Dear Margo: Guess What: Not Everyone Is Kind

How do I handle the adult “mean girls”? Margo Howard’s advice

Guess What: Not Everyone Is Kind

Dear Margo: My husband, our children and I recently moved to a new town. Through the children, really, I’ve met a group of women. They apparently are longtime friends, and one of them invited me to their Wednesday mothers group for lunch. I have to say, they were being kind of snippy to me, challenging things I said, and no one seemed welcoming or simpatico at all. I almost didn’t trust my own judgment because I was thinking: If they didn’t like me, why bother to invite me over? It almost felt like bullying — which I thought only happened to children. Can there even be grownup “mean girls”? I hope you don’t think, reading this, that I am hypersensitive or even making things up. — New Girl in Town

Dear New: Actually, I don’t. And yes, there can, indeed, be “grownup mean girls.” As with children, “the new kid” is often targeted. It happened to me when I was in early middle age and moved to a new city.

I became friendly with a woman who was a neighbor. She invited me to go to a spa with her and some good friends. I thought that would be wonderful — never having traveled with women before. Well, it wasn’t wonderful, and for reasons unknown to me, they seemed to be going out of their way to make me uncomfortable — especially my neighbor. At one dinner, things were so bad that I left the table, went to the ladies room and threw up. Like you, I thought: Why did they even bother to invite me? Then I saw on the spa literature that a group got 10 percent off for every new person they brought. I wondered why they hadn’t invited someone they liked to get the discount.

In any case, this is all by way of letting you know that the problem is not you; they are the problem. The reasons can be cliquishness, envy … or perhaps they really are just mean girls. It is a fact that some people are cruel without even knowing why. — Margo, discerning

When Lost Is Found…

Dear Margo: In 1965, my uncle gave up his son for adoption. His sister knew about the baby, but my dad, as the youngest, didn’t find out until my uncle died a few years ago. My uncle ended up getting married and having two other children who don’t know about their brother. My uncle’s sister and his biological son (her nephew) found each other on Facebook, and she wants to let my other cousins know that they have an older brother they have never met.

I agree that my cousins should have the opportunity to meet their brother, especially since he has posted publicly on Facebook that he is searching for his siblings and has already lost the chance to meet his biological father. I think my aunt should give my cousin his siblings’ phone numbers, or at least full names, so he can do with the information as he pleases.

My mom feels we should respect my uncle’s wishes that his wife and children never find out about his firstborn son. My dad thinks my grandma (my uncle’s mother) should be the one to tell my cousins about their older brother, and my brother just wants us to stay out of it. What do you think should be done in this situation? — Biological Cousin in Northern California

Dear Bio: Your uncle is gone, and the cat’s already out of the bag, if you’ll excuse that analogy in this context. The connection has been made, if only to a limited degree — although your family seems to know. I agree with your brother that the rest of you should stay out of it and let your late uncle’s sister decide who should know what. They were siblings, after all. Now, don’t you feel relieved? All the rest of you can mind your own business and not have to second-guess yourselves. — Margo, carefully

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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79 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:


    I had the mean girls experience in my early 40’s. This was a four day $$$ knitting retreat. I went with supposed friends, and it turns out that I was targeted for “rudely” intruding on their “private” event. It was like being back in 7th grade where the popular girls ran around in packs, and viciously savaged the target du jour.

    I eventually received a heartfelt apology from one of the participants. She apologized for not being very strong-minded. The head mean girl, who was 65, and a lawyer, threatened me with a lawsuit if I told more people why we were no longer friends. Of course, you can’t sue someone for libel when they are telling the exact truth- especially in response to a question. And, it proved to me that she really was just a bully.

    I’m perfectly fine, but mean girls do exist, well past an age that one really ought to have matured!


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA, where it still isn’t winter

  2. avatar Melissa Taylor says:

    Yes, mean girls do exist in grown up bodies. My experience was over 7 months of employment. I worked in an office of 6 to 7 people, depending on who was there that day. All women for the most part, the only two men working in a different department rarely stuck their noses up front but heard everything.

    There were three mean girls, one being in customer service the whole time, another eventually became my immediate supervisor and the last was the most senior of the clerks. They all disliked me from day one. No idea why. Eventually, I realized it was because I had just moved there from the West Coast and they were all East Coasters as this was in PA. Also, I think the fact that I learned a difficult job quickly and well and rarely made mistakes didn’t help. I spent the entire time in that office loving the job but hating the people I worked with except the two men who were sweethearts but were rarely there.

    At one point, I noticed another co-worker had made a mistake on an out-going bill of lading and pointed it out to my supervisor who was standing right there (literally just tapped her on the shoulder and used my finger to point to the missing initials) as we were supposed to let her know when something was incomplete. She made a HUGE deal out of it in front of the whole lobby of truck drivers. She had acted like I was running to her in a state of frenzy, that I was so overjoyed to find someone else’s mistake that I was “orgasmic”. She embarrassed me so much that I was close to tears and my face was completely red. The truck driver I was in the middle of signing out when this happened even looked at me in pity and said something nice to me about her being completely out of line. There were other instances, like the three girls collectively ganging up on me to insult me or make fun of something I had said that was so off the wall to them because they hadn’t ever heard it before. I couldn’t dress right, I couldn’t talk right and I certainly couldn’t joke around with them like they did with each other.

    Eventually, I quit that job and moved on but everything sticks in my head to this day because of how long I allowed myself to endure that treatment and because of how absolutely immature those girls were. We were all in our early 30’s by the way, this kind of behavior should have been long gone. The supervisor of the division, who sat in an office right off of ours, heard everything and never did anything. He knew how they treated me but he and my own supervisor were best buds and nothing was ever done.

    • avatar StaceyLynn says:

      I really sympathize with your situation as you described it. Is it possible to contact an attorney and see whether the situation is actionable? I’m not usually in favor of this, but it seems like an awfully extreme example of “hostile work environment”. If all you do is to notify the company’s version of HR and their owner, at least a dialog of sorts will be started if these “mean girls” are repeating this process with the next “new girl’. So sorry you went through this and I hope there is a way you can get both closure and some degree of vindication.

