Should I fade from this friendship?
May 28, 2016 1:16 AM   Subscribe

I have had a good friend for about 2 years. He is also close friend with someone who seems to have a huge amount of animosity towards me and goes out of her way to put me down. She is super nice to him though and he only speaks very positively about her. A lot of bitchy behavior towards me happens in front of him and he always tells me that I am over-reacting or being too negative. Her behavior keeps escalating and I am frankly disappointed that he seems to take her side. Time to cut the friendship off?

Just for completeness, I am a single female, he is a married man and she is a married woman. We are all about the same age. We all work together. I also don’t have any romantic attraction towards him and vice versa so this is all from a platonic standpoint.

The two of them used to be friends before I arrived on the scene but had a falling out due to her fight with his wife of which I know little about. His wife still can’t stand her (I am semi-close friends with his wife) and he seems to ignore that fact and they have patched up the friendship. Some of the things that bother me:
Often when I talk to him, she will come to join us, interrupt us mid-conversation, turn her attention 100% towards him (like actually turn her back towards me) and start talking a ton. Any attempt of me to say anything is met by her completely ignoring me and pretty soon they are deep in conversation, me excluded so I have no choice but to walk off.

I thought maybe she is just super outgoing and doesn’t do it on purpose and he gets caught up in it. But there are other examples.

I recently got hair extensions for some length and thickness. I don’t hide the fact but don’t volunteer the info. If asked, I admit it without a problem. So she asked me about it, I told her yeah and that was that. Until a work dinner of about 30 people where she asked me again and loudly in front of everyone: “So you are wearing hair extensions?” Everybody went silent and it was clearly an attempt to embarrass me. I just played along and attempted to appear light, like “oh yeah, they are so awesome blah blah”. After that, many men asked me if I am bald or why I am wearing hair extensions (obviously they have no clue what they are), and it led to me having to do extensive explanations about something that I feel is relatively personal. I was actually really pissed at her but didn’t know what to say at the time. Our guy friend was present and he told me later it’s no biggie and he is kind of annoyed that I keep making a mountain out of the molehill. I felt hurt by his dismissal.

She also often mentions to our boss if I come in to work late or leave early which is totally unnecessary. She only talks to me to ask me intrusive questions about my closeness to the male friend (like how often we talk, if we do stuff outside of work etc) which makes me think maybe they have a thing for each other or something. I dunno. I sort of think that she just wants to be center of all male attention, all the time.

I also want to mention that when I first met her (before I even met the male friend), I had a very strong negative gut feeling about her. You know when just someone’s voice, mannerisms and (I hate to say the word) aura, repels you without having any objective reason to feel that way. I generally keep polite distance from people that I feel that way about but I seemed to get on her “radar” when I became good friends with the male friend and that’s when she started with the bitchy behavior.

My main issue is if I should distance myself from the male friend. He is nice to me in general, unless it comes to her. I also find his comments about her being a kind hearted and sweet person hard to stomach. It’s hard to respect someone that thinks highly of bitchy behavior. She often makes really cruel comments about other women’s weight and looks too. At this point, just the sight of her and sound of her voice repulses me.

My other question is how to react when she makes a comment in front of everyone (like the hair extensions thing). I want to say something that doesn’t make me seem defensive but also doesn’t make me seem like a doormat. What would you say?
posted by sockiety to Human Relations (52 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
i would probably start distancing myself from both of these people, yes. it seems pretty obvious that this is his blind spot, and if it's bothering you that much, it's just going to make you resent him more.

as for what you can say to her in front of everyone else, that might be tougher. depends on how cutting you want to be, considering you have to work with this person. if this is someone you have to deal with constantly, i would just excuse yourself when she's around and you're in a group. find something else to do. if you can't, i would probably feign ignorance about whatever x is ("oh, they're just hair extensions, they are literally the smallest deal ever.") and then walk out. i really think she knows that she's bugging the shit out of you, and if you keep reacting, she'll keep doing it. however, if you don't have to see this person a lot and you really want to try to retaliate? i might be tempted to say, "oh, x. you are just SO interesting. i'm just not sure HOW YOU DO IT. *chuckle chuckle*", or something to that effect, with all the coldness you can muster. (think the southern 'well, bless your lil' heart' kind of deal.)

good luck. no punching.
posted by koroshiya at 2:00 AM on May 28, 2016 [14 favorites]

The bitch in me wants to say, "I wish I could be like you and just not care about what I look like."
posted by Jubey at 3:09 AM on May 28, 2016 [43 favorites]

She's attracted to him and is jealous of you.
Her behavior is unlikely to change until her attraction to him ends or she sees you as not being a threat. It isn't your responsibility to make her not see you as a threat.

