How should I respond to ‘Mean Girls’ tactics from grown women? Ask Ellie

Q: This has been bothering me for some time: Why do some adult women, despite being successful achievers, still behave like the “mean girls” they were back in high school?

I’ve known some women who fit that description. Several of them head their own businesses. I’m well-established in my profession, but not an owner.

I’ve felt that mean streak when friends would ignore me at a social gathering, sticking close to some more-favored friends.

They could also “forget” to pass on important information to me, eg affecting access to information lectures during COVID’s early, confusing days.

Or, they’d organize a Zoom get-together with their other “special” friends, or each other, and again, I’d hear they “forgot” to include me.

I’m divorced, 42, and on my own. Years ago, I saw this streak of meanness among some middle-to high-school “besties” including these I’ve mentioned.

Three years ago, one became much closer to me during my divorce, interested in every detail, which I thought was caring on her part. She was then in her late 30s. She invited me to join her at a fitness class twice a week and even paid my way for the first session to entice me.

But from the start, she’d gravitate to her fitness buddies, gave one brief introduction, and ignored me to go off to lunch with some others. She didn’t bother explaining why she disappeared so quickly.

There are times I still can enjoy the company of these otherwise-interesting women. But lately, I just feel hurt and avoid them.

How should I handle this going forward?

Adult “Mean Girls”

AT:Take a healthy break from the women who’ve been mean as adults. They know better, but apparently care less.

So introduce thoughtful self-care and self-protection to your personal life. If you find it necessary to be in the company of such women, remind yourself that day of your own decency and integrity.

In a group, focus a while on new people, rather than stick with those who are problematic for you. If involved with just one of these women, protect your private information (they already know enough about you), and turn the conversation toward a particular issue of interest to you.

These steps, practiced whenever confronted with other people’s negative behavior toward you, are a shield that separates you emotionally from feeling hurt.

You then remain the strong person, while, for reasons we don’t know, they reveal their weakness of character.

Q:My cousin overseas has an adopted teenage daughter who keeps harmonizing herself. She’s severely manic/depressive/suicidal.

I promised her pre-COVID that if she finished school, stopped acting out/fighting/harming herself, she could visit Toronto.

Her mother wants her daughter to come here now, while she vacations in Spain. (They need a break from each other.)

My parents were abusive, and my mother committed suicide, so I know the signs.

Besides locking up my medications and anything she could harm herself with, I intend on making her earn a visit to Niagara Falls by painting her bedroom and cleaning out the garage over two weeks here.

Any Advice?

AT:I published this letter so that some psychiatrists/psychotherapists/suicide-prevention professionals will respond.

Your plan worries me. This very disturbed girl who’d live with you in a different locale for two weeks has little basis for trusting you.

While tasks with rewards may be helpful, the displacement plus your demands could risk putting her over the edge. I urge you to first seek professional advice!

Ellie’s tip of the day

“Mean Girls” was a 2004 movie. In 2020, no one should tolerate repeated meanness from a “friend.”

Ellie Tesher is an advice columnist for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: ellie@thestar.ca.

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