      • avatar Melissa Taylor says:

        Thank you for the support. This was years ago, and at the time, I had never dealt with women who were so overtly mean in a workplace. Only one of the three still works there. And I spoke up after I quit telling them why I was doing so. One of them moved on to another company and last I heard was spreading her venom around there behind the scenes to make herself look good while getting others fired. And another was fired for drug issues. People eventually see through these type of people and realize that they are snakes and then decide what to do from there. These people are unhappy with themselves and the best thing I can do is move on, live my life happily and know that I am a better person then those who were mean to me.

  3. avatar Paula says:

    Re the first letter: It just goes to show that some people never grow up! What a shame!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1: Sleep with their husbands. Then kill them all.

      LW2: If you are an adult and you want to have a relationship with this person—then you should establish your own relationship with this person. Establishing ties between the others is up to him—and them. Not you.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        “Sleep with their husbands. Then kill them all” and then go have a nice lunch.  A simple, elegant solution. Sometimes life really is just that easy.   🙂

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          Overheard in the ladies’ room:

          “Why, I never knew that carbon monoxide was both poisonous AND flammable!”

          “You don’t say!”

        • avatar Deeliteful says:

          Thank you, David B & R Scott for my biggest laugh today! (My son had been visiting for a few days and I’m just now catching up on the columns.)

  4. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1…all you have to do is watch The Real Housewives series, Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras to know that mean girls don’t necessarily grow up.  I would chalk it up as a bad experience and like Margo says, realize it is their problem and not yours.  I  hope you can find some nice women to make friends with in your new location.  As for the workplace mean women, sadly its not uncommon for office cliques to be formed.  I’ve seen it in the workplace when there are a number of women working together and friends of mine have seen it as well.  Sometimes they gang up on one of their level, sometimes they gang up on their supervisor, and sometimes they gang up on each other.  In my experience the men in the workplace do not get involved because to them it is just stupid women’s drama, the clashes between the women are not generally over anything related to the work involved, and they just don’t get it.  I got it and on one occasion was so angry at the way one woman was lording it over her colleagues that I literally shook when I told her how wrong she was.  (I really do not recall how it came to my attention what was happening and how upset it was making some of the women (who worked for me)  and how I got in the middle of it but I did and I let the *mean girl* have it…unfortunately when I get that angry (its happened less than 10 times in my life) my voice shakes and I almost hyperventilate so I was hardly the voice of reason on that occasion.     

    LW#2:  My inclination is that if the dad didn’t want his wife and children to know about the child he gave up for adoption then its not anyone’s place to spill the beans.  If the aunt wants to bring this out in the open then there is really nothing you can do about it but don’t take it upon yourself to try to unite the siblings into one big happy family by spilling the beans yourself.  A friend of mine learned in the past 10 years or so (she is in her late 50s) that her mother had given up a child for adoption long before my friend’s parents met and married (it was a wartime affair gone bad for her mother).  Her mother did NOT want to reveal this secret but the daughter contacted her and pressured her into meeting her siblings. (The daughter had a fine life with her adoptive parents and I believe a sibling or two in her adoptive family).  Long story short, the *reunion* was held, a few meetings ensued thereafter, but neither side was really comfortable with the whole deal and they are not one big happy family.   Both sides are resentful…the adopted daughter because she was not raised by her biological mother and the younger children who resent the intrusion from the adopted daughter not to mention the pain she brought to their mother when she had to reveal the secret to them.  Neither side comes out looking very great here but that is life.   It might turn out all hunky dory for your cousins or it may not.  If it doesn’t, don’t be the source of the angst. And once they know (and your aunt will tell them) if they say to you *whay didn’t you TELL us* you can only say…it wasn’t my story to tell. 


  5. avatar Dan Bingham says:

    Mean girls, mean boys…. they both exist. I was harassed pretty constantly in school until I hit on the answer, which is two-fold. First, remember that nobody can embarrass you if you don’t let them. Second, THEY’RE the ones acting like idiots, not you. So act like it! It takes a while, but if you can manage to give them a good “You’re really not all there, are you?” stare, then turn around and walk away, you can usually leave THEM feeling embarrassed. (Yes, it works on grownups, too.)

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Your right Dan, mean boys  exist too.  Just after I posted my comment, I was looking for something to read and found a book my husband bought called *The No Asshole Rule* about mean men and women in the workplace.  I came across more than one or two mean men in my workplaces…it seemed to me, however, that they did not form *packs* like the mean women did…they just made everyone miserable one on one.   But then you have the mean frat boy stories.  Your approach to give them a stare and walk away is a good one.

      • avatar lisakitty says:

        Agree, Katherine.  You nailed it. Another thing to address are the mean GAY men who hang in those packs with the mean girls.  They can be even more mean than the mean girls.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Ha, Dan, excellent! I mean the “You’re really not all there, are you?” stare. The Army did not have a lot of “mean girls” cliques, but I did a couple of tours with lots of civilians where that stare (or, if I was really annoyed, the comment: “What are you, twelve?”) could work wonders. You have to just not care what such petty people think of you.

      That said – in a social situation we usually have the choice to just go do something else with other people. But at work, such bullying can be poisonous and I think bosses need to deal with it as unprofessional behavior.

  6. avatar crystalclear says:

    I have never figured out why some women are so envious and spiteful of other women.   LW1 struck a nerve in me when I read it.   How an awful experience for the letter writer and you, Margo.   For some reason just reading what you both wrote broke my heart.     I’ve been told that I don’t have a mean bone in my body which I took as a compliment but honestly I could no more be mean and nasty to another woman than kick a precious puppy.   As adults, we should have the ability to be kind to people even when we know they would never be a close friend.   We have the power to be respectful and then put distance between us.   Taking the “high road” is important to our own self respect and being respectful to others who are different from us.    The word “bullies” comes to mind and “ganging up” on someone…the “pack mentality” seems to come from women who never matured and are envious of other women.   Sad.   What a terrible way to approach life IMO.

  7. avatar crystalclear says:

    Oops, should have read “What” an awful experience.    Wonderful comments here by the way.

  8. avatar crystalclear says:

    LW2, the truth always has a way of coming out.   I’m of the opinion that it is important to the child put up for adoption to connect with the family.   Often times, situations seem more difficult to face than they actually are.   We can’t change the past.   We can embrace it, deal with it, and find peace and understanding.    I hope for the best for this family. 