His inability to see her poor behavior suggests that he's attracted to her on some level as well.

Personally, I'd just internally laugh at her behavior - it is inappropriate and despite the fact of your friend's inability to see it, I'm sure you're surrounded by other people who do see it for what it is. While I'd be tempted to call her on it, I think that publicly airing that kind of thing can result in a lot of strife for all those involved.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:11 AM on May 28, 2016 [48 favorites]

I bet he kind of enjoys having two women fight over him a little bit. He's refusing to see what you're seeing or trying to work out ways to smooth it all over? Yeah, nah. He just enjoys the ego boost and isn't a truly sincere friend. Still be friendly and nice etc, but recategorise him in your head. He's a chap that likes his ego massaged a wee bit.

And the other chick? Insecure and toxic. She's the one in married friendship/work-crush agony, have compassion for her but politely avoid her at all times. Don't make it obvious or she'll be sure to make everyone know you're a meany poo poo head. Ask me how I know this.
posted by taff at 3:23 AM on May 28, 2016 [81 favorites]

She sounds awful. And yeah I'd probably distance myself a bit from him for being oblivious to her awfulness (even in spite of his wife also thinking she is awful!). In terms of her being rude/insulting, the high road is probably the safest and wisest course (laugh it off and change the subject). But something similar happened to me once (acquaintance insulting my hair highlights in front of a bunch of people and would not drop it when I tried to politely change the subject)- I sort of laughed it off but it was really rude and mean and I wish I had stood up for myself at the time. So maybe something like "I'd really prefer not to talk about X right now" or a blunt "you know, that's a mean thing to say". Won't smooth over your relationship with her but some people need to get told.
posted by emd3737 at 4:09 AM on May 28, 2016

posted by Zonker at 4:20 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

She sounds extremely jealous and I wouldn't really want to be part of it either.

How are you friends with him? I mean, you describe yourself as a "good friend", but do you socialise with him outside of the office? What does a good friendship look like in your case? Is this the kind of guy who likes to have a work spouse? i.e., a woman in the office who he regularly interacts with, has lunch with, chats with about his life. What I'm almost reading here is that this was the other woman in the past and now it has been you. If so, then I *would* fade, since it sounds unhealthy for all.

If I'm mistaken, and you do have a solid friendship with this man outside of work, then the obvious solution is to restrict your social contact with him to situations outside of work where his wife is present. Since his wife doesn't like this woman, then that should avoid the interaction.
posted by frumiousb at 5:12 AM on May 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I'd slow fade the hell of that situation. Either he's completely oblivious, or he's enjoying this. Neither speaks well of his emotional intelligence. You can find better friends.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:13 AM on May 28, 2016 [15 favorites]

She is awful, and he doesn't sound so great either. I would definitely fade on the friendship and do my best to be polite-but-very-busy at work.

I'd be tempted to call her out if she pulls anything like that extensions comment shit in front of others again: "Of course I am, we chatted about it on Thursday. Would you like the number of my salon? I'm happy with their work, but we don't have to bore everyone else with hair talk." (Let's be honest, I probably wouldn't have thought of that in the moment.)
posted by maryrussell at 5:33 AM on May 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

I wouldn't be surprised to find out these two were, as my mother used to put it, carrying on.

When I first heard the question, before I read your more inside, I thought if you do the slow fade, she wins. But, no, you win. These two are a hot mess. Move on.
posted by AugustWest at 5:38 AM on May 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Maybe I say this because I'm kind of an introvert, but there is hardly a question about work relationships and casual acquaintances where the correct answer to "Should I ________?" is not "fade."

