Requesting advice from sensible people: how to navigate sensitive dramatic issue
December 13, 2011 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I had an abortion years ago. Now, years later, I am being accused of "faking" the abortion, and am being harassed via social media sites. Help me figure out how to navigate this situation with dignity and class.

Recently, I became engaged to my partner and announced the engagement on social media sites. I thought this was going to be a really joyful time in my life, but instead, this announcement basically started a storm of anger and drama from some members of our extended social circle, mostly surrounding rumors about an abortion I had about three years ago. Mostly, these rumors seem to focus around my fiance's most recent ex before me, who seems to think that I faked the pregnancy and faked the abortion in order to get attention from others. I have not responded in anyway to her social media updates about me, but this is obviously very hurtful to me, because I have never faked anything - I actually was pregnant and did have to have an abortion three years ago. In the time since this abortion, I have spent a lot of time in therapy dealing with emotional fallout surrounding the procedure, which I thought only my closest friends knew about. After doing so much work to cope and move on from the procedure, I never thought that that hard work would be derailed by something like announcing my engagement.

Since this has begun, I have fallen into something like a depression. I have been crying intermittently, am unable to keep food down, and am constantly nervously shaking. I've lost weight and it is impacting my productivity at work, as well as my ability to get good sleep. My fiance and my friends really don't know what to do for me, besides telling me to ignore my fiance's ex, that the opinions of this woman are irrelevant, and so on and so forth. I have blocked my fiance's ex on all social media websites I am involved in, and yet, this is still a problem for me. Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not. The only thing that I have been able to do in order to defend myself is to explain the procedure in detail and open myself up completely to questions from others. However, I don't think this is good for my mental and emotional well-being, and I typically end up sobbing when I have to do this. I don't feel like I should have to defend myself from these sort of attacks, and I am really at a loss for what the "right" thing to do here. My fiance's ex is an extended member of our social circle who will not be going away anytime soon. We see her rarely at parties and she is always polite to my face, but is obviously very critical of me to others behind my back. I want to handle this in the most grown up, undramatic, classy way possible. Besides blocking the offending party and taking a break from social media, which I am already doing, what can I do to navigate this situation? Should I confront my fiance's ex face-to-face, or continue to ignore her? And what should I do when mutual friends approach me about this situation? We are all in our mid-to-late twenties, if that helps. Thank you all so much in advance for your answers.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (57 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wow... I can't believe people would do this to you, I'm so sorry. These are not good people.

No, don't confront her. What good could possibly come from that? Ignore. Ignore online, ignore in real life, ignore her.

If anyone asks you about it (which, oh my god, people are ASKING you about it!) know that you do not have to defend yourself to anyone. A raised eyebrow and an "excuse me?!?!" is good enough. Do not answer their questions, it is absolutely none of their damn business.

And please get yourself into therapy.
posted by brainmouse at 6:32 PM on December 13, 2011 [20 favorites]

Since this has begun, I have fallen into something like a depression. I have been crying intermittently, am unable to keep food down, and am constantly nervously shaking. I've lost weight and it is impacting my productivity at work, as well as my ability to get good sleep.

This sounds like a good time to see a therapist. Please, see a therapist.

I'm sorry you're going through this. However, I don't think we can give you any advice you don't already have -- don't contact, don't add to the drama, etc. I don't think you really need that advice. I think, instead, you need someone to help see you through the emotional turmoil this has caused. This is exactly the sort of thing a therapist can help you work through. That's what they're there for.
posted by meese at 6:32 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not. The only thing that I have been able to do in order to defend myself is to explain the procedure in detail and open myself up completely to questions from others.

No no no NO way should you have to defend yourself. How is this any of their business? Could you perhaps derail this awful line of questioning by telling people that their behavior is, by its nature, anti-woman? Because, of course, no man would face these questions.
posted by angrycat at 6:32 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

"I will not discuss any part of my medical history with you."

Seriously, these people who approach you are being insensitive, overly gossipy and judgmental, and lack any social graces. You never have to explain your medical history to any of these folks. You do not have to confirm gossip for them. You do not have to discuss details of the procedure to convince them that a gossiper is lying. You owe them nothing. If it were me, I'd draw a strong line at this. Any supposed friend who dares to ask you those types of questions should be told once that you won't discuss it, and should in the same breath be told of the boundary: If they bring it up again, for sharing gossip, or for confirmation or denial of gossip, you will not see or speak with them again. These people need to know about boundaries, not your personal details.

What a horror. I'm so sorry you are going through this. You can find better friends than this.
posted by Houstonian at 6:35 PM on December 13, 2011 [47 favorites]

You don't deserve these attacks. Nobody does. How dare they ruin your moment! Remove the people from your life that aren't supportive of your future, celebrate with those that are.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:35 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

It would probably be best to ignore the ex along with anyone who would think so little of you as to let her slander affect their opinion of you. I know it hurts, but as long as you abstain from reacting, she's the one who looks ridiculous. And should anyone ask you about this personally, tell them it's a personal matter that you'd prefer not to discuss.

