Question: My boyfriend and I live in an apartment building. For the first month or so, we kept to ourselves. Then, about a month after we moved in, I made the mistake of chatting with a few of the women who sit outside in front of the building all day. Now, they won’t leave us alone. Every time we leave or come home, they want to know where we’re going, where we’ve been, what we have with us, etc. Recently, I spent the afternoon with a male friend, and they said things to my boyfriend that suggested I’d been unfaithful. It caused quite a stir, and I am beginning to hate living here. Everyone wants to know our business. Ignoring them is pointless. They heckle. Moving is not an option because we signed a lease. How can I get them to leave us alone so that we can resume a fairly normal life together again?
Dr. ZZ: It all seems rather adolescent, doesn’t it? No matter how much we may want to believe that other people are simply sociable and like to chat, an almost constant barrage of the same old questions quickly becomes annoying and bothersome.
The positive purpose of gossip is to serve people in defining their community, their surroundings. Simply because you are there, you become grist for the gossip mill. The part that feels belittling is probably due to character weaknesses in the people who are gossiping. When people feel unworthy or unimportant, they often tell true or imagined stories that others don’t know yet, as a trick to make themselves feel special.
Engaging with the gossips greases the wheels. The best solution is to ignore them. Any response is a reaction and will only fuel more of the same. If you can truly not take any of it personally (pretend, if you have to, that these full-grown adults are innocent children who “know not what they do”) then you may be able to pass by with a sense of calmness that discharges the behavior. Short of that, all the usual barrier methods apply: wear sunglasses, make no eye contact, wear a headset and Walkman or talk on a cell phone when you walk past. See if you can find an element of genuine humor in the immaturity of these silly people.
Question: This is the oddest thing. I have no judgments against what people do with their lives, but I am starting to think that all the women I meet lately are prostitutes. I intentionally avoid the bar scene because that’s where you would expect to find “ladies of the night,” but even the women who work at the banks and restaurants think nothing of engaging my attention beyond the customary level of flirting when they already have boyfriends on the side. One married woman with a baby approached me the other day in a rage because her boyfriend hasn’t sent her any money this month to care for her child. Yet, this woman is married to another man. When I asked her if she isn’t in fact married, she said yes, and that she has a boyfriend too. Huh? I don’t get it. Maybe I’m in the wrong business. What is the world coming to?
Dr. ZZ: They don’t call it “the oldest profession” for nothing. Rather than the world coming to something, it seems to be rerunning the same old program. In my experience, I rarely come across any of these women. Perhaps I simply don’t notice, or else I choose not to notice. Chances are if you’re meeting an excessive number, there’s something in the coincidence for YOU to look at. Perhaps it has to do with the part of you that says, “Maybe I’m in the wrong business.” At some point in life, almost everyone has to ask themselves just how much personal autonomy they are willing to sacrifice for the sake of the almighty dollar.
Question: My parents have never liked my partner of eight years and make no effort to be nice to him. My dad hardly speaks, and my mother contradicts everything he says. For holidays and birthdays, they give him only a token gift – not a proper one like my siblings’ partners. Yet he’s such a nice guy; it’s all water off a duck’s back to him. He even takes them on vacations with us every year and insists that they pay nothing. Still they are unappreciative.
Now he’s unhappy that our children, six and four, are reaching an age when they’ve begun to notice. He says that I should visit with them on my own from here on out, that he’ll still be available for holidays for the kids’ sake, but nothing more. Is that the answer? My mother is very spiteful and won’t change her ways.
Dr. ZZ: I’m not sure why you have tolerated these insults towards your husband for so long. Chances are he cares more than he lets on. Who wouldn’t? He’s right to expect respect from his in-laws, even if they don’t like him. Tell him that he comes first with you—then see your parents on your own. Explain kindly and firmly that you’d like them to behave more reasonably. If you don’t feel as if you can do this, you must ask yourself what kowtowing to them is doing to your own self-esteem. This is not a healthy situation.
Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is intended as general information only and is not to be misconstrued as medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure for any condition or ailment. Send queries or comments to askDrZZ@yahoo.com. All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.
Dr. ZZ’s bold, upfront, directive style plays an inspirational role in the lives of people she touches. Drawing on a non-traditional Ph.D. in counseling and natural healing, ZZ works in Sarasota with shaman elder Jack Alexander (“Golden Feather”), who offers land blessings, shamanic training, Life Purpose readings, and all-faith, community-based spiritual guidance. This forum proposes potential solutions on health, emotional, and personal matters.