I mean, you come, you go. Average job these days lasts 18 months to 3 years. The odds of either of them attending your wedding (should you have one) or your funeral are really pretty small.

And yeah, I agree with others who think maybe their relationship with each other is none too kosher, or at the least she's crushing on him and sees you as a rival.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:46 AM on May 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Put some polite distance between yourself and each of them. Are there some nice, decent people in your office? Be more friendly with those folks.
posted by bunderful at 6:10 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fade! He has a high opinion of her and low regard for your feelings. I wouldn't stay in a friendship like this because it wouldn't meet my standard for how friends behave. And it sounds also like your gut was right. Even his wife agrees.

If she says something along the lines of the hair extension you could say: "Wow, that's a really personal comment." Then say, "Yes I do," followed by damage control while everyone is listening. "I wanted to add a little volume. It was a pretty quick job." If you don't want to respond, then maybe, "Wow, that's really personal. I'm not going to be able to respond to that." Or "That's between me and my hairdresser!" If she pushes after you give polite derails, it'll become clear to everyone that she's being super rude.
posted by ramenopres at 6:10 AM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think fading just a little is a good idea - not too much, since you don't want to do anything obvious which will trigger some kind of wildly inappropriate action from this woman. If she's complaining to your boss about you, that's not so great - how is your relationship with your boss? Is the whole "coming in late, leaving early" thing okay with him (because you work other overtime, or because your job permits you to leave whenever as long as you manage your work, etc)?

Never underestimate the kind of harm this sort of person can do - someone who is really vindictive, fairly plausible and believes their own stories can absolutely turn others against you. I've watched it happen to a friend and it was very shocking.

As far as what to say to her - I think you're doing really well. Your "aren't they awesome" comment about the extensions was perfect. It is unfortunate that your social circle is made up of really gauche people, because the whole "and then all these men asked me about my hair" thing does not reflect well on them. That's not just this women's fault - it's also the fault of a bunch of gauche dudes.

I think I would try to manage my interactions with her more from the outside, by not giving her information (don't tell anyone about the hair, for instance, not because you're ashamed but because you don't need her to know) and by not spending time around her. If you can gently drift from the dude who is her friend, do so - just hang out with him if he asks, so as not to cause drama, but don't initiate and don't commit for anything big. Lunch, not dinner; a drink, not a night out.

Honestly, when I saw how a particular small group of people fell for a bunch of obvious lies and exaggerations about a friend in my social circle, it made me reevaluate that whole social circle. I decided that while I'd be polite to everyone and was not going to cut ties, I was going to reduce my contact with most of them because I felt like they had all exercised really poor judgement. If this women is able to get everyone to start pestering you about your hair - if that's typical and not just weird - maybe it's time to seek another social circle where people have better manners.
posted by Frowner at 6:14 AM on May 28, 2016 [22 favorites]

I think they're having an affair, or about to begin an affair. There's not another way to explain him ignoring her behavior other than he's into her. I think you should be friendly, but very distant. She might be using you as a way to somehow bring her closer to the guy.
I think you handled the hair extensions thing well! If she brings up something again, you could say, "Oh, why do you bring that up?" to call her out on the fact that it's inappropriate. Not that she'll apologize or feel shamed, but it might give others a chance to see her behavior more clearly.
posted by areaperson at 6:29 AM on May 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Again I find myself recommending Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare. While it might seem dramatic to consider she could be a psychopath (sociopath), the vast majority are non violent people who are simply cruelly manipulative and wreak their own havok.
posted by InkaLomax at 6:30 AM on May 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would definitely distance myself from both of them. They are not your friends. However, you still will probably have to deal with her trying to embarrass you at work. I worked with someone who was like this once. The book Coping With Difficult People helped me; she fit clearly into the category they called "the assassin" (attack openly, then disappear). I started responding directly to her attacks. So when she said, "I'm going to stick this fork right into your eye," instead of being flustered and letting her get a laugh for that, I just said, "ok, go ahead." That snide/weird/threatening comments stopped immediately. With the hair extensions, you could say, " You asked me all about that yesterday. Is there a reason you're bringing it up again?" You might still have some damage control, but you're letting her know that attempts at humiliation will be met with a direct and honest response. If she asks you privately about your male friend, you can just look coldly at her and say, "I don't see how that's any of your business." The main thing is don't engage. You owe her absolutely nothing.
posted by FencingGal at 6:33 AM on May 28, 2016 [30 favorites]