Do your close friends believe you? Does your fiance believe you? They're the ones who really matter. Everyone else will forget all about this as soon as some new drama captures their interest. Don't do anything to keep this fresh in their minds.

I'm sorry you're going through this. Some people get so wrapped up in their own need for attention or entertainment that they forget there are real people being hurt by their actions.
posted by katillathehun at 6:36 PM on December 13, 2011

My fiance's ex is an extended member of our social circle who will not be going away anytime soon. We see her rarely at parties and she is always polite to my face, but is obviously very critical of me to others behind my back.

I went through a nasty situation with a member of my extended social circle, which also involved social media, some time back, and one thing I'll never regret is that I excised myself from that social circle. I lost some friends in the process and it put a temporary dent in my social and professional life, but it was worth it for me since I found it incredibly painful to watch my social life be poisoned by this person while having to pretend to be OK.

People who would ask you if you faked an abortion are not your friends.

You should also not just block, but report this person on social media sites, because she is harassing you.
posted by melissam at 6:37 PM on December 13, 2011 [17 favorites]

Wow, does this suck. I'm really sorry to hear about what you're going through, and I'm sure it must be very painful. What a piece of work this chick must be.

Should I confront my fiance's ex face-to-face, or continue to ignore her? And what should I do when mutual friends approach me about this situation?

No. Not if you're going for classy, here. If she was a big enough douchebag to do this in the first place, nothing you're going to say to her is going to get though to her and get her to back off and slink away. Any such conversation will almost certainly end in a big fight.

You best option is probably straight in the other direction. Cut her dead. Think Miranda in the Devil Wears Prada. You don't speak of her, because she's beneath your contempt. And you certainly don't speak to her. If other people bring this up, you pause, you sigh, you say, "yeah, ever since we announced the engagement, Finance's Ex has been spreading rumors about me. It's unfortunate, and it's hard to deal with. That was a painful time in my life, and I don't really like talking about it."

Don't engage beyond that. It's none of their goddamn business, and the fact that she's trying to make it their business is pathetic. And that's what you show people, when they ask about it: That you pity her, and that the whole thing makes you tired. And that's all.
posted by Diablevert at 6:40 PM on December 13, 2011 [21 favorites]

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not. The only thing that I have been able to do in order to defend myself is to explain the procedure in detail and open myself up completely to questions from others.

You are under absolutely no obligation, moral, social, or otherwise, to do this. Please stop letting these people get away with torturing you for no reason. If someone has the shockingly bad manners to make bizarre accusations that you're lying about past medical procedures, you should let them know that it's none of their goddamned business, and that their choices are to drop the topic completely and forever or to no longer enjoy the pleasure of your company ever again. Anyone who says mean things about you because of your medical history is not your friend. Anyone who doesn't respect that you don't want to make your medical history a topic of cocktail chatter is not your friend. Anyone who gossips about you behind your back about difficult and personal topics is not your friend. And anyone who supports anyone else doing those things to you is also not your friend.

There is no rule that says you have to be friends with mean people just because you used to be friends with them before you found out they were mean. If I were you, I'd seriously consider dropping these people as friends and telling them exactly why you're doing it. And when your fiance and your close friends want to know what they can do to help you, ask them to help you spread the word that anyone who thinks this is any of their business to gossip about can shove it.
posted by decathecting at 6:42 PM on December 13, 2011 [30 favorites]

I can't imagine a situation in which it would be OK to ask someone "did you really have an abortion?" I can't imagine a situation in which it would be OK to assert someone else "faked" something like that, to a third party. You need to be establishing boundaries with these people like it's going out of style. I completely agree that "I am not discussing my medical history with you" is a good boundary to start enforcing. Vigorously. This is so completely in "walk away and never talk to you again" territory. I am astonished people would make this their business at all, to be honest. It makes me wonder what other boundaries this social group appears to be willing to trample at will. Is it a very gossipy group?

And nthing therapy.
posted by SMPA at 6:43 PM on December 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

So sorry to hear this, how terrible.

It is completely psychopathic for her to put this information on social media sites. Nobody has the right to do that to you.

Honestly it doesn't sound like the mutual friends are very good people if their response was anything but sympathetic and supportive. There are much better people out there, I would hang out more with them.
posted by JayNolan at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

You might seriously consider whether someone who would approach you and ask pointed questions about extremely personal medical issues is, in fact, a friend to you or worthy of your continued friendship. That is some jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising rudeness, right there.

Real friends--adult friends--will congratulate you on your engagement, celebrate with you, and continue to be your friends for years to come.

If you feel the need to engage with the people who dare to ask you about this, diablevert's suggestion is all the courtesy they deserve. How nice that these people are showing their true colors now, so you know not to waste any more time on them! You can enjoy your engagement and plan your beautiful wedding!

