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Betsy Perry

Betsy Perry

Posted January 27, 2009 | 02:00 PM (EST)

Manhattan Meanies: Don't We Have Something Better To Do Than Talk Smack About Each Other?


The other night at the ballet I was startled to see my former best friend; now a virtual stranger to me, I was only able to say hello before I ran out of words and emotions. What shocks me is that for 40 years we shared school days and married lives and secrets that went from boyfriends to husbands to lovers and the exquisitely intimate details that only BFFs can understand. When we stopped speaking it was worse than a divorce between husband and wife. At least it was for me and I've known both.

I believe the relationship ended because one day I called her a narcissist when a mutual friend was dying and I felt her focus was as usual on herself. And that was it. From then on I became her posse's target just as she has turned them against others over the years. Granted, I was hardly immune from saying nasty, snarky things myself because that's what women seem to do when hurt or feeling insecure, but my life moved on and it has already been ten years since that life altering phone call. But from what I hear, she and her troops are still talking smack about me and she has liberally aired a lot of the very private information we shared. At a recent funeral her elderly mother told me, "I'll always love you even though you were divorced." And by this she means from her daughter. In truth, even her mother is scared of her.

"Idle hands are the devil's workshop" also applies to idle brains and mouths when gossip becomes what you do for a living. Though I love gossip on a grand scale and have relished details of every fallen CEO's designer shower curtain and commode and savored details of those naughty politicians who get caught in men's rooms, when it comes to the people I care about, watch out or you'll have my fist down your throat.

Unfortunately when it comes to defending myself, I have no courage and in the face of these multiple middle-aged meanies, consider me a marshmallow. There are consequences to everything your mouth spews forth and it's a lesson in self control I'm trying to learn. You'll be hearing very little smack from me anymore unless my Chihuahua learns to sign.

I do miss the tight shorthand my BFF and I spoke and never thought one word yelled in frustration was enough to break up our friendship. For years her husband kidded I was the lady in waiting but now I realize this handmaiden was only kept around to make sure Narcissa could see her own reflection in my eyes. Very existential.

So with all the turmoil in the world today, is this really the Gaza strip of relationships or is it just a ridiculous blip run amok?

When do friends call a truce or is it they've dug a hole so deep they'd be embarrassed to back off and admit the silliness of it all? I'm thinking call off the dogs and take that energy and focus on world hunger or malaria.

My former BFF: If you happen to read this tale, know I miss you but not enough to be your friend again which is why I had nothing to say the other evening. Much like a love affair from which you think you'll never recover, I've moved on and I'm really not worth talking about.