  9. avatar Davina Wolf says:

    I once worked for a major pharmaceutical company where the women were really sharp, professional and most were great friend material.  One day a new female employee came aboard who was gorgeous, with long, golden hair, beautiful skin and eyes, perfect figure, had an Ivy League degree and was married to a doctor.  The female coworkers, normally so personable and decent, were green with jealousy and treated the new woman horribly.  The new woman couldn’t figure out why everyone was so unfriendly toward her, and before long escaped the job to go to medical school herself.    

  10. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: You’re also dealing with a group mind. If you’re at all able to avoid them, I would. I hope your new town isn’t too *small* because that would make polite avoidance more difficult. They’re not worth trying to make inroads with; eventually you’d become One Of Them (eeewww). I have an ongoing social situation (via husband) where politeness and courtesy, and as much legit avoidance as possible, is paying off for me. Keep yourself busy otherwise; that way you’ve got legit excuses to avoid them.

    L #2: Frankly I think your mother should butt out. This concerns your *father’s* family.

  11. avatar lisakitty says:

    LW1:  Do mean girls exist as we “grow up”?  You betcha, sister. 

    I’ve seen it in so many places, even Bible studies!!!  I actually left my church for many years because of this type of behavior.  I have seen it very often on the job (Melissa’s story above hit close to home for me) and it’s usually an established group of chicks who peck on the new duck coming into the pond.  As a contract worker, I’ve learned to try to stay away from these women as much as possible but when I have to have contact, be as sweet as sugar to them.  

    In a personal situation such as the LWs, you need to be pretty careful.  Because these are the mothers of peers of your children, your relationship with the mothers will affect the relationship of the children.  I would send a classy thank you note to the person who invited you, and then decline all future invitations to the group lunch.  1:1 works better with mean girls, they feed off the pack mentality.  You may find individually that these women are perfectly wonderful, but when they get together they revert back to high school.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Lisakitty, good suggestion on the thank-you note and then no future activities with them. A classy way to stay above the fray… no, OUT of the fray entirely… and you are right, in that situation she should also consider the possible impact on the kids. Speaking of the kids, though… she should keep her ear to the ground listening for any indications that the kids are turning out like their parents, which also could impact her kids, if they turn out as “frenemies.”

  12. avatar ann penn says:

    Re LW2…

    Ah, those family secrets! In my own family, we learned after the death of a very elderly grandmother that she had not been fathered by the man who married her mother and raised her, so her siblings were half-siblings blood wise. This was revealed to one of her children a few months before she died. That child assumed others would know the whole story, and asked no questions. One sibling of Grandmother’s went so far as to lie on an earlier occasion about where Grandmother had been born, before GM could say otherwise (this was in a voice recording of the two of them, which I heard long after both were gone).

    Recently I have been doing genealogy, and the truth of her birth is right there in the online records, except for the identity of her father… which I would love to know.

    In 1965 the out of wedlock birth could have been shocking news. In 2012, more in the surprise category, IMO.

    Someone should tell the cousins of their brother’s existence and desire for family contact and leave the decision up to them. They are no doubt old enough to handle the news.

  13. avatar kanarcy says:

    I’m in my 30s and have experienced adult mean girls. Unfortunately this was in the work place. Every day I had to endure their silent treatment, mean comments and dirty looks. My crime? I have no clue because at one time we were all friendly and one day I was completely frozen out. It became such a hostile work environment that I had to leave for my own personal sanity. All I kept thinking to myself was I’m an adult, not in high school, why is this happening?

    From what I hear they are still up to their old trick and have a new victim. I just wish I had reported them to Human Resources. Nobody deserves to be treated that way.

    • avatar lisakitty says:

      kanarcy: you can still report them to HR.  I did this to back up a coworker who was going through a similar situation and it made a huge impact.  Often these types of people (mean chicks) act in a professional manner near their boss so the boss has no idea what is really going on.  You not being there any more actually gives more credence to you stepping forward to report them: you have nothing to gain.  There is no telling how costly these women have been to the company, not only because of the turnover (you leaving…. how many others have done so?) but because of the effect on productivity.  Please rethink your decision and consider reporting them to HR now.

  14. avatar bobkat says:

    What LW1 described is exactly the reason why I don’t do the ‘girls’ thing. Nine times out of ten, when a group of women get together, one of them ends up being picked on. There’s no excuse for supposed ‘adults’ to act this way.

  15. avatar crystalclear says:

    I agree that mean boys do exist.   However, I believe “mean” women are far  worse than men,   at least that has been my experience through the years.   I’m on several political sites and I have to say the number of adult women who behave worse than a full blown middle school girl attack is remarkable.   They are nasty, spiteful, and tremendously mean spirited.   They seem to  become a “pack” which tells me that these women are drawn to each other.   It’s sad to read those nasty comments coming from grandmothers and mothers (many have stated they’ve never had children).    These attacks occur simply because someone has a different political opinion.    The internet has opened up the doors for the bullies and those who wake up every morning mad at the world and take it to their computers.

  16. avatar John Lee says:

    Re: LW#1 (and many shared stories in the comments)

    To be sexist, why are women (in general, not specific), crazy?  To be fair, men, in general, can be selfish, but I least I get the reason.  Men create trouble to get benefits unfairly.  Why do women look to create trouble at no benefit to themselves?

    BTW, I am married and 90% of the time my wife is totally sane, but every so often, she is just crazy and she admits it.  Generally it’s PMS, but sometimes not.

    Again, as a man, I admit sometimes I’m selfish.

    • avatar D C says:

      I would say I blame “Reality” TV, but it’s so much older than that.  I think it goes back to a woman’s lack of power, being “property” to hand over from father to husband, not being legally allowed to own land, stuff like that.  Men were too powerful to fight, so fighting other women was something you could actually win at. But in order to keep favor with the men you had to cover it up with honey and butter (filled with salt instead of sugar) so the people with the power wouldn’t realize what a witch you were, and would keep you in the fashion to which you had become accustomed. 

      I think the Mean Girls are really the weak girls.  The only way they can feel better is to make others feel small. 