Please realize that you have absolutely no reason to feel bad about your personal life decisions, and certainly not due to anyone else's judgment. This will die down, especially if you allow it to. I hope you are able to start feeling better soon. Congratulations to you on your engagement!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2011 [11 favorites]

She sounds jealous to the nth degree. She also sounds spiteful, petty and bizarre. If she sounds like that to a complete stranger on the interweb, imagine how she sounds to the people she's saying it to. People who know her, or know of her, and who also know you and your fiance (and who have manners and sensitivity) will think she's as much of a cow as you do. Ignore her. If you do have to share airspace, be cool and polite and then ignore her even more.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 6:49 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Tell the fiance(e) to snuff this out. Now.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:52 PM on December 13, 2011 [18 favorites]

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not.

These people are not your friends. Even if what the ex was saying were true, this is a grotesque airing of dirty laundry that is so freaking inappropriate that it should make anyone with an ounce of social skills recoil in horror. If I was your friend and internally questioned the truthfulness of the ex's statements, I can't imagine making any comment to you other than perhaps a word of sympathy for enduring this sort of public attack. For fucks sake, you certainly don't owe these awful people an explanation of your medical history.
posted by gatorae at 6:53 PM on December 13, 2011 [35 favorites]

1. Go back to therapy. This is traumatic for you, and it will help.

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not. The only thing that I have been able to do in order to defend myself is to explain the procedure in detail and open myself up completely to questions from others.

2. Anyone who would ask you to verify the rumours spread by this nutjob is not your friend. Or at least, not a friend worth having. You don't have to answer to anyone. Don't engage with this nonsense. Call them out on how incredible rude such a question is, if that will make you feel any better.

3. Your fiance needs to step up and deal with his crazy ex. This is defamation and harassment.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:54 PM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

I have very limited advice to give, which doesn't really consider the full complexity of the situation etc. So with that caveat, here's my two cents:

The bizarre fake abortion idea she (they?) are pushing sounds crazy. And the only way to deal with crazy is to not engage with it.

The only winning move is not to play the game.
posted by jsturgill at 6:56 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

To pile on, anyone who would ask you if you really had an abortion is a. not your friend and b. not the sort of person you want to be friends with.

A raised eyebrow and an "excuse me?!?!" is good enough.

That is what to do.

And call your therapist.
posted by freshwater at 6:56 PM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]

You are in your mid-to-late twenties. Mature people do not act this way, I assure you. This woman is trying to drag your happiness into her maw and consume it because she's jealous, crazy or both - and you don't need to explain the hell you went through to ANYONE, especially because of her.

Please read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. It's usually recommended for stalking/harassment issues, but it's helpful in these situations, too.

I know it doesn't feel like it, but if you stop talking about it and drawing attention about it and refusing to discuss it, this will die down very quickly. Even famous people's criminal pasts get forgotten, and they're shoved in the public's face constantly.

Also: therapy. I'm sorry this [expletive redacted] is upsetting you, but fuck her.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:57 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I see what you're trying to do by opening yourself up completely, explaining, etc-- but this, perhaps unfortunately, the thing about boundaries. Not just theirs, but yours. In some ideal situation, being totally open with people will always defuse conflict, bring closeness, and overall just be worth it. I commend you for being willing to bring this pain upon yourself to achieve a greater social harmony. I know what that instinct is like, even though I'm like, 180 degrees more introverted and thus I don't express these urges to reach out to others most of the time.

Anyway. So yeah, it's hard to shut people off, because it may feel like you're shutting off the potential for joy and sharing if you shut off their negative influence on you and cease to care what they say/think. You can't really share joy as openly if you put up those sorts of barriers against others' pollution, suspicion and malice.

So yeah, ideally people would see your openness and genuineness and respond in kind, reassuring, allowing you to forgive them. But people's emotions and reactions don't always work like that. Instead, all you get is more pain, and they (these gossips) probably never realize the extent of your efforts. To respond properly to openness, one must be open too; it's not enough for you to be open if they are not open at the same time, so your pain is wasted. That's why people only recommend extreme openness with those who're close to you (and likely to be open too), and keeping boundaries with people you barely know. This means you may never reach an understanding with these people, but you have to accept that as part of the darkness of the human condition and focus on the people who do care. These are the people who love you, and who hurt if you're hurting. You don't want to hurt them by squandering your energies like this either, right?

Finally, I want you to get angry. I think you ought to be angry about this rather than sad. Allow that anger room. Let it bubble up from where it's trapped right now in a little ball somewhere inside you, only eating you up from the inside. Let it out: say, this is unfair! these people are assholes! how dare they?! -- and feel it. It's their fault. They're out of line. They've got something missing in them that they feel better by tormenting others and stealing their happiness. It's got nothing to do with you. How dare they force their issues upon you? Get incensed, hopefully while pitying their limitations (so you don't get too bitter, so you can then let it go).