In addition to fading, you might try to make some friends not connected with your work.
posted by zadcat at 6:35 AM on May 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

You're attractive and smart, and she tried to shame you in front of a bunch of men so they could think you're fake. See also, interrupting you when the guy friend is around. She's jealous as fuck.

"So, you're wearing extensions now?" "Yeah, call me Rapunzel, pass the salt" or

"oh, didn't we have this conversation yesterday? Maybe you need a memory test or check up with your GP?"

(Coldly) "why do you want to know?" Let her fuck herself up trying to answer

Don't answer. When pressed, say "I assumed you were being rhetorical. We had this conversation yesterday." Turn away from her coldly.

Fade on both of them.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:51 AM on May 28, 2016 [21 favorites]

Distance from both, to be sure. Also agreeing with the folks above who say that she's a bit of a jealous/possesive drama queen, and he's enjoying the tug-of-war over him. Cut back to business-only with both of them; stay friendly & polite, but keep personal stuff out of it with both of them, keep things purely professional.

(And try not to give her any more ammo about coming in to work late or leaving early. Yes, she's being an immature tattletale, but never give this kind of person anything they can use against you.)
posted by easily confused at 7:10 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

In addition to the fade, if she attempts anything besides benign small talk or legitimate chats about business stuff, I'd freeze her out and/or walk away immediately. You see her coming? You head in the opposite direction. She doesn't get access to you anymore.

He's really playing with fire by rationalizing to himself and others that she's a good person to have in his life. Especially given how that rationalisation disrespects his wife.
posted by quince at 7:44 AM on May 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

If he wouldn't choose his wife over this woman, he isn't going to choose you. So, yeah, he's always going to take her side. You should dial back your relationship with both of these people to "professional co-worker" for sure.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:45 AM on May 28, 2016 [34 favorites]

I would avoid anyone who feels the need to ask loud, pointed personal questions of me during quiet moments at large gatherings. And I would avoid anyone who doesn't see that behavior from their friends as a problem.

One problem with little cells like this, beyond the immediate havoc their dynamics can wreak, is that they can grow. If you get a group of three people like this, some people above them leave, and they get promoted (perhaps by "demonstrating value" by tattling on co-workers, if your workplace rewards behavior like that), you could be looking at not just awkwardness, but something that threatens your job.

I'd suggest being polite and professional with them while avoiding this entanglement. This guy sounds like the type to idealize women, and who knows what happens when he no longer idealizes you? And this woman just sounds like poison. Speaking as someone who once thought she was friends with a couple people in a similar "work spouse" relationship that later turned into a toxic, exclusive clique that made major work decisions behind the advice is just to be cautious and professional and step lightly. Fade.
posted by limeonaire at 8:14 AM on May 28, 2016 [7 favorites]

Ugh, what jerks. Definitely fade, agree with everyone on that and the reasons for it.

I do think it's important for your comfort and wellbeing at work to continue to neutralize her attempts to publicly cut you down, to put some kind of barrier there, so she understands there's only so much she can get away with (and so you don't feel totally disempowered and, frankly, bullied). Don't just roll with it. In this crowd, comebacks like honey-barbara's Rapunzel line might work well. Playing it light when she attacks is perfect, deliver while smiling (big presence), and then shrug her off, she's water off your back. Her words can't touch you, they're bits of toxic fluff thrown weakly from a distance by a twisted troll (probably with some kind of sad backstory, but you're not her therapist, and you are in her crosshairs, so :/). Otherwise, professional game-face on when you have to actually work with her, stick to surfaces and ignore jibes.

It's no doubt frustrating that some people (like your "friend") aren't seeing it; some probably are but don't want to get sucked into her vortex.