      • avatar John Lee says:

        I appreciate your input.  I always thought it somewhere in the line of how parents and society differ in “raising” girls and boys.

        If I have a daughter, I plan to raise her to be strong, both physically and mentally and not fall prey to any of those stupid “mean girls”.

    • avatar mayma says:

      You’ve admitted being sexist, but the million-dollar question is — are you willing to change that?  Are you willing to see things in another way?  Because your generalizations really do not hold up.  Let’s talk crazy / mean males, shall we?
      * FAMU hazing
      * dwarf tossing incident in the UK
      * Michael Vick
      None of these actions were taken to “get benefits unfairly.”  They are the products of plain cruelty, and neither women nor men have any exclusive claim on that behavior. 

      And guess what?  You may very well have a 10% out-to-lunch rate yourself; most people do.  The difference with your wife, apparently, is that she admits it. 

      I’m serious, why is it when you (or men) act up, it’s “selfish,” but when women do, they’re “crazy”?  Those are utterly ridiculous categories to delineate by gender.  Here’s your chance to examine your beliefs.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        Not familiar with the hazing or the dwarf tossing.  But my understanding of Vick is that he is cruelly selfish.  He gets disgusting selfish excitement from dogs fighting and kills them when they don’t perform.

        Definitely, I would admit when I’m crazy, but it’s very, very rare, if ever.  My wife knows exactly why I do what I do that drives her nuts (not folding the laundry, not fixing the sink, drinking to excess with my buddies on NFL Sundays).  When she admits she’s crazy the following day, she can’t explain why she demanded me to be home at 6:30pm to watch a movie with her when I’m at work everyday to 7:30pm or why she gave me the silent treatment for the rest of the night for coming home at 7:30pm which I do every day.

        But anyhow, I’m quite introspective and also studied a lot of psychology.  And of course, I read a lot of advice columns.  Most letters about women are truly crazy (bridezillas requiring the most outrageous things that no observer would ever notice) and most letters about men are truly disgusting selfing (constant cheating, controlling, etc).

        • avatar mayma says:

          Sadly, rather than examining your admitted sexism, you are closing your mind around your same old beliefs and stereotypes.  A missed opportunity to think more broadly.

          “Why are women crazy?  At least I understand where men are coming from when they act out.”  If you don’t want to challenge such a narrow attitude, then good luck, I guess.

          By the way, your wife is not crazy, she is angry.  Big difference.  Just because you don’t understand her, doesn’t make her “crazy.” 

        • avatar Diagoras says:

          Ha! Go read the archives of a blog called Psychotic Letters from Men. Just google it, you’ll find it. Men can be plenty crazy, especially after being rejected by a woman.

    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      John lee –
      Refusing to behave in a predictable/controllable fashion is not necessarily ‘crazy’. And allowing oneself to be labeled as ‘crazy’ often causes people to quit with the ‘rational’ talking & go on to doing what you want them to.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        Hum… yes, I suppose it would be fair for me to define “crazy” for the sake of this argument.

        In this particular discussion, I define crazy as behaving badly without any tangible benefits to most outside observers.

        With LW#1, the Mean Girls already got the 10% discount, why treat the LW badly?  And as she posited, why not invite someone they liked for that discount?

        And to be fair, while I would like to think most people can agree with my definition to some extent, I am agreeable to disagreements in the definition.

        • avatar mayma says:

           <i>I define crazy as behaving badly without any tangible benefits to most outside observers.</i>

          Using your definition, I can give you hundreds of examples of men behaving that way.  You dismiss those examples — “not familiar” — but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. 

          No need to get bogged down in definitions, the point is that <i>people</i> — men and women both — can be mean, cruel, irrational, etc.  I find it odd that you’re attributing it to women only.

  17. avatar crystalclear says:

    John Lee, you’ve brought up an interesting observation.   Men usually have a reason for creating a big of chaos because there’s some specific they want to achieve.   Women behave like badly with no goal in sight.   Fortunately, the women we are referring to are in the minority.   I have met some of the most wonderful women throughout my lifetime…..southern, northern, midwest….west….genuine very lovely ladies.    I guess that’s why the “mean ones” are obvious.   That type of behavior is usually unexpected.

    • avatar mayma says:

      I strongly disagree.  Men and women both are capable of goal-oriented manipulation and random cruelty.  There is no reason to make this a conversation about gender differences because it simply doesn’t apply.

      Talk to any frat house pledge, and you’ll find out about pointless viciousness. 

    • avatar John Lee says:

      You are right, I definitely concur that these truly crazy “mean girls” are in the minority.

      And yes, the most nurturing and caring people in my life has always tended to be women, from my high school tennis coach to many of my older co-workers who became very close friends to me.  None of them are “crazy” at all, at least, not at their age 50+.

  18. avatar Lym BO says:

    Easy answer to mean girls. They are insecure and have never gotten past that. Being dressed in something other than sweats, having makeup on and hair done is too intimidating for some. My experience was with Brownies moms. They never even gave me a chance. I am personable, attractive, fit and married to a doctor. Apparently that is just too much for some to handle. I find if ppl dont know the doctor part and get to know me first, its not an issue as often. Que sera, sera.
    Where I draw the line is when they ganged up on my sweet, meek, attractive 7 year old daughter as well. So looking forward to the teen years. I’m so excited I get to vicariously live it over again four more times.

  19. avatar D C says:

    What an interesting topic for this column — Mean Girls.  Thinking back on the pages and pages and pages of snide commentary I’ve read here, I’d say a few Mean Girls camp here from time to time. 

    The last job I worked before the company I am with now was chok full of grown up mean girls.  One of them was my boss the last 3 years I worked there.  When she was diagnosed with colon cancer, my first thought was that maybe NOW she would get a little compassion since she was going through something so terrible.  Maybe if she’d lost her hair, which didn’t happen… but I honestly think the whole experience made her meaner.  As if anyone with cancer who didn’t go through treatment like her, was weak.  Anyone who lost their hair or felt weak must be a loser because she sure didn’t. 

    I think Mean is in your DNA.  I don’t think you can change it without a constant effort to try to be the opposite of what you are.  Most mean girls don’t have that much strength I guess. 

