Should I call out a friend on gossip-mongering on the number of sexual partner's I've had?
July 19, 2011 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Should I confront a friend about blabbing the number of sexual partner's I've had?

I made some foolish errors in telling a particular friend about my sex life. It was a few years ago, and to add to my stupid mistake, what I told her contained elaborated lies about myself.

Since then it's been realized (by me and by our other mutual friends in other circumstances) that she is incredibly big-mouthed and loves to spread gossip about a lot of people. She knows an incredible amount of people to begin with, and she is frequently telling very personal details about all of the friends, colleagues and acquaintances she deals with on regular basis.

I told her a fake number of the amount of people I've slept with. I gave her the real number + 8. I also lie-bragged to her that I "dabbled" in meeting a few men off of craigslist and having sex with them for money. A pretty stupid move, and hopefully it will read as a lie since the majority of real sex workers do not out themselves. This was about 3 years ago when I was 22 and going through a "I want to be a tough slut" phase. It would seem a bit silly to come out and say "HEY I WAS LYING". That would look like I'm trying to desperately cover my ass, which I want to do, but I'd rather do it cool and discreetly.

Now I am dealing with the embarrassing mistake of telling her this stupid lie. I went to a party about two months ago and ran into a guy who is kind of in our social circle who also happens to be an old friend of hers. He used to (maybe still does) like me, a lot, and has a history of being an emotional drunk. At said party, he confessed he really really liked me, and then proceeded to ask me how many people I've slept with. I said I wouldn't tell him. He then went ahead and guessed the exact number I had told my friend 3 years prior. I was also a little drunk at the time and didn't think to defend myself or react in a tactful way. I kind of just said "yeah, well, whatever" and the subject changed.

Now, I know I am entirely to blame for sharing such a self-destructive lie about myself. I've had some issues in the past with mental illness and attention seeking behavior, and have since made a big turn around in my life and behavior. I've really settled down and chilled out. I don't scream for attention in really stupid ways the way I used to in my early twenties. I now want to walk away and wash my hands clean of this mess, but find it difficult to do so since the friend in question knows almost everyone I know, as we work in the art scene in my city as do most of our friends.

Basically, I want to know how I should approach this friend without any real proof. What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is the exact number so odd that it couldn't have been a coincidence? I mean, was the number like 713? Cuz if not, and the number was 23, or 7, or 45....then I wouldn't really sweat that it was her.

Also...At said party, he confessed he really really liked me, and then proceeded to ask me how many people I've slept with.

WTF? That would not be my followup question after admitting I like someone.
posted by ian1977 at 3:47 PM on July 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

If he said the exact number you told your friend, and you told her that number 3 years ago, he can't possibly think you're a total slut, since presumably that would mean you hadn't slept with anyone new in 3 years.

OK, that probably doesn't make you feel better. Agreeing with ian1977 that it was totally inappropriate of the guy to ask you that, no matter what things he had heard about you.

I would deal with this by acting like you were joking when you told your friend your stats, and not like you were trying to look cool. Next time you see her, try to guide the conversation in a way that causes the sexual partners subject to come up again so she'll say something about it. At this point, you should respond, in a smiling, kidding-around manner, "what, you thought I was SERIOUS? HAHA! I just said all that to get a rise out of you, dude. Hope you didn't tell anyone!"

Unless, of course, you actually want to confront her about it and be honest, and tell her in no uncertain terms to STFU with regard to the gossip. It depends on your personality and your relationship with your friend to determine which method would be better for you.
posted by phunniemee at 3:56 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should not approach her - with or without proof! What is she going to do, go around and correct the record to everybody she'd previously blabbed to? Stop talking to people about your long-ago personal life? No, she will churn this into more drama. Far worse drama.

Distance yourself from her as much as you can. Anybody who knows her will probably know she has a big mouth, and anybody who knows you will probably know that you've settled down and chilled out.

If you like the guy that you talked to at the party, feel free to talk to Him the truth. But engaging big-mouthed woman will just lead to more drama. Just go on living your cool, chilled-out life, and no one will care what you did or didn't do back then.
posted by ldthomps at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

The best course of action would be to find all new friends - ones who won't repeat stupid stories you've told them about your personal life, ones who won't be as astonishingly inappropriate as to ask you how many sex partners you've had when anyone in the conversation is drunk or at a party, and ones who won't tempt you into continue the kind of drama that you've discussed here.