Btw, if I were in your shoes, this kind of coworker would bug the crap out of me, would definitely get my back up, get under my skin, even if I wasn't a target. (Man those metaphors - but it's true, someone like that can create a physical response.) To settle that down a bit, remind yourself of how tragic her behaviour really is, keep a physical distance when you can, and turn your attention to more well-adjusted people at work (forcefully if you have to). When that fails, keep smiling and grit through it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:17 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

She's attracted to him and is jealous of you.

This, 100%. Furthermore he is aware of it and enjoys it, and he is a terrible friend who you should ditch ASAP. God, what awful people.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:46 AM on May 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


This office politics! These are not your friends. This is office politics.

Remain on good terms with both of them. Don't let on that you care! Stop thinking of them as your friends - think of them as chess pieces, a collection of behaviors, etc.. Like, if you are openly talking to him, you know she will interrupt or otherwise punish you in some way, so both laugh that off AND talk to him less openly. When she interrupts, smile. She's predictable. It's funny.

Here's something else you are missing: They are BOTH game playing assholes. They even play games with his wife's emotions. Fuck both of them, these people are low, immature, and insecure. They are not anyone's friend.

If this was not office politics, yes, fade. But this IS office politics. Do not fade. Instead, adjust yourself - your perception, your attitude, your feelings. These are not your friends and you want to keep interactions at work pleasant. Be pleasant. Be wise. Cultivate a life outside and don't talk about yourself too much at work to avoid anything personal becoming ammunition. That's it. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:17 AM on May 28, 2016 [32 favorites]

I had the misfortune of getting caught in a toxic dynamic between two people exactly like this. When I did the slow fade rather than yield, it just ended in the person (the woman who felt threatened/jealous/possessive) trying to destroy me outright socially. To an extent it worked, but in ways that are not terribly important and temporary. Losers like this will always end up ruining if not most of their relationships by perpetuating this sort of drama, so slow fading is key. Display no outright animosity. Just sort of "meh" the fuck away.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:17 AM on May 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

What Young Kullervo wrote a million times.

Seriously, do not attract attention to yourself. Keep playing along. Change on the inside. You won't be at this job forever, keep it kosher while you are there.

Start looking for another job if this is too much. You might get targeted anyway, since she's super spiteful.

I think you should go out of your way once in a while to casually compliment her to her cohort. That should confuse things enough. Be very natural, not overboard. Maybe like once every two weeks? If he compliments her, agree without being effusive. He's also a predator and is watching you, too.

If you are a good actress this will all be fine. If you are an honest sort, maybe look for another job? It just gets messier from here if you can't keep a facade up.
posted by jbenben at 9:25 AM on May 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

think of them as chess pieces, a collection of behaviors, etc.

That. It's much more fun when you can be a little detached and faux-clinical about it. For example, it seems his wife is a sore spot; I wonder what happens if you keep innocently bringing up conversation about the wife while this woman is present?
posted by ctmf at 10:10 AM on May 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

My impression is that she is determined to have an affair with him, and that he is in the 'ha ha ha nothing is going on here' mode which will make the affair happen, but allow him to push all responsibility for it off onto her.

Now would be a good time for you to step back from him, watch the inevitable happen from a front row seat, and reflect upon how pleasant it is not to be married to either one of these two people.

A typical denouement would be that the actual affair is very brief because no one in their right mind would really want to end up with her, and he never intended to give up his marriage in the first place.

But she will make an issue of it in more or less dramatic fashion, and her marriage will be destroyed while his is only threatened, and his wife will make it a condition of taking him back that he have no more female 'friends'.

She will find herself labeled a kind of scarlet woman, and will probably leave the company.
posted by jamjam at 10:43 AM on May 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

When she makes loud personal observations in work settings (like the hair extensions thing), just stare at her in silence for about 10-15 seconds, then without comment resume work-related discussion --- do not ever give her a reply, do not ever respond other than with a blank stare and silence. It'll make her look like a fool to everyone else there, for trying to bring up unrelated personal comments in a work meeting. Do this if you're in a big 30-person meeting or just passing in the hall: never give her the satisfaction of knowing she's gotten to you.
posted by easily confused at 10:53 AM on May 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

I have hair extensions for the same reason! They are for real not a big deal -- I tell everyone I have them because my life goal is to normalize hair extensions for non-celebrities (basically every celeb in the world has them). I think you handled that correctly. Next time she says something like that, say, "yes! Aren't they great? I LOVE them!" and then smoothly continue talking about whatever you were talking about. Treat them as if she asked if you had a new bag. (Because they are, essentially, a new great accessory that you love.)