  20. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW#1: When Margo shared her own story, it brought back sad memories of a close friendship lost when my friend started pressuring me to sign up for a trip to Africa. It wasn’t in the cards, time-wise, financially, and for other reasons. She kept up the pressure, and it finally dawned on me that the whole campaign was because she’d get a 20% discount on her next adventure with that particular tour operator.

    What I resented was that she had presented this travel opportunity as if it were an experience “I couldn’t miss,” and I felt especially inflamed (embarrassed, too, that I’d been so slow on the uptake) when I realized her true deal was purely monetary, not shaping my life experience portfolio. That was in the ’80s, and we’ve had no contact since. Such a pity.

    LW#2: I’ve been the star involved in an extraordinarily complicated (mindblowing, in fact) story of this nature, and I can assure you that some will resent it when you surface, others will accept you, and still others will pretend to embrace you and later drop you for mysterious reasons. That can be a heartbreaker, all the more so for someone who was left behind in the first place.

    My recommendation: Provide the contact information, but let the cousins all decide for themselves what they want to do with it.  

  21. avatar A R says:

    Mean Girls: I’d like to point out one area in which I disagree with some folks about the force behind mean girls’ actions.

    I don’t believe that they are actually insecure as our moms told us. That’s too easy. In fact, I believe the opposite is true: they are actually very confident. Problem is when you combine mean, vicious, and confident, you get mean girls or mean guys. It’s that confidence that allows them to do what they do and draw others into their packs. Confidence is powerful

    The best solution I’ve found is to stay as far away if you can so that their negative energy does not bother you or draw you in. However, if you must work with them, be as confident as you can, answer them directly when they try their tricks on you, and don’t let them smell fear. Eventually they’ll move on to a weaker or more rewarding target. Just don’t socialize with them. Period.

    • avatar flyonthewall says:

      Yep, I agree AR. I have observed that the mean ones are more confident. We need to have confidence ourselves and not let them smell fear. You are right on that.

      • avatar KL says:

        I couldn’t disagree more. There is a huge difference between true confidence and bluster/overcompensation/bluffing. When you’re doing well and happy, you shouldn’t feel the need to be a jerk (although not right, understandable that you’re more snippy or jerky when you’re struggling). When you’re happy with yourself, you aren’t crappy to others.

        People that are cruel have something very, very wrong on the inside — whether it’s insecurity, sheer brokenness, lack of self-love, etc., doesn’t really matter. But it certainly isn’t confidence, not true confidence anyway.

        When you’re truly confident in yourself and your abilities, you don’t need to shout about it or belittle others. It’s self-evident. Think about people that are truly weathly, brilliant, etc. — they don’t need to shout about it because it’s obvious. Only those that don’t truly understand/believe that are the ones telling everyone about it in an effort to convince themselves. True confidence is most evident in a quiet, understated way (speak softly and carry a big stick as TR said).

        • avatar Melissa Taylor says:

          I agree very much with you KL about their “confidence” being fake. These mean people have something fundamentally wrong with them that allows them to act like that and then justify it to themselves in their heads. “Oh, that girl is ugly anyway so I can have fun insulting her clothes, too, and it won’t matter.”

        • avatar A R says:

          However, we are not talking about bluffing which is faking. We are talking about confidence–the belief in one’s powers and the quality of being certain about one’s choices. I have known many people like this; some are good and kind, but others are self-centered, rude, and demeaning to others.

          You seem to assume that “true” confidence is kind, good, loyal, and pure. That’s an untenable position. History and current life are resplendent with public persons who are/were entirely confident, yet they were as far from noble and kind as can be: Hitler, Madoff, Ty Cobb, Madonna, G. Gordon Liddy, Ted Kaczynski—-the list goes on. Those people fully believe(d) in themselves and possess(ed) confidence to spare, without bluffing. Those are only a handful of the public figures we concurrently recognize and can mutually discuss. Our day to day interactions are full of many more–the boss, the neighbor, the guy at the gas pump.

          You are right that there are kind and good people who are confident too–how admirable. In fact, the world has many of those unsung people. But to assume that “true”confidence *only* accompanies these type of people is naive at best. Admirable confidence, maybe, but there are many “true” manifestations of any character trait.

          • avatar KL says:

            I think we just disagree as to what constitutes “confidence”. I don’t think tyrants are confident. I think they’re fanatical and running away from something very deep, dark inside. When you feel the need to assert your will over others in such powerful and cruel ways, I don’t think that’s confidence — I think that’s a strong reaction to a great internal fear. I think the Dalai Lama is confident. I think Hitler is insane, delusional and terrified.

          • avatar Diagoras says:

            And Hitler also killed himself. I don’t think confident people generally do that.

  22. avatar flyonthewall says:

    From my point of view, we live in a world filled with “mean girls” and “mean boys”. I am amazed that Margo and a few of you say that you have only had a run in or two. I am surrounded on all sides by these “mean people”. My mil is one for example. What I have found helpful is to draw boundaries and socialize with these individuals as little as possible. If you have to interact with them, try to do a one on one interaction because they do feed off of each other as a prior poster mentioned. Grow a good backbone and stand your ground. Call out bad behavior when you see it, while using tact and diplomacy. Seek out other like minded individuals and band together. I would be more watchful over the children to make sure they weren’t being victimized by the mean girls’ offspring or being taught the art of being a bully, too. As I know from my husband, mean girls may not produce mean offspring, but may produce a child who needs to get nurturing and kindness from some other place. Volunteering at school might help you fulfill that role. If you are not in a position to do that perhaps you and your child can just model good behavior for the other children, when they get together outside of school for various activities, playdates, etc. I personally know it is a tough row to hoe, so here’s a heartfelt good luck to you lw#1.

