Hobie and Monk are two Alexandria women with husbands, children, dogs, jobs, mortgages, unmet New Year’s resolutions, obsessions with impractical shoes and English novels, and PhDs in clinical psychology. Their advice, while fabulous, should not be construed as therapeutic within a doctor-patient context or substituted for the advice of readers’ personal advisors.
Dear Hobie & Monk:
I have a circle of dear friends. We dine and vacation together, attend the same church, and often watch each other’s children. One woman in our group — “Jan” — is a funny and interesting person but also gossips incessantly about other women we know. Because Jan tosses humor into her stories about other women, her behavior is often excused and I admit to excusing it myself in the past. Recently, however, Jan berated a mutual friend (“Celia”) for speaking negatively about someone and now ostracizes her from social events. The hypocrisy is really getting to me. How should I handle this without it backfiring?
I am a huge fan of being direct and loving in the same breath. It is quite refreshing and disarming, actually (and works like magic on sullen adolescents, recalcitrant relatives and sometimes even members of Congress).
You cherish these women, so silently forgive them, as I’m sure they’ll have to forgive you some day, and tell them how much you miss being together. Invite everyone over for a brunch. Without sounding accusatory or holier-than-thou, notice out loud that you all seem to be going through a rough patch and you treasure them too much to let that simmer. Toast each other and settle in for a “Dance Moms” or “Real Housewives” marathon — you’ll feel healthier immediately.
And about “Gossip Girl”: I know a “Jan” and I’ve been “Jan” (and you have too, Hobie, admit it).
Sometimes, a funny gal finds herself center stage with a willing audience and just goes on a tear — and crosses the line. It sounds like trashing others with a wink and a smile is Jan’s MO I assure you, if you’re feeling uncomfortable when it happens, you’re not the only one. Most self-respecting, well-bred Virginian women (including transplants) know when that line has been crossed. The next time it happens, I suggest you chime in with a lovely comment about the gossip target, but be careful, because timing and smooth delivery are key. You may find the conversation changes direction and Jan takes the subtle hint. I did.
Moi?! Monk is right, gossip claims most of us at one time or another, as the gossiper or the target. You’ll feel better when you stop it in the moment, but since this has gone so far, it’s time to get everyone back in the fold and restore your group goodwill.
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