(If men are coming up and asking you if you are bald...that is bizarre behavior on their part as well, btw.)

I agree that you just kill her with kindness. Who has time for this kind of petty behavior? Not you!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:20 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

You've gotten some good tips here, but I would also suggest having very firm boundaries with this woman and not sharing personal information with her. Your extensions--not something you need to own, confess, acknowledge, but absolutely none of her business (and no one's business except yours and your hairdresser's). This isn't some life cheat; it's a hairstyle.

Same thing about her questions about your interactions with the guy. None of her business, and weird.

We're trained to be nice, but remember that even asking a question like this is deeply personal, and you are not obligated to answer. Not answering can feel rude, even when she's the one being rude, so you might have to work up to this, especially if you are a chatty, sharing person. One way to do this is avoid the question and ask her something. Smile, and move on. Or maybe, "Wow, I didn't know my hair was so fascinating! Ferguson, how was your trip to Croatia?" Or, when she asks about your interactions with the guy, "So many questions! I need to get back to processing this report now." It can be easier and more disarming if you smile when you say this stuff.

I'd also suggest not talking about this woman to this guy. Truth is, whether or not anything is going on with them, people don't like to say bad things about their friends, and it can be frustrating to hear someone criticize folks you like, even when deep down you know their behavior isn't perfect.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:23 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Start leaving bible verses in her work area regarding marriage and the sin of adultery. Ignore them except for this.

Please don't do that. It will get you nothing. Fade, be professional when contact is necessary. He's not a friend.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 11:27 AM on May 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

They even play games with his wife's emotions.

QFT. Look, this dude doesn't really even have his wife's back; he's sure as hell not going to have yours.

Both of these people are toxic and are behaving badly; he's just less obvious and more insidious about it. Detach from them socially and emotionally. Your interactions with them should be neutrally pleasant and impersonal. Pretty soon you'll have moved on entirely from these jerks while they're still mired in some version of the same old toxic drama.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 11:46 AM on May 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

Remind yourself, too, that you don't have to do anything to have power in this situation. She's threatened by you. He wants your attention. The only thing you want is to be friends with him, and he's proving to be either insensitive, dismissive or clueless, none of which qualities you need in a friend.

The older I get, the more I realize that even if I think a friend is overreacting or mistaken, the point of them bringing their feelings to me is so that I can affirm for them our friendship by listening and caring about what they say. If I listen and take on board their feelings, it doesn't end up mattering as much, what they were hurt about to begin with. He's not doing this for you; he's judging you and being dismissive. Bad friend.

Interestingly, too, I rarely have these kinds of conversations because I don't truck with people who attempt to triangulate with me to engage in conflict for drama's sake. Please consider, as others have said, that your sole role to both of these people, not just her, is as merely another point on a drama triangle, which heightens their sexual tension. Without you, they'd be making trouble in their marriages.

If I were you, I'd slow fade on him and be as polite and grounded with her as possible. You have everything to gain, and only lose two people who are making tiny shitstorms in your world.

Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2016 [13 favorites]

Ok, so you know what you need to do with the fade. Now, here's what you need to do when she's bitchy to you around others.

Her: "Are you wearing your hair extensions?"
You: ...look right at her, raise your eyebrows in surprise, say nothing. KEEP YOUR FACE VERY OPEN, like you are just surprised, not annoyed. Then turn slowly to the person next to you, with eyebrows still raised, and give them the look. The look that says, "I can't believe she said that!" Smile a little like you and the person next to you are both in on a joke. (You know how you looked in school when someone did something outrageous in class and you looked at your friend in disbelief? That look.)

Do not respond to her comment. Wait a couple of seconds. If you then need to, say "Uhh, I can't believe you said that!" While still wearing that look of humorous disbelief.

