Dear Annie: I need advice on how to deal with my husband's friend. This person is a gossip who delves into the details of other people's personal lives. He entertains groups with these unflattering stories and makes himself important by offering his analyses, judging their life choices, misdeeds and daily activities. Family, friends, acquaintances and anyone in the public eye are subject to his scrutiny. He can be quite charming while he's being friendly with you during his "information gathering" stage, but he has hurt many people and tarnished their reputations. He is a bully and a poor role model.
He claims to be religious and caring, but I find his behavior intrusive and offensive. He questions my husband about our family activities on a daily basis. I have told my husband and this person that this is unacceptable. I try hard to avoid him. Why are some people such gossip-mongers? -- Fed Up by This Octopus
Dear Fed Up: You're smart to stay out of his toxic tentacles' reach. I'm surprised this man still has friends at all. If someone gossips about anyone not in the room, you know whom he'll be talking about just as soon as you're out the door. Let's hope your husband will put that together in time and cut ties with this man.
Below is a poem called "Nobody's Friend" (author unknown), which several readers have shared with me since I started writing this column and which I think is worth sharing here:
"My name is Gossip.
"I have no respect for justice.
"I maim without killing.
"I break hearts and ruin lives.
"I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
"The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
"I flourish at every level of society.
"My victims are helpless.
"They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
"To track me down is impossible.
"The harder you try, the more elusive I become.
"I am nobody's friend.
"Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
"I topple governments and ruin marriages.
"I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
"I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
"I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
"Even my name hisses.
"I am called Gossip."
Dear Annie: As someone who's been a recovered alcoholic for nearly 10 years, I agree with your advice to "Margaret," who was contemplating staying with the alcoholic who recently tried assaulting her daughter. (You told her to "run, not walk, away from this man.")
If he is serious about getting help, he will make new friends in recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous will accept him with open arms.
If, however, he is not committed to changing, it is much better to be nowhere near him because he is likely to commit even worse offenses. -- SL
Dear SL: Thanks for speaking to the situation from personal experience. I hope Margaret, as well as anyone else in her shoes, takes it to heart.
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