Confronting her, in any case, buys you nothing but more trouble.
posted by SMPA at 4:06 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also keep in mind it could be a coincidence. If someone told me that three years ago someone else had slept with 20 people, I wouldn't guess '20' today.
posted by Jairus at 4:10 PM on July 19, 2011

What would you hope to accomplish by confronting Ms Blabby, though? Do you want her to issue a blabby retraction on your behalf? Really, you should just cut this idiot out of your life any way you can and move on.

As for the drunk guy - it is pretty fucking creepy that he needs to judge you on that immediately after confessing his attraction to you.
posted by elizardbits at 4:12 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't confront her on it directly - if she's a gossiper, she'll use it against you somehow (regardless of whether she did blab or not).

Just know you can't talk to her about such things and leave it at that.

And, yeah, that dude has some issues himself.
posted by mleigh at 4:13 PM on July 19, 2011

What is the payoff you think you'll get if you bring it up to her?
posted by Lyn Never at 4:14 PM on July 19, 2011

Just let it be. Your real friends don't care how many people you've had sex with. They see you as you are now.
posted by mareli at 4:15 PM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

You could say something. Either to her or anyone that brings it up. But I would phrase it as "um, you did know that was a total joke and I was pulling your leg, didn't you?". Saves face for everyone.

But, probably, no one cares.

You don't need to ditch all your friends as suggested. Just live your life moving forward and that will disappear further into you past.
posted by Vaike at 4:21 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, the response you're likely to get if you confront her is that she gets defensive and pissed off at you (because she knows she shouldn't have done that, or she didn't do it and is steamed at having been accused of it) and spreads nasty rumors about you. I say leave it alone and definitely don't consider her a friend if she can't keep her mouth shut.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 4:21 PM on July 19, 2011

Can you prove her as wrong, since you gave her false information? That would solve the problem in a nicely karmic way.
posted by pla at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2011

Your friends are most likely just as aware of her blabber-mouthedness as you are. Be careful what you tell her going forward and ignore it.
posted by brownrd at 4:40 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! this is so easy! You're in the clear!!

- 3 years ago was the last time you talked about your sex life in any detail to this girl? NEVER SPEAK TO HER ABOUT IT AGAIN. DO NOT NOT ADDRESS HER BIG MOUTH WITH HER.

She's a drama addict. If you bring this up now, she is CERTAIN to rehash the new convo with everyone you know. Don't.

- This guy is a JERK for asking you that question. Hopefully he doesn't remember his question or the response well enough to repeat your private conversation to anyone else. Frankly, he should be ashamed of himself for asking that question and he owes you a BIG apology.

Basically, what he told you is that he likes you, but you are too "dirty" for him to either touch, take seriously in a relationship - or both. EWW. He's the gross one. Run.


You were never a sex worker, it didn't happen anyway. If it ever comes up again out of left field again, down play whatever experience you have had and demurely decline to give out such private information in detail.

This is no one's business but yours. Feel good about yourself in all ways, others will naturally see you that way, too.


I know it's a shock to find out this girl has betrayed your confidence, but nothing in your ask tells me that talking to her will do any good other than to put the spotlight back on something you already find embarrassing. Feel bad for her, her life must be sad. Never share secrets with her again.

Carry on.

(technically I was a sex worker for a few years (domme.) meh. I don't brag about it, but I don't hide it. this sort of thing is really not all that shocking or distasteful, anyway. ain't no thing. some of the smartest women (and men) I know have this in their past. some real fuck-ups, too, but mostly nice people. don't judge and don't let anyone's judgement of you matter. really.)
posted by jbenben at 4:41 PM on July 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

Don't bother. Without the confrontation, only you and she know whether she pulled some number out of her who-knows-where. You have nothing to gain from this. If people ask, I suppose there are a few possible answers which include things like, "That's none of your business," or "Isn't that kind of personal?" If someone repeats the rumor about the number they've heard, "Doesn't that seem kind of high to you?"