Practice the look at home in the mirror. Works every time. Even with your boss. I promise.
posted by raisingsand at 12:44 PM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Bleh what a spite bucket of a woman. And the guy is a deadbeat. You dont need to like these peeps, but stay genuinely cordial. be sorta aloof! Steer clear when you can, dont volunteer any info, let them take care of themselves. People that try to take you down a notch are a miserable bunch, and if you have a solid happiness thing going on, it just drives 'em nuts. Drop both of these two (mentally) like a bad habit and do your own thing.

and if she tries to put you on the spot again show her that you don't feel weird or meh about it, try to project like just distracted/detachment/dry humor/switch to something else. It'll kill her momentum and show her she cant get under your skin.
posted by speakeasy at 1:13 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

You realize you're competing for this guys attention and affection with this other woman? This married co-woker guy? Don't get sucked into this dynamic.
posted by fshgrl at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

Slow fading into courteous (on your part) coworker relationship is a very good thing. F that noise. You don't need that kind of negativity & drama. Clearly they have something beyond work friends going on, no need to get caught up in it. Not your monkeys, not your circus.
posted by Neekee at 3:02 PM on May 28, 2016

I agree with everyone on the going no contact with both of them as much as you can. Having said that, you work together and she's going all out to show you up. Another thing you could say next time she tries a nasty comment is, "Wow, you seem REALLY obsessed with me, this is the third comment you've made about my hair. What a creeper! Are you going to go all single white female on me?!" Make a 'what a total freak' face to the rest of the group.

Next time she comes up, same thing, say something about her being a creeper. Make it so any comment at all about you from her gets the creeper thing attached to it. Pretty soon she will be running away as soon as she sees you. She's threatened by you and you're an easy target because you don't fight back. Turn her nasty comments back on her and make out to be the vicious harpy she is.
posted by Jubey at 3:24 PM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

This woman sounds awful, and this man doesn't sound like he's really your friend. If I were you, I would put her into the "colleague I have to tolerate but will avoid if possible" camp, and him into the "colleague I can be friendly with but won't expect anything from" camp. He clearly values his friendship with her over his friendship with you, so it's best to just accept that, adjust your mental model of him, and move on. Since it seems that her antipathy towards you started when you became friendly with him, she'll probably go back to ignoring you if she feels like she's "won" whatever contest she thinks she's engaged in with you for his attention.

In the meantime, I don't think you should follow any of the advice here to engage spitefully with this woman to try to "prove" how bad she is. It will only make things worse by amplifying the drama and quite possibly making you look like the petty one. The best response to her attempts to antagonize you is to disengage while remaining polite and professional. When she attempts to publicly embarrass you like she did by bringing up your hair extensions, it might help to mentally remind yourself that this is the sort of thing that only a petty, insecure person does. Frankly, to me, she sounds kind of pathetic. It sounds like you handled this particular case quite well by refusing to acknowledge that there was anything to be embarrassed about. If she does this sort of thing again, engaging as minimally as possible is probably for the best. E.g., if she says, "Hey Yourname, are you wearing hair extensions?" the only response politeness requires of you is "Yeah." You don't need to be defensive or cold, just an honest response without further engagement is fine. You have nothing to be defensive or embarrassed about. If you're the sort of person who's quick on her feet conversationally, you can just change the topic. If not, your minimal engagement forces her to carry the topic forward if she wants to press it. "Why are you wearing hair extensions?" "I like the way they look on me." "Are you going bald?" "No, that's not what hair extensions are for." At that point pressing the topic should start becoming increasingly awkward and hopefully she'll drop it. (Ideally this will also make it more obvious to others that she's being petty and cruel, but that's not really something you have control over.)

Sorry for your friend turning out to be not such a great friend. That probably stings, but there's nothing you can really do about it if he continues to prioritize this woman over even his wife's bad opinion of her.
posted by biogeo at 3:54 PM on May 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

My impression is that she is determined to have an affair with him, and that he is in the 'ha ha ha nothing is going on here' mode which will make the affair happen, but allow him to push all responsibility for it off onto her.