I know it's hard to get angry, at least for women; we've been socializes to maximize harmony, to be passive aggressive, to 'share'. But sometimes you have to try and think 'like a man', and get angry when someone's being an asshole, and throw them out of your mental house and tell them to shove it. That's not a response that need threaten your happiness; I wish I could show you that this is the one response that would protect your happiness. These guest are uninvited, so you don't need to allow them to stay, or use your best emotional china, or make them comfortable and understood at the expense of yourself. You can throw them out, tell them to beat it, realize they're trespassing-- and if/when you truly allow yourself to believe this, you can respond to them with cool, dispassionate dismissal if they ask you something. "I'm sorry," you can tell them. "I don't think that's an appropriate question."
posted by reenka at 6:58 PM on December 13, 2011 [14 favorites]

I have no personal experience with anything like this, but just want to chime in to say: this is horrible, undignified treatment you're receiving, and I'm truly sorry you have to deal with this.

It isn't advice, but I can offer you the following in the terms of reassurance: if someone tried to gossip with me about believing someone made up an abortion to get attention, I'd regard them, as a civilized person, with some serious distaste. I imagine most of your friends, especially if they're adults, feel the same way. They know you (I think?) and know the sort of person you are, and likewise they understand that as an ex, the person has some motivation for spreading pernicious and bitter gossip. If you've tried to keep the abortion private, as you have every right to do, clearly you're not displaying attention-seeking behavior, and people will use their brains and process that. Again, this isn't advice, but I just want you to know a good number of the people she's spreading this rumor to are likely both disgusted by her and skeptical of the claims.

As far as advice, what I can say is to avoid her as a general rule, and if other people are participating in this and making you uncomfortable, seek other friends. Your friends should make you feel comfortable and good about yourself. They should respect your private decisions and allow you to set the limits on what they know about you. I'm astounded that you're on trial for something so personal. Think of the people close to you that you can rely on, whether they're family or friends outside of this group, and rely on them. I also hope your fiance is being supportive; he or she should be willing to spend time with other individuals and not be pressuring you to spend time with this group, for example. That would be unacceptable. This is really key.

If you do choose to retain contact with some people in this group, and someone wants to talk about the drama, you can easily shut them down by saying "It's a private, emotional matter, and I don't want to talk about it." That will put them in their place and allow you to assert your boundaries. But again, I encourage you to avoid these people altogether.

I nth the advice to schedule an appointment or six with your therapist, particularly since this is affecting your life.
posted by aintthattheway at 6:59 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not. The only thing that I have been able to do in order to defend myself is to explain the procedure in detail and open myself up completely to questions from others.

What? Why on earth would you discuss something so personal with people that are so thoughtless? The appropriate response is, "how on earth is that any of your business?" Grow a thicker skin and stop letting people drag you into stupid confrontations. It's okay to tell people that things are none of their business. And next time, keep your private life private. You shared personal information with people you shouldn't have.

Explaining/describing your abortion to someone is beyond the pale and it's obvious these people don't care about you so why you'd feel compelled to explain yourself is beyond me.

I don't mean to be harsh, I'm angry that you're being picked on and I'm angry that you're letting yourself be picked on. If this is your circle of friends, you need a new circle of friends. And it's OK to tell people to fuck off.
posted by shoesietart at 7:02 PM on December 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I wonder if there's more your fiance could be doing to have your back here. If he is on speaking terms with the psycho hose-beast from hell, it seems like he should be the one to tell her in clear and forceful terms that this slander and harassment needs to stop immediately and that the next step will involve lawyers.

I also think he could be giving you some air cover with your friends by proactively approaching them one-on-one, acknowledging that psycho ex is creating drama, and making it clear that the rumor she's spreading is hurtful and untrue.

Finally, should anyone else have the gall to ask you whether or not you had an abortion (shudder), your best response is not an extensive recounting of details, but a frosty change of subject.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:03 PM on December 13, 2011 [10 favorites]

So years and years a go a "friend" hugely twisted something that happened between and basically set out to ruin my life. Running around to all of our mutual friends telling them what a horrible person I was (oh to be 19! again, or not, never again, oh dear god never again). I decided that I needed to be an adult and rise above. I wasn't going to engage in the gossip. I was just going to tell friends who asked, "you know I just don't want to engage in this so I'd rather just not talk about it."

Now I realize that was totally the wrong track. She had all the control. My silence made it sound like I was guilty. I realize being classy and rising above means not starting it, it doesn't mean not responding to a direct attack. You are being attacked. Get angry. This woman has taken one of the most deeply personal things about you and tried to destroy you with it because she is a horrible jealous person. You need to tell people, "Yes I had an abortion. It's very personal and I don't like talking about it, but now I've been forced to so here is the story and here is what this woman has tried to do to me..." Tell all of your close mutual friends exactly what she has done. You didn't start this fight, but you are going to end this. Make sure she can't show her face anywhere you might be. How can your friends be friends with someone that would do this to you? I'm not usually one to say that mutual friends should take sides and get in the middle of things, but I'm making an exception here. Anyone who doesn't immediately take your side and cut her off after hearing what she has done is not your friend. Never speak to them again.

