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What’s up with her big mouth?
Q: I just moved across the country to this area six months ago. I have no family here, and it has been hard to find friends. But I did finally connect with a woman, “Cheryl,” at my new place where I work. She knows that I’m gay, but it’s OK with her. The good thing about being friends with Cheryl is that if you are “in” with Cheryl, others at work will accept you too. Before Cheryl took me under her wing, no one really paid any attention to me. I mean, they really ignored me and it was miserable going to work every day.
I didn’t think everyone else at work knew I’m gay because I’ve asked Cheryl not to tell others. I want to do that on my own, when I feel comfortable about it. For a while, I felt good about that, but now I’m wondering if Cheryl has said something to others. It’s not that everyone has gone back to being mean to me or ignoring me.
It has bothered me that when I’m with Cheryl (we are paired at work as a team a lot) she sometimes tells me things about everyone else, like she knows all their secrets. Then, she tells me not to tell others; that she just tells me because we are extra close.
I think something happened last Friday when we were not teamed up, because I saw her talking like crazy to this woman, “Lindy,” about something. I noticed that almost every time I looked up, Lindy was looking over at me. Then, on lunch break when most of us get together to eat, I felt like Lindy was ignoring me. Maybe it was my imagination, but ever since then she has been cooler to me; not mean, just not as friendly as she used to be. It’s kind of like she just answers things with one word, not wanting to get into a conversation with me. That’s not how she was before when I got accepted by the group. She was real chatty with me.
Then, early this week, it happened again. Cheryl was working with another person, “Katy,” in our group, and I started getting the same looks from Katy – like many times when I’d look in their direction, they’d be looking at me. So, after work, I asked Katy if Cheryl told her anything about me when they worked together that day. She said that Cheryl had told her that I was gay, but not to tell anyone. Katy said that she didn’t care that I was gay, so I’m not worried that she’ll exclude me, but I’m upset with Cheryl for telling people when I asked her not to. Katy told me that she’s had “secrets” told on her by Cheryl, too.
Katy and I can’t understand why Cheryl would do this. Do you have any ideas about it?
Dealing with Big Mouth
A: It sounds like Cheryl keeps her power as leader in your group at work by sucking someone in, gleaning information from that person and offering up personal information to others in the group as she sees fit. (A person with personal information has power to be hurtful.)
It works like this: As leader, Cheryl draws you in, making you feel special. You feel trust in her and give her personal information, thinking you have her confidence. She makes you feel special because she listens to you and is accepting. Then she makes you feel like you are even “more special” than the others in the group. She does this by giving you a piece of their personal information – and asks you not to tell – like two special friends sharing a secret. The problem is, she’s doing this with everyone caught in her game.
It’s real mean-ass, grade school, playground politics of power. You and Katy need to decide if you want to play anymore. A way of getting out of her game is to take back your personal information by letting it be known to everyone – they’re going to find out eventually anyway. Then, Cheryl has nothing on you.
P.S.: It’s a red flag when you find someone telling others’ secrets. If someone will give out another person’s personal confidences to you, she’ll give out yours as well. Count on it.