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Let’s make things easier on all of us by not telling me anything May 6, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, career, issues, teen angst.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

M’kay? Seriously, this office is TMI Central. I’m just a kid, let me flounce around in my weirdo outfits and devil-may-care grin without having the weight of your problems on my shoulders. Don’t you hate it when people tell you shit without you asking for it?

Just when I’d forgotten about my problems with Carl and Mrs. Carl (he quit, by the way — and oddly enough, I kind of miss him), Nikki comes into the picture with an issue of her own.

22-year-old Nikki (named after, yes, the song “Darling Nikki”) is the girl in your office who will stop at nothing to draw attention to herself. Some will be greatly annoyed (dude, nobody likes Nikki), while others, like me, only feel sorry for her. Just some silly girl with a histrionic personality disorder, is all. She’s essentially the office whipping girl, to the point that it drove her to tears once.

Still, it’s not like the derision is completely unfounded. Nikki would proclaim to anyone who asked that she used to model on the catwalk (still does part-time, supposedly), and everyone else would be like “…Really?” And I’d be one of those people. I’m not trying to be mean here, but Nikki, who might be model-ish from the neck down, is Broomhilda from the neck up. No kidding. She’s all splotchy and blemished and crooked-nosed, the kind of ugly that isn’t even modelesque ugly but just plain ugly ugly. She also brags about having expensive clothes, but when you ask her which outlet she got it from, she takes ten seconds to respond and then gives a wrong answer (read: she’s making it up). Nikki is the annoying kind of person who wants everyone to think she’s well-off, but it’s clear to everyone that she’s, well, not.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: unlike many of my co-workers, Nikki is not a bitch. The girl means well, she’s just a little off her rocker.

One day after hours, everyone else has gone home and it’s just me and Nikki, so I chat with her because I’m not picky about who I befriend. I’ll talk to whoever approaches me. She confessed that the pressure of everyone talking about her behind her back was really getting to her, particularly the latest gossip that she’s supposedly going out with one of our bosses, Kyle, even though he already has a girlfriend.

Now, weeks before my one-on-one with Nikki, I’d already spoken to some of my other (admittedly bitchy) officemates about her. One of them told me the whole situation, explaining that Nikki had a huge crush on Kyle and was now lying to people by claiming that they were in some secret relationship.

Back to where I left off, Nikki was like, “I can’t believe people would make up stuff like that, just for fun.” As a target of their rumor-mongering myself (I apparently have relationships with a couple of the bosses and several of my guy officemates), I just shrugged and explained that it was their nature to do that kind of thing.

Half an hour later, we’re standing outside the building, and she asked, “TA, are you good at keeping secrets?”

“Sure, yeah.”

“I have to tell you something,” she confessed. “But you have to swear not to tell anyone.”

“I won’t.”

She got this weird expression on her face. “…It’s true.”

“Oh. But he’s not very good-looking,” I deadpanned. (He really isn’t.) “And he has a girlfriend,” I added, more serious this time.

They’d been hanging out together after their shifts every day for the past couple of weeks (which is weird, because Kyle’s girlfriend works in the same building). One day, in a nearby diner, Kyle told her that he was sensing something weird between them, so she might as well just come out with it. She admitted that she was falling for him, and Kyle replied, “What if it’s also the other way around?”

And then they’re making out in the back of his car.

And then they’re making out after every shift.

I’m just nodding as Nikki tells me all of this, but in my head I’m thinking Jesus fuck, I wish you didn’t say anything. Because this revelation completely ruined the way I saw my boss, Kyle. He and I had gotten off on the wrong foot when we first met, and I was this close to writing him off as a smug asshole, but since he was going the extra mile to be nice to me, I eventually relented about two weeks in, telling my friends, “Maybe he’s not as much of a jerk as I thought.” We’d even become friends over time.

And now this, so whenever I saw Kyle I would only see a man cheating on his girlfriend of two years with Darling Nikki, and I could not erase those grotesque mental images from my head. I know I’m being dramatic, but cheating is cheating is cheating.

I lamented this to my straight-edge skater-boi friend, Skeet, who is one of my closest friends on the floor, and he advised, “Just block it out. Pretend you never heard anything.”

“But I can’t!” I wailed. “I think too much!”

(Which, you might find, would actually be an asset if you’re a blogger.)

Of course, with thinking too much comes the eventuality of considering other options in the scenario, and I realized that it was Nikki’s word against…well, everyone else’s. When I asked Skeet who he believed in this whole thing, he said that as a friend of Kyle’s, he believed that