The only people entitled to this, arguably, are the people you decide to sleep with and, in most cases, you shouldn't dignify the question with a response.
posted by Hylas at 4:45 PM on July 19, 2011

Look, I definitely don't think less of you for sleeping with 713.3 guys off Craigslist, but I would think less of your friend for gossiping to me about it.

What about the anti-seductive rudester who asked you such an intrusive question in the belief that it would win your heart? Do you like him? Do you think you should?

Maybe take a step back and look at who's really in the wrong here. And if you want to stop gossip, never tattle on yourself. After all, who blabbed first?
posted by tel3path at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Was it Marilyn who said, "Those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind"?
posted by Anitanola at 4:53 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Man, I see no evidence in your post that your friend spread rumors about you, nor that your potential hookup was judging you on your hypothetical number. The only way this tempest in a teapot is going to do any damage to your life or your rep is if you keep freaking out about it. I mean, would you really think a lot less of somebody who'd had sex with yournumber+8 people, or who'd done a little sex work when they were younger? I wouldn't. It's not a big deal. Quit acting like it's a deep dark secret you have to hide. It's not true, and even if it were, it would be nothing to be ashamed of, and it also would be nobody's business.

If anybody ever has the gall to ask you point blank if this stuff they heard was true, feel free to say no. Or say, "Huh, what? That's really personal." And then brush the dirt off your shoulder.
posted by milk white peacock at 5:00 PM on July 19, 2011

"Is that what you heard from ex-friend*? I know what a gossip she is so I gave her a totally bogus number. I wouldn't believe much of what you hear from her."

*Ex-friend, because that's what she is, right?
posted by deborah at 5:10 PM on July 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is all moot. Nobody cares. If this girl is such a big gossip, then she's got more relavent news to spread than your years-old lay count, which was probably never big news for reasons I'm about to outline.

You say you greatly exaggerated by adding 8. That means you didn't tell her 177 when it was only 171. You told her something like 18 when it was 10. That's not a crazy number at all, and if someone told me, "OMG Anonymous has slept with EIGHTEEN people!" I'd wonder why I was being told this.

Also, if she'd been talking to your admirer about this stuff, don't you think he'd have heard about and be more concerned with the prostitution? Bottom line, she didn't tell him if she ever cared enough to tell anyone and you should stop flirting with drunk, presumptuous emo boys.
posted by cmoj at 5:23 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your friend is a tacky loud mouthed gossip whose tongue should shrivel up and fall out.

Nobody cares how many people you've slept with or whether or not you've dabbled in sex work. Anybody she has told either a) doesn't care, b) doesn't remember, or c) has forgotten.

Drunk dude is not worth your energy and, regardless, is probably ashamed of being an ass, if he even remembers the conversation.

If it helps, stuff like this rattles around in my brain too. I find distraction to be the best technique for dismissing these types of worries. By the time I remember that I'm supposed to worried about it, something else has blipped onto my radar and I'm worrying about that instead.
posted by dchrssyr at 5:34 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a novel I like called Pleasant Vices. It's about a suburban family. Everyone in the family has a private life going on, and sometimes they find each other out, or the neighbourhood finds them out. But they fumble through it wittily. None of their transgressions really dent them, in the end.

If I were stressing about something like this I'd sit down and read through it again. But YMMV. :)
posted by Net Prophet at 6:07 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

1) I don't think you should waste breath on your ex-friend.

2) On the chance that people have heard this mythical number - you've just created a great filter against people who will a) believe it, and b) hold it against you! If they do either, they're not really a mature, confident potential partner, in my opinion.
posted by ftm at 6:12 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

At age 25, an astonishing number of sex partners is not very different from the same number plus eight. If he had heard everything from your gossip friend and wanted to make a thing of it or convey that he knew, wouldn't he rather have asked "So.... did you ever have sex for money?".

Don't sweat it and don't mention it.
posted by springload at 6:30 PM on July 19, 2011

Basically, what he told you is that he likes you, but you are too "dirty" for him to either touch, take seriously in a relationship - or both. EWW. He's the gross one. Run.