Seriously, you need to take your power back. You did nothing wrong. This is your private life. How dare she expose such a personal thing about you and then dare to claim you lied about it. It's disgusting. It's inexcusable. You should not be hiding your face in shame, she should. Just keep telling yourself that.
posted by whoaali at 7:11 PM on December 13, 2011 [33 favorites]

Here's a phrase I've found useful to think about: "Don't let people live in your head rent-free." They're simply occupying your head (you've ended up thinking a lot about them), but they're not paying you rent. That is, they're not benefiting you in any way. They're not being kind. They're not being friends. They don't care. And they're not sitting around thinking about this — after all, they have no legitimate reason to worry about whether someone did or didn't have an abortion years ago. You're the only one staying up at night worrying about it. They're just having fun, like kids teasing each other on the schoolyard. They can't seriously expect you to discuss it with them; you have no reason to discuss it with them. If I'm reading your post correctly, you've actually tried discussing it, and you've just ended up feeling awful. They're maliciously trying to hurt you for no reason. Don't let them succeed.

Remember, as an adult, you're free not to have a conversation you're uncomfortable with. Other commenters have made good suggestions about what to say if you're asked, but you don't even need to explain that they're asking about something "medical" or "private." You don't need to give any rationale at all other than saying: "I'm not comfortable with this conversation." That way, you're not talking about anything abortion-related at all; you're simply stating a fact about your unwillingness to engage with them. If they don't seem to accept this, you can simply, calmly repeat the same sentence in the same tone of voice. Don't let them control you. Don't let them win.
posted by John Cohen at 7:14 PM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

...the fuck? What assholes. I agree with whoaali in general.

in addition I would probably put out a social media bulletin saying something like "the next person to ask me about abortion is going to get a swift kick in the ass. MIND YOUR BUSINESS."

Then if anyone asks you can say "dude, didn't you see my tweet? MIND YOUR BUSINESS." and if they ask again I'd say "look, if you can't stop talking about my genitals, we're going to have a problem."

Hell with trying to be classier than everyone else and make everyone feel okay, they should be embarrassed for asking you something like that.

That said, make sure you're not overly defensive here--if this happened to a friend I'd probably bring it up, not to suggest that she was actually lying, but to see if she knew about it so that she could defend herself/take measures, and to see if she needed support.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:16 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not. The only thing that I have been able to do in order to defend myself is to explain the procedure in detail and open myself up completely to questions from others.

If this is going around your mutual social circle and to 3rd parties, both of you appear equally credible, I would welcome the fact people are straight-up asking you about it. This is vastly preferable to the gossip going around like wildfire while everyone smiles to your face, meaning you never get to speak on your own behalf.

I would just say "Yes, I did have an abortion in 1997, though obviously it's a personal matter." I don't know why you need to explain the procedure in detail. Unless you're explaining to make excuses or explain circumstances, which you should not feel the need to do. You had an abortion, you don't need to substantiate that decision to a single soul.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:23 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

why not look into taking out a restraining order if she's actually harassing you? that could you give the legal and emotional wall you need to get over this.
posted by iamscott at 7:26 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Overeager acquaintance: "OMG, whatshername is saying crazy shit about you, like how you faked a pregnancy and an abortion to get attention! Can you believe it?! Here's her latest tweet about it! So, is any of that true? It's not true, is it? OMG this whole sitch is just so CRAZY, isn't it? It's like SHE'S the one who wants all the attention kinda, amirite??"

Calm you: "I'm vaguely aware of what whatshername has been saying. I am not interested in hearing anything more about it. She has created a painful, difficult situation, for her own unknown reasons, and I have already let it affect me more than I should have. So I'm done with it. Please spread the word. Now, can we talk about the Higgs boson, because, WHOA, what was THAT all about?"
posted by argonauta at 7:27 PM on December 13, 2011

I'm diving in...


I really hope it is not through your fiance.


I sincerely suggest you re-think your social circle. I'm honestly trying to think of how young I was when I realized asking someone a question like this was verboten? !0 years old??

Anyone asking you this is asking because they are perverse and want to see you squirm. And hurt you. I'm terribly sorry. I know this is all just so shocking.

#3 - (In small letters because I'm not quite sure about this, but...) Um, are you sure about this guy? Truly sure he is a good and true partner to you?

There is so much toxicity in this social circle, I am left wondering where you, and more importantly your guy, fall on the spectrum. Not that you should judge your guy by his ex (although I'd still like to know how she found out) but more... didn't one of you notice these people are all fucked up and not worth the friendship earlier? Were there no red flags to speak of? Poor treatment of other members of the group? Anything that made you queasy from time to time about them??


This is a lot of unnecessary baggage to carry into a marriage. I hope you both come to the mutual and reasonable conclusion that at least some of these people are not your friends, and that together you make serious changes. If you are not on the same page here, you should re-think getting married.

You can't be married to someone who letz the Dramaz in every time there is a knock on the door.

This goes double for you, if you're the one holding on to this crew.