  23. avatar crystalclear says:

    JCF, did you feel “used” when you learned that your friend was misrepresenting why she was pushing you to commit to the trip?   Honestly, some people simply have no shame.     I find that I have fewer close friends than when I was younger.   My husband is my best friend (lucky me) so I have a tendency to not reach out to lady friends.    I work full-time and get my “chick fix” everyday working with smart younger women and men but at the end of the day it is “ta ta” and home I go.   Female friendships aren’t important to me anymore not like they once were.   I’m I the only way like this?  Hey, “Dear Margo”  I need you down here!!   *big grin*

    • avatar JCF4612 says:

      Exactly, Crystal Clear. And the odd thing is to this day I find it hard  to believe she really was/is  that type. We’d roomed together in school and she’d been in my wedding party. Initially I was hurt (that she would attempt to use me), angry (at myself, that I didn’t catch on quicker), and humiliated (that I wasn’t in a financial position to go). At the time, I thought it would blow over and we’d eventually be back in contact. But a terminal illness came along in my family and much happened career-wise over the decades. I did get to Africa (several times, actually, along with several other exotic locales) and it’s now … 2012? My guess is that to this day she doesn’t understand what happened. I’m not interested in rekindling with her. 

  24. avatar crystalclear says:

    That should’ve read “Am I the only one like this?”   

    • avatar bobkat says:

      No, Crystal, you’re not. I’m like that, too. But I’m a solitary person, anyway. Even while growing up I only had a few really good friends, one of whom I still keep in touch with to this day.

  25. avatar Robert Smith says:

    Margo – my compliments on the sly way you slid MYOB into your second answer.  I hope after you typed it you turned on your heel and walked away just to complete the effect!

  26. avatar MarysMom says:

    Sadly mean girls are EVERYWHERE, and they are always just mean to other women.  My husband has had an issue with a “mean girl” at work for the last 6 years.  They used to be business friendly but things changed dramatically as soon as we bought a house and became engaged.  It started with dirty looks and walking away in the middle of my DH talking to her.  That eventually progressed to hiding her face with her hand, litterally holding her hand up to her face to block out the sight of DH when ever he was around.  That progressed to snide comments and makeing very loud noises such as crumpling paper or banging and slamming stuff around just to “drownd him out”.  He has gone to HR several times regarding this but they never did anything or even took notice untill she started treating others this way as well.  All we can figure is that she is a very jealous person and this is the way she makes herself feel better.  Case in point, we bought a house, she had not, the trouble started.  We got engaged and married, she had not, the trouble got worse.  A coworker of DH attained a long sought after degree, she dropped out, the trouble started with that coworker.  Another coworker had a child, she had a child in her teens but wants another, the trouble started with her not long after.  She has been “talked to” about her aditude but neither my DH or myself can figure out why they keep her around but they do.  Go figure.

  27. avatar reeledge says:

    I am looking for my biological father and/or any siblings. All of a sudden I realized I will soon be 50 and figure it was past time to look.  I wish there was a central location so someone that wants to be found could be.

    • avatar Lila says:

      reeledge: I contacted my bio family in my mid 20s.

      My first call was to the adoption agency that handled my adoption. The agency could only tell me that there was a letter on file from my parents indicating they would be agreeable to a meeting. The letter had been sent in the year I turned 18. However, the agency was forbidden by law from giving me any identifying information or putting us in contact with each other, and the counselor advised me that petitioning the DC courts was almost never successful. The way around it (bless her!) was to send a note to my parents with a form for a search agency inside. She then sent me the same form. Within a week or so, the search agency had matched us and we were able to contact each other.

      • avatar Lila says:

        PS. Of course all that stuff is online now. Just run a search for “find birth parents” and see the registries pop up. Just be sure that any apparent match is the real deal. In my case, the physical resemblances would have removed all doubt.

  28. avatar Sadie BB says:

    Lw1 – if you are truly interested in how to handle mean girls here are two phrases to say cheerily as you make an exit – “no thanks!!’ & “well, gotta go!”

    I have used these in a car at a stoplight, in a restaurant before the salads were finished(after dropping $20 for my share on the table), in a cabin in the woods…these gals tend to attack when they imagine you can’t get away. But you can!

    The important thing is to be cheerful, not explain anything, and get OUT. Do not tolerate the bad behavior and do not display any either. When they tell the story later, if they dare, everyone will know why you did it. And I can assure you they will never pull that crap on you again.

  29. avatar Sadie BB says:

    Lw2 – if you had a lost brother out there, wouldn’t you want to know?

  30. avatar htimsr40 says:

    LW#2 – When someone uses their private parts to create a new life, they do not have a “right” to demand that others forget about it and never mention it. They do not have a “right” to expect other family members to honor their wishes. They do not have a “right” for various blood-related individuals to remain in the dark. They waived that right when they created the new life. Uncle waived it a second time when the “secret” went beyond his own knowledge.

    If one doesn’t want others to know about a son or daughter, then one shouldn’t have sex. Uncle didn’t keep it in his pants and now the cat has not stayed in the bag. People know. It is not a secret.

    • avatar Lila says:

      htimsr40, I don’t agree. “… my uncle gave up his son for adoption.” I am a 1960s adoptee myself. Legally, adoption makes me part of my new family with all rights and protections that a biological child would have, and severs all of my rights and protections that I would have had in my original family. And it severs their rights to me, as well. I’m not part of them any more and have no legal right to be. My birth certificate shows my adoptive parents’ names; the original is sealed and inaccessible, even to me and to my birth parents.

      That said, I was curious and in my mid-20s, I wrote a letter that started the process for a possible meeting with my biological family. I was told, and I accepted, that they might not be interested and if that were the case, I should let it go. As it turned out, they wanted to meet me and all was (and is) agreeable, but only through their own interests, not any consideration of my “rights.” I don’t have any “rights” in their family. Legally, they are no more than friends.

      In the LW’s case, the siblings and their mother know nothing… yet. You can bet that since everyone else in the family seems to know, they are going to find out eventually, and the longer the cover-up goes on, the worse it will be when they do find out: “How long has everyone known this? Why didn’t anyone tell us before?” I also find it curious that the LW seems to indicate that only her aunt is in touch with the long-lost kid, even though the LW’s entire family is also aware and seems to know who he is.

      As for the uncle’s wishes that his wife and children never find out – well, as some have commented, 1965 is not 2012. Before my letter arrived, my existence was quite the secret. No one on my bio father’s side knew at all, and only one person on my bio mother’s side. My bio parents could have kept it that way, but they wanted to know me and wanted me to know my relatives, so they finally told everyone, some 20-odd years after the fact. There was reportedly some surprise but no judgment or censure from the extended family.