This is drawing way too many conclusions from far too little information. It is contradictory to say the least to assume that confessional tipsy man is simultaneously telling you his secret and trying to insult you. A lot of people are finally growing up about this sex thing, so you shouldn't immediately assume that everyone thinks badly of you for doing it.

Basically, whether you should confront this girl depends on your impression of her character. If you think she is capable and willing to be serious and stop talking about it then you might as well give it a go. Tell her that you're trying to retake some of the fibs you told in your youth and that this was one of them so even if you never did tell anyone, please don't mention it in the future.

If for whatever reason you don't think she is willing or able to honor your request, definably do not bring it up, because that will likely just convince her what a good topic of conversation it is.

Either way, you should absolutely not be paranoid about it because if your art scene is anything like my art scene, people just aren't going to be that concerned. The info dulls with time anyway.
posted by Winnemac at 8:16 PM on July 19, 2011

I've really settled down and chilled out. I don't scream for attention in really stupid ways the way I used to in my early twenties. I now want to walk away and wash my hands clean of this mess, but find it difficult to do so since the friend in question knows almost everyone I know, as we work in the art scene in my city as do most of our friends.

Oh my, there's no need for you to sew a scarlet letter to your chest. You wash your hands of it by realizing that you've grown up and not doing that kind of attention-seeking stuff anymore. I guarantee that a huge percentage of your friends have lied or exaggerated about some aspect of their sex lives. And, uh, it's not really better if the stuff that's been chattered about is true, is it? Anyway, there's always someone cringing when the stories get trotted out at parties, believe me.

If you actually ever get called out for an untrue story, just give it a zen-like handwave and say that eh, you were looking for a lot of attention then and most of that stuff was a little exaggerated. And then drop it, don't contribute a new juicy story about your Shocking Confession!
posted by desuetude at 8:25 PM on July 19, 2011

I think the best action would have been to say "...and you believe me?"
posted by Green With You at 9:01 PM on July 19, 2011

er, "believed"
posted by Green With You at 9:01 PM on July 19, 2011

Word to the wise: If adding 8 to the number of people you've slept with makes a noticeable difference, the (inflated) number isn't big enough for anyone to raise their eyebrows at.

Let it go.
posted by auto-correct at 9:57 PM on July 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes to not confronting gossip girl. Yes to being flip and admitting you OBVIOUSLY lied because she's a gossip girl and you were entertainig yourself.

Yes it was kind of shitty he asked what he asked when he asked. BUT he might have really been trying to figure out if the part about sleeping with guys on craigslist for cash was true. So it's possible he doesn't care about the number (who cares, really?), but didn't want to open with "did you used to be a hooker?" Just drunk enough to get the conversation started. So if you know him and like him, maybe he gets a break this one time. Bring it up casually when you're sober. "Yo, were you asking me that because you believed some crazy yarns I'd been spinning to blabber mouth?" "Uh, yeah." "You're a dork. Don't do that." Wait a couple dates to bone for good measure. Then tell him you need 50 dollar to make him holler. You get paid to do the wild thing. See how funny this dumb misunderstanding was? Now we have an inside joke! (If he says he always asks or has a right to know or whatever, then we have today's obligatory AskMe DTMF.)
posted by crankyrogalsky at 10:46 PM on July 19, 2011

Now, I know I am entirely to blame for sharing such a self-destructive lie about myself.

If you truly knew this and felt this, you would not have any need to try to pin this on your "friend." You need to let this go. And it sounds like you've learned a valuable lesson (possibly several) about what you share with people you consider friends. Now let it go and don't try to hold your friend accountable for your self-admitted bad decision-making.

I now want to walk away and wash my hands clean of this mess, but...

...but that's not the way the world works. We make mistakes and we live with the repercussions. They are a reminder of the times when we made those mistakes, and they're helpful in ensuring that we don't make them again. None of us, except possibly sociopaths, get to walk away from our past and wash our hands clean of the messes we created. Sorry.
posted by jph at 6:23 AM on July 20, 2011

You say you greatly exaggerated by adding 8. That means you didn't tell her 177 when it was only 171.

My differential equations teacher would be proud.
posted by cmoj at 2:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

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