a little circle of kiddos). I am crazy about her kids but this mom’s got some real problems, all coming from what I see as her need to get attention. Listing her stunts would take all afternoon, but gossip is the worst. If she doesn’t “have” something, she’ll make it up and some of it is very damaging. The worst gossip she’s spreading is in regards to one of her kids’ friends, a young lady named Beth who I have been mentoring for years and who is an outstanding young person: talented, beautiful, funny, modest, works hard, has good manners, volunteers at church and school, etc. She’s a great kid and honest as the day is long ... maybe longer. Well, Madame X started telling me all kinds of stories about Beth, how she was stealing from the other kids, how “so-and-so won’t allow Beth in the house anymore,” that Beth was drinking up some other parents’ liquor cabinet during a sleepover (this kid won’t even taste a little champagne or beer when we offer), and blah blah blah, including some incredible stories about Beth’s parents being “much too touchy-feely with the kids.” I know Beth’s family well and know all of this to be BS. Some stuff Madame X has said about ME has gotten back to me and it was also fabrication.
I am on the fence about giving Beth’s family a heads up that this woman is NOT their friend and to be wary of her. Aside from avoiding Madame X as much as possible, should I tell Beth’s family about the stories this mom is telling? They could potentially damage the reputation of a lovely youngster.
Get off the fence. I would definitely tell Beth’s family, but before that I would start with Madame X (by the way, nice pseudonym). It’s actually illegal to go around making up and spreading lies about people. It’s called libel, and it’s a tort (not the good kind with chocolate ganache and crushed hazelnuts). And while I’m not technically a lawyer, I do believe you can face a firing squad for this.
If Madame X is indeed spreading malicious lies about a child, I would let her know that you are on to her and if she doesn’t quit it, your brother-in-law, the district attorney (I always keep a fake DA relative in my back pocket for times like these), will perpetrate action! Seriously, she needs to be stopped. But you also need to be absolutely certain. Confront her and make sure you’ve got the facts straight, then go to Beth’s parents. They should take the action—you know, throwing her up against a chain link fence and telling her if she ever opens her mouth about their daughter again…. Ah, well, they can say what they want. But it’s absolutely a situation that needs to be addressed.
My friend and I have been trying to get dinner on the calendar for over a month. We finally settled on a date but then IMMEDIATELY after we made the plans she texted me saying, “On second thought, I’m trying to not spend money on dinners out so would you be OK if I just sat with you while you ate?” I didn’t respond for a day because I was shocked. We’ve been making plans for a month! The next day I replied, “Dinner is on me.” (On me, the single mother with two kids who can barely afford groceries some weeks.) She said, “Oh thanks! See you then.” I cancelled the night before our dinner because my ass has been handed to me this week and to be honest, I’d rather not spend my money on someone I’m annoyed with. Am I in the wrong here?
Dinner for None
Why didn’t you want to have dinner with her watching you? That sounds like a good time to me! And though I don’t eat meat, I’d definitely make an exception here with a nice cut of filet mignon, or maybe the meat they serve for 20—what is it, chateaubriand? But I’d eat the whole thing. Plus an entire bottle of wine, appetizer, some decadent dessert, perhaps an aperitif … I know, I know, it’s not my fantasy, it’s your question (though I changed my mind, I can’t eat meat—let’s make it a lobster roll).
OKAY. I’m assuming this is a friend you want to keep and that she’s not a total yutz. I imagine she’s going to contact you again and I’d be straight and tell her that what she did, did not sit well with you. Not the part where she wanted to save money on dinners, god knows we have all been that strapped. But how she did it. There’s no way that between the time she made the date with you and her next text that her stock options dropped; she knew this enough in advance to make a suitable plan—like meet for coffee or just take a walk together.
I give you big props for cancelling though. A lot of people would sit there stewing and spending the money. But it’s very important to let our friends know when our feelings are hurt by their actions, because festering. Maybe she just panicked, but she still needs to apologize.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: firstname.lastname@example.org. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.