      I think Margo’s advice is most pragmatic – to allow the man’s sister to make the decision. Were I in her shoes – especially since everyone else seems to know – I would probably tell my brother’s widow and children together, then ask them to take a week to discuss it and think about it. We are dealing with adults here, and not even particularly young ones. Whoever wants contact, I think should initiate the contact through the sister. Whoever does not want contact should have their wishes respected. Just like a friendship, because that is all it will be, legally.

      I have to say, my life has been enriched by knowing both sides of my family. By that I mean the adopted side, and the bio side.

  31. avatar crystalclear says:

    What interesting comments.   Seems many of us have encountered the mean girls pack mentality.   I honestly don’t feel that people are born this way.   It has to do with their upbringing.   As parents, the moment our child is born we have to teach them how to leave us to be productive and hopefully happy human beings.   When children are brought up with criticism and “bad” parents they tend to have deep seeded personality issues.   I have also known children raised in a very healthy and loving environment who have issues later in life.   I believe I just contradicted myself.   Yes, of course, I did.   So, is it a choice some women make to demean and degrade other women?   I’ve never figured out the purpose in doing that.   Which brings to mind the word “control.”   Some people have to be in control and in so doing probably delight in turning others against someone.

    Oh, this is a hard one to analyze, isn’t it?   I know when it takes place all we can really process is why is this happening?    I do like the advice above to just say “goodnight” and separate from the group.    That sends a message but then that person is high on the list to chew on once she has left the group.

    We should always be very careful in selecting our friends.  

  32. avatar Aryana 08 says:

    LW 1 – I know exactly how you feel. I was bullied by my now husband’s best friends girlfriend. She started out being friendly towards me and we got along really well, the 4 of us going on trips together, hanging out on the weekends, etc.. As soon as she had me all figured out she turned on me, playing her little mind games, trying to break us up and such. I honestly don’t know what I did for her to act like this (I believe it was because i was the “new” girl in the group where as before she was the new one before me) but even her freinds started treating me like this. Of course she didn’t treat me this way in front of my boyfreind (now husband) so when i would complain to him about it he had no idea what i was talking about – until one drunken night she told him that it wasn’t right that he put me first in his life and that he should be putting her and his best friend first. He finally got it and started to distance himself from her – not his best friend though so she was always in the picture. I got great advice and just ditance myself from the situation and if anyone asked me why I told them. When i had to deal with her i would just “kill it with kindness” i was thrilled when they finally broke up and I never had to deal with that witch again !!

  33. avatar crystalclear says:

    reeledge, I hope you are successful.   When we have unanswered questions and unfinished business later in life it tends to weigh heavy on our minds.    I don’t have an answer to your question how you go about finding someone.   You might want to  consider contacting an agency that specializes in this type of work.   It might cost a few $$$’s but you’ll have to weigh that against your need to know.   Again, good luck to you.    I know I would want to know if I had brothers and sisters out “there.”  

  34. avatar crystalclear says:

    Aryana, sounds like you have a winner of a husband.   Bad situations seem to always have a way of correcting.   The fact that this woman treated you the way she did and her relationship bit the dust is a reward LOL!    What’s the old saying, “What goes around comes around?”     Glad you weathered that storm.

  35. avatar bobkat says:

    Please ignore this. Just trying to manage my subscription.

  36. avatar jezoebel says:

    LW1: It just goes to show you that high school mentality never really leaves; it just gets worse as you get older. And all those reality shows like Housewives, Bachelor/Bachelorette, etc. that seem to encourage this type of behaviour doesn’t help either. As kids we wanted to be liked by everyone. As you get older, you realize that being popular is not all it’s cracked up to be. Forget girls night. I’d rather  just hang out with my small circle and avoid the drama queens.

  37. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    I spent part of the day reading the book I referred to above which deals with what the author calls *certifiable assholes* in the workplace.  And really, after reading it, I wonder if we are doing our kids a favor by shielding them from psychological bullies at school because the bullying doesn’t stop in school.  Plenty of adults are bullies.  Not that bullies should be tolerated but maybe instead of focusing on the bullies we should focus on teaching kids how to handle the bullies (of course physical bullying is just flat a crime and should be dealt with as such).    Like many, my mother always told me the mean girls were insecure (I went to an all-girls highschool and had no brothers so my experience with meanness for many years was pretty much limited to girls and women).  But I’m thinking like an earlier commenter that in fact the bullies are quite confident.  And grouping up makes them even more confident.  It might not be a good or productive confidence but they really do think they are all that.  And they really do think that those who don’t have their money, beauty, social status etc. are their *inferiors*.

    As for John Lee who doesn’t see what benefit women get from being mean to each other..this is a Mars/Venus thing.   Mean women do get satisfaction from feeling prettier, wealthier, thinner, married to a more succesful man, or being more successful in the workplace.  That is their benefit.  That said, there are several examples of bullying women CEOs (The Devil Wears Prada anyone?) who are definitely getting the same benefits as men do from being mean. 

    An example I loved in this book was one of the head of Virgin Airlines who did a British television reality show along the lines of Trump’s Apprentice show.  He put himself in disguise as an older bus driver who drove the contestants from the airport to the residence hotel on the first day.  There were a couple of contestants who treated him like dirt (and you really have to go out of your way to be rude to a bus driver who doesn’t really expect you to suck up to him or her…just get on, off, and pay your fare) and others who were polite, thanked him etc.  He dumped the rude ones right away because he saw that they were, for lack of a better word, assholes.  Mean people treat those they consider *inferior* poorly and suck up to those above them which is one reason its hard to convince the powers that be what destruction the mean person is causing in  the workplace.  

    I think I mentioned earlier how I cannot control my voice and physical reactions when I get really angry (and I hardly ever do).  My father was the same way.  I recall when I was about 14 making a typical snotty teenage comment about someone being *poor* (like we were *rich*…hah).  We were in the car and my father was driving and he almost drove off the road he was so angry with me and told me in no uncertain terms my attitude was unacceptable (something along the lines of *no daughter of mine is going to grow up with such an attitude*).  I  got two spankings in my whole life (on the butt) but I really think had he not been driving and I was not 14 he may have whipped me for my meanness.  I still remember exactly what road we were on and where to the quarter mile 44 years later.   So, if you are parents, that is the message that needs to be sent to your kids because they will be getting so many bad messages from some of their peers, the media etc.