Either you have something precious with your fiance or you don't. Full stop.
posted by jbenben at 7:29 PM on December 13, 2011 [17 favorites]

shoesietart: "And it's OK to tell people to fuck off."

And OMG. This.
posted by jbenben at 7:34 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ironmouth: "Tell the fiance(e) to snuff this out. Now."

ottereroticist: "Yeah, I wonder if there's more your fiance could be doing to have your back here."

There's a lot of good "none of this is anyone's damn business" advice here, but I think these are points that bear repeating.

Look, you're getting married to this person. You're perfectly entitled to remind him that part of the bargain is that he needs to defend you against his "friends" treating your past like a gossip rag.

He needs to send this woman, and a few select others among the circle, the following message: "The rumors being spread about my fiance's past are untrue, hurtful, and demeaning. Please do not discuss them any further."

And then that's it. Do not respond to any replies, except to acknowledge an apology.
posted by mkultra at 7:35 PM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

Just stay calm and know that this ex of your fiance is acting in a really undignified way. It's not a reflection on you, and nobody believes her.

And seriously, all these people who question you, these mutual friends? They're obnoxious jerks and you don't need to dignify anything they say with a response.

These people sound like they aren't real friends. I hope you have a best friend who is willing to tell them off. Or send me their email addresses and I'll tell them to fuck off. What kind of awful people are these?
posted by anniecat at 7:36 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, people are asking you if you had an abortion or not? There is only one proper response to that kind of question. Repeat after me:

"What the fuck kind of question is that to ask someone?"
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:37 PM on December 13, 2011 [25 favorites]

Oops. This is my last, and then I am out...

iamscott brings up a really good point.

What this person is doing might be classified as some sort of electronic or straight-up harrassment, depending on your jurisdiction.

I am not suggesting you file a complaint with the court (not the police, btw, but straight to the court is how this might usually work.)

For sure though, knowing you have rights, should you choose to enforce them, might provide you HUGE peace of mind.

Consider that an empowerment suggestion.
posted by jbenben at 7:40 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

My fiance's ex is an extended member of our social circle who will not be going away anytime soon.

Do they have kids together? If not, there is no absolute reason why the two of you cannot excise her from your social circle.
posted by CKmtl at 7:41 PM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not.

The best way I'd respond to these people is:

"Do you SERIOUSLY think so little of me that you'd think I'd make something like that up? ....Fuck you."

And then never talk to them again. Because you don't need that shit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only answer my flushed face with raised eyebrows can come up with is:

"In which world is it anywhere near to your business whether I had an abortion or not? Under which sun is it conceivably okay for you to ask that question? Because in neither case it is this one."

If your fiancee doesn't fix this, I sincerely think that one would reconsider a marriage.
posted by Sphinx at 7:55 PM on December 13, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think a private note from your fiancee to the ex would actually probably do a lot. The ex is clearly very, very jealous and upset by the news of your engagement. Nothing you say is going to change that, but I bet a reproof from your fiancee would shut her up pretty quickly.

The note should be calm but firm. I like mkultura's wording:

"The rumors being spread about my fiance's past are untrue, hurtful, and demeaning. Please do not discuss them any further."

Although in a direct message, I would change it to "The rumors YOU ARE SPREADING about my fiancee's past...."

He may be reluctant to contact her because he doesn't want to escalate the conflict or have anything further to do with her. It would give him confidence to act if you would ask him to do this.

As for what to say if people ask you if it's true, you can tell them the full story but you aren't OBLIGATED to. You are well within bounds (and class) to say, "Thanks for your concern, but this is a private matter." Repeat as necessary.
posted by elizeh at 8:08 PM on December 13, 2011

Due to these statements, several mutual friends of the ex and myself have approached me to ask if I really had an abortion or not.

These people are NOT your friends, they are shit stirring drama seekers, and you have my permission as an angry stranger on the internets to tell them to go fuck themselves.
posted by elizardbits at 8:31 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nthing therapy.

Also, if anyone comes up to you ever again, and asks you flat out if you've ever had an abortion, you have my permission to do the following:

1) NOT tell them the whole story.
2) Ask them directly what the fuck their problem is, exactly. Use those words... "What the FUCK is your problem, exactly?"

It would be one thing if you were all in high school, where social graces might not have been entirely cemented, and a giggly, gossipy, "OMG Heather says you faked that abortion!!! Did you?"

It is another thing entirely for grown-ass-people to walk up to you and ask you to your face if you've had an abortion. I guess it's the easiest way to clear up the "drama", but... shit, that is so not their business. If they really wanted to get the air cleared, the sensitive way to ask the question would be, "Hey, have you heard that Heather is telling people you faked a pregnancy/abortion?"

If you want the classiest possible response to this god-awful, shitty, shitty situation, go right back to the Epicenter of All Class in the Universe, Miss Manners. "Why would you ask such a personal question?"
posted by mornie_alantie at 9:11 PM on December 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Do I seem like a crazy person to you?" I mean, really. "Well, wouldn't I have to be?"
posted by rhizome at 9:43 PM on December 13, 2011

Not only is the ex creating cruel drama, but her friends (hers not yours, please realize this) have decided to escalate your pain.