Actually, I would bet dollars to donuts that his wife hates MeanyPants because she knows that the affair already had a false start. That's why you don't know the details of their argument. It was his wife shutting that shit down. Clearly, MeanyPants was not at all deterred and they both carry on as though his wife has no insight.

And YOU! A female added to this mix! Now he has one more wrestling match participant to add to the [ahem] bank. His wife knows and trusts you because you are nice and NOT trying to get in his pants. But in MeanyPants' mind, you are competition. This is never going to be chill. Fade on everyone, unless you like the wife enough to be real friends. She's going to need a shoulder soon.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 6:41 PM on May 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

When someone goes after me the way she went after you, I can't help but ball up and stare them down (I am not reccomending this necessarily but it usually puts a stop to behavior like you describe. So, she calls you out in public...

HER (catily) " So are you wearing hair extensions? "

(Room falls silent.)

You (turning and walking towards her, making direct eye contact and speaking very firmly<>" Excuse me. "

HER (still catty) " Are you wearing extensions then?"

YOU (still walking very purposely towards her) "I'm sorry, what?"

HER (a bit uncomfortable now) "I asked about your hair extensions."

YOU(right up in her face suddenly casual but way too close not to be threatening all the same) "Hair extensions? Oh yeah. What about them?"

HER (super uncomfortable because now everyone is staring at both of you and she was NOT expecting this) "Oh, uh, nothing, I was just wondering..."

At this point you give her your nicest, genuinely delighted smile and say, "Yeah they're great, especially for people with thin hair, you should try them!" Then you move on.

Like I said, I'm not reccomending it but it will at least change the dynamic between you, she will see you are the more powerful person and likely switch tactics, trying to befriend you. That's just as distasteful as her previous behavior but at least you've put a stop to her trying to bully you.

posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

For the love of God, do not try to escalate this. Don't try bitchy comebacks. Just leave the whole thing alone, and stop being this guys work wife.
posted by corb at 12:44 AM on May 29, 2016 [18 favorites]

This is your workplace. Your boss doesn't care that they have poor boundaries or his wife doesn't like her or whatever. You're both going to look bad if this draws attention from the higher ups. He probably won't get any flak, because reasons, but you're in a precarious place. Don't engage. Be the gray rock. Don't given either of them any ammunition to use against you. Be boring. When she tries to get personal, smile blandly and give non-answers.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:04 AM on May 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yes, please don't escalate with this person. You'll look petty, and she's not worth it.
posted by lazuli at 9:19 AM on May 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, please don't escalate with this person. You'll look petty, and she's not worth it.

Absolutely. You can't beat these sorts of people at their own game, because they have infinitely more experience in knowing how to manipulate situations, people, etc. to their advantage. Your snappy sarcastic comeback (or cold stare of death, or whatever) can be turned against you in ways you can't even imagine, precisely because you're obviously not the sort of person who habitually engages with others on this level -- but she does, and she's an expert at it. If you engage at all, she will escalate, and you will be further enmeshed in the drama, not less.

Take a tip from WarGames: the only winning move is not to play.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 11:49 AM on May 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yup. These two, you don't need.

As for her undermining or embarrassing you, a good response is, "why would you ask something like that?" Then just wait. Slight smile. Don't answer and if she didn't move on, you can turn to someone and change the subject, "hey, how 'bout them dawgs."

Another response would be, "Bless your heart, aren't you funny?" That's Southern for, "fuck you bitch."

But this guy isn't your friend if he's tight with this jerk.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:16 PM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Be careful. I also agree that if you withdraw too quickly she'll outright try to get you fired.
posted by xammerboy at 3:41 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you can definitely stop this by just saying, "I'm sorry, I don't get why you're so interested in this?" Especially when she's asking about your relationship with the guy. It's the more polite version of "Oh, my god, you're, like, OBSESSED with him."
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 9:34 AM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to note - her mentioning to your boss when you leave early or come in late is her setting up cards to get you fired if you step out of line. Please don't try to fuck with her or give zingers or try to poke the bear. She has undoubtedly been setting stuff up to get you fired. Is this guy worth your job?
posted by corb at 9:42 AM on May 30, 2016

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