    And, my mother always said…I don’t care if someone is the Queen of England or not…you treat everyone with the  same respect.  But these days, even the Queen has people who would like to bully her. 

  38. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – Your first clue should have been “mothers’ group”. That just screams “we are special”.  Yeah. Grown ups can be bad too. You should really piss ’em off and join the “dads’ group”.

    LW2 – Okay, I actually got a little confused on the pedigree and who’s who and who did what but if you want to contact this son do so. If not don’t and everyone else can do what they want. He is a real live human being with a life and all that. It’s 20012 already and Queen Victoria is dead. Quit acting like this is some tragic family secret.

  39. avatar wendykh says:

    okay I have a slightly different perspective on mean girls, who I do believe absolutely exist.

    But I’ve also been the one accused of being in the “mean girl” clique because we basically weren’t fawning all over someone new to the group and had lives that involved activities otther than calling and socializing all the time and would not just nod whenever she said anything we didn’t agree with or thought was BS. I mean we weren’t disrespectful but these two or three women would take ANYthing other than sunshine and smiles to be “aggressive.” And would write long email missives about “why doesn’t anyone like me?” We liked them just fine but we had no time for blabbing on the phone and hanging out to go get coffee during the day. It was just exhausting for us to do those kind of activities and so we considered our “group time” our one time out, but they took it as personal offence.

    I am not discounting anyone here, including LW1 and Margo’s experiences, I’m just presenting that sometimes people can be emotionally draining and think that others don’t like them when it’s hardly the case.

  40. avatar crystalclear says:

    wendy, noted.   However, I could not help but sense a position of you thinking that your life was slightly more valuable that someone who was feeling slighted by a group of women who were familiar with each other and casting a judgemental slur towards the “newcomer” in the group who was more than likely trying to figure out who the “in” group was and why they felt superior.   People want to be validated in some way.   As caring human beings, we should all put our best efforts forward in welcoming new people into the fold.   If not, what else is there?   We are a country of Americans relocating moving here and there and I believe that embracing newcomers into a group is a good and decent thing to do.   We are all different or at least that is what I believe and if we aren’t introducing new personalities into our lives and expanding our ability to be good and caring individuals then what is our goal?   Women, unfortunately, have a tendency to be blindly judgemental as it relates to reaching outside our comfort zones.   Truth be known, we don’t always like the women who are “in the group’ but we tolerate them because they fit the mold of what we believe to be women of our caliber, financial status and the like.   How sad.   In my travels along the eastern seaboard, as a southern woman I have met some of the most amazing women new to the area who had a great deal to share and proved in the end to be most valuable in all the important ways that actually mattered.    All of us are important.   Struck a nerve…I apologize if I have offended anyone.   And, Wendy, I’m not targeting your comments.   I just felt the need to address new women who move into an already defined and closed group of women who feel that no one else can offer “their group” anymore than they already have with those they know.    Not the American way IMO.  We are all unique.

    • avatar wendykh says:

      But we *weren’t!* They wanted to go out socializing and for coffee all the time and most of us were exhausted and could barely make it out just for that one mom’s group a month! The big problem was two of us lived in very close proximity to one another and would see one another once or twice a week since they could see each other’s homes from their front porches. So for some reason the new women always got this idea in their heads we were all out socializing between mom meetings *without* them when it was just these two ladies for the aforementioned reasons. So they’d call others and ask for coffee (and I was a big fail here because I dislike coffee and going to coffee shops) and the rest of us would beg off and they’d feel slighted. And just by design, none of us were those kind of women who gab on the phone all day (we IM instead 😉 so when we were less than yakkity yak or had to go within 5-10 min on the phone, they’d get all pouty. And then the “I try to reach out to people but it seems you all are already a clique” missives would start. They seemed to have a much bigger idea of what our actual ties and social lives actually were.

      This is NOT limited to women however. I had a friend in university doing the same thing. He’d ask what people were doing and they’d say “nothing sitting at home” then someone else would invite some people out for spontaneous dinner or movie or whatever and then we might go out for some drinks. He often wasn’t involved in these events because he wasn’t going to social places and hanging out and getting in on the last minute fun. So he decided we all had these elaborate social circles going on purposefully excluding him and that no one liked him. OMG no, it was not that calculated jesus! And dealing with him and his projection was exhausting!

  41. avatar crystalclear says:

    I agree that it isn’t about “confidence” although it certainly looks and feels like the bully is confident.  However, once a bully is confronted they tend to back down and away.   That’s not confidence.   I believe it has alot to do with “control.”    When people want to take control in a situation it can be for different reasons.   Children who have been abused can easily turn into control freaks because they remember what it was like to “not” be in control and they suffered from it.

    We’re getting analytical here, aren’t we?   Excellent exchange above.   Great comments.

  42. avatar crystalclear says:

    wendy, I stand majorly corrected!!   After you explained everything it made great sense.   I had little ones at home and we had a mother’s morning out once a week.   All the mothers were on a tennis league club and we had matches several times a week.   So, we would take turns watching each other’s children for two hours so we could all keep our tennis schedules.   Oh, those were the days…how I miss them!   We ran it like a business and we were so grateful to have each other that we treated each other and our children with the utmost respect.   We didn’t have texting, cell phones, etc back then so we had to pick up the phone to coordinate changes in our schedule.   So, Wendy, thanks for explaining that.   Sorry I took it in the absolute wrong direction.   

    Even today….I won’t be around “needy” people.   I’m self sufficient but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice when my neighbors and co-workers need some attention.    I’m good that way, too.   However, I can’t be bothered by insecure toxic personalities.   Been there done that!   My heart belongs to my grandchildren and there’s just no space in my life I’m willing to hand over to a needy friend with issues.   Hope that didn’t sound harsh.   I love interacting with people I just don’t like being stuck with them for an hour as they pour out all of their problems and insecurities.   Well, now, that last comment did sound harsh didn’t it?  *grin*