They have just canceled out all past good deeds and acts of friendship. Really see what they are doing here, sacrificing empathy in favor of entertainment and/or decency.
posted by Shouraku at 10:20 PM on December 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

What everyone else said, times forty thousand. This is an absolutely appalling story.

In addition to being appalling, though, it sounds like it could meet a legal definition for defamation. I strongly encourage you to consult a lawyer about this. It's certainly well beyond gossip or "drama" that you can dismiss with an eyeroll and a Rising Above It.

And you know what I'd say to you if someone came to me carrying a tale like this? Nothing. Because I don't know the facts and I can't give the story any credence until and unless I get some corroboration, which I have no business seeking out. And I would wonder, and possibly directly ask if I felt safe, what evidence the ex has that you faked anything. Any reasonable person would be viewing her with suspicion first, and probably last unless she was a good enough liar to fake up a convincing case and from the sounds of it, she's not that good a liar.

And yes, I think it might be worth getting away on your own for a few days and thinking about why your friends and especially your fiancé aren't doing more to protect you here. I think you should examine who could have leaked this info in the first place, and what kinds of revisions to your social circle are warranted.

But first... I honestly encourage you to lawyer up, you don't have to sue, just lawyer up. I bet just a letter would be enough of a reality check for her. Also ask what kind of statement to make on social media.
posted by tel3path at 12:41 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh and to be clear: I'd ask the EX what evidence she had. I obviously wouldn't ask YOU what evidence the ex had, because that would be so grossly tactless and tasteless and violating of me, that you would obviously never speak to me again.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

To be honest, it sounds like your social circle is toxic. I don't understand how people you perceive as friends are openly gossiping about an abortion you had like they're 15 and it's sleepaway summer camp.

And why do they have access to all your business, anyway? How did a million people find out about your abortion? Why is your bf's jerk of an ex so much a factor in you life? For your future happiness, please start keeping your private life under wraps a little bit more.

I'm not criticizing you, I'm just suggesting that too many immature people seem to have access to you both emotionally and socially and that you seem to let these people affect you quite a bit.

If I were you I'd keep the ties with the fiance's ex severed, insist he does the same, and cut out all the people who side with her or bring up your issues with her whatsoever. The mutual "friends" who are causing ou any static over this are just lame liabilities and you can make new and better friends. Why would you want to be friends with someone who has any loyalty to your fiance's ex, anyway? She sounds like an immature psycho.

And FB is not life or death. Maybe take a break from that, too. A long one.
posted by devymetal at 6:52 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don;t even know if my best friends have had abortions - I'd certainly never come out and ask. I can't believe any grown adult would think this was a remotely appropriate question. Why do you need to stay friends with these people? And what is your fiance's reaction to all this?

Nth that you need to get off Facebook. Yes, the gossipers might take silence as acquiescence. But now is the time that you need to stop caring about what any of them think.
posted by mippy at 6:58 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

How did this ex find out about the procedure? Who told her? Why is she unable to be removed from your life? Where did these mutual friends come from?

Some of this is your fiances responsibility to be honest. An abortion was performed on you, but it's your event as a couple and if people from his past who have no business in your medical history know about it and are gossiping, it's his business to let this bitch know that she is out of line and ask her to stop. After he does that, unless there is a child or a shared legal matter going on, this woman DOES NOT need to remain in your life. Staying friends with a nice and tolerable ex is one thing--staying friends with an ex who is harassing your new life partner is quite another and there needs to be a damn good reason for her to be in or around the picture. I don't want to explicitly say that if he's unwilling to listen to this you may want to rethink things, but I am very greatly implying that.

In regards to these friends: 1) you certainly owe no one an in depth story about your procedure and 2) Cut them out. If someone wants to go through their life believing someone else to be lying about a personal matter that's their business: it has nothing to do with you and you don't need it, and nothing you say will change their desire to be a negative jerk about you. As we mature we move towards better relationships and cut away things and people that are harmful to our better understanding of ourselves. An upcoming union is an excellent time to re-evaluate these relationships and change or remove them. As you certainly don't want these people at your wedding if they act like this, there is no need to further be in their toxic friendship. You need to ask them apologize and ditch them if they won't, and that goes for your fiance as well. Please think about how much you would talk to some member of your social circle if they said hurtful things about your fiance, and know and believe that he owes you the same courtesy if you're going to build a life together.
posted by itsonreserve at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Like whoaali, I took what I thought was the high road and ignored it all. It was a bad decision. I'm not saying you need to explain yourself, but a short, curt, response is all that is needed. "It isn't your business" will make it seem like you are hiding so unfortunately more than that is probably needed. Sarcasm may backfire. The truth is probably the best route ("I had an abortion"), followed up by boundary setting ("and I don't need to discuss it."). Never deviate from that line. No further details to anyone except maybe your partner, even if you trust them. You simply don't need to.
posted by jwells at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2011

Nthing pretty much everything above. Just wanted to chime in to let you know that you can report her to Facebook or Twitter or whatever, because her harassment most definitely violates their TOS.
posted by radioamy at 7:50 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I cannot help but Nth pretty much everything above.

People who would ask you if you faked an abortion are not your friends.

God almighty this x1000, forever.

This is a shitty time, and it's scary. This woman has hijacked your celebration and everyone who comes to you looking for gossip has *helped* her. For whatever reason, you may feel some guilt or obligation that makes you convinced you "owe" people an answer to to that question. By nature, I am very similar. But it's a goddamned *trap* set by people who don't know any better games to play.

You don't owe these people an answer to their question. If you feel the cat's out of the bag, then fine: "This was a private event during a very difficult time and I find it painful having to relive it. If you are my friend and you respect me, you will leave this alone."

And if they won't leave it?

Well, how badly do you need acquaintences who think so little of other people? This is not a throwaway question. We are social creatures, and people can be fun even if we are not close to them. But if we are not close to them, and they start making these kinds of emotional demands then *they are not fun anymore*.

Perhaps the "extended circle" needs to be pared down a bit.

If I ever see anything like this on my own networks my first response will not be to go to the target, but to ask the poster "You're trying to publicly shame a person, by airing initimate details about their personal life, without provacation, and you want us to believe that *they're* the sketchy one?"

And then I will bloody well remove them.
posted by menialjoy at 8:16 AM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

My first instinct is to recommend that you answer questions about your abortion with ". . . the fuck is WRONG with you?! Yes I had an abortion, not that it's any of your fucking business, and no I'm not going to fucking discuss it! Christ, what an asshole."

On second instinct: actually, that still sounds pretty good. But definitely also get your fiance in on the deal. This is appallingly inappropriate behavior, and if they can't cut this shit out, then you may need to be shut of them.
posted by KathrynT at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sometimes it's okay to tell people to fuck off.

Sometimes it's mandatory.

Here's your silver lining: you've been given invaluable information about what worthless pieces of shit you've mistaken for friends. Thank your higher power of choice for the revelation and DTMFsA.

As for the mastermind of this fuckarow, it sounds like she can only reach you through these worthless scumbags. Burn those bridges to the ground and leave her on the other side with whatever pity you can spare, because what a wretched, wretched life she must lead to spend it doing things like this.
posted by Zozo at 10:44 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I could post up a litany of potential plans but I think you need to get angry. I mean it, you need to get mad. The time for civility in this has passed and you need to go for the goddamn throat on this one.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:33 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ok. So the fiances ex sounds awful. Maybe I'm missing something here but 'friends' who come to tell you the terrible things that other people are saying about you are not really your friends either or they wouldn't be open to that conversation in the first place. In any case, friends or not, you don't need to defend yourself or explain anything to anyone.
posted by kishky at 2:15 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

That is so, so not ok.

You need to tell the people who you are very close to, and do trust, how you are feeling, so that they will know to step up, and provide the friend shield that you need. I think of a friend shield as the people who will step in and counteract gossip when they hear it, and possibly explain some things to some people, so that you don't have to.

To the wider friends network, of as many people as you feel comfortable bringing this up with, maybe friends lock/email something like this:

I just want to let people know why I have withdrawn from posting online (/social media sites) for awhile.
I was and am, really happy to announce my engagement to *x*, and I was looking forward to a really joyful time in my life and wanted to share that with people.
However, very unexpectedly, there has been a response where a private, very painful experience in my past has been, and is being, brought up repeatedly.
I know it may seem like old history for some, but it is still a very emotionally raw and painful experience for me, and despite my best efforts, I'm not really any good at talking about it without crying. A lot.
And therefore, I'm calling a bit of a raincheck, and trying to get some space.
I hope to be able to participate again when I am not feeling so tender.

Thank you to my friends, to the people who have supported me, or stood up for me, and respected my privacy.
I appreciate your concern, and thank you for being so considerate.
posted by Elysum at 2:20 PM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I mean this in the best possible way ...

But I am really puzzled that your response to malicious Facebook postings accusing you of faking an abortion, is to respond to nosy questioners with "no, really, I did have an abortion! I swear to god I did!"

That suggests to me that you are lacking in some sense of what is acceptable or beyond the pale for people to do to you. I mean, it looks to me like the only plausibly reasonable response to these meddling questioners would be some version of "what the fuck?!?! You are actually going to dignify that shit by asking me about it?!?!" and then either they apologize and drop it or you tell them to go fuck themselves.

In this situation you don't even begin to answer such a stupid, rude, prying question ... You don't even give a thought to it ... You don't even get so far as to consider it because you are top busy expressing your deep offense that such stuff was ever said and this this person you are now talking to would be so insensitive as to fling it in your face and compound the original offense for their own curiosity.
posted by jayder at 8:59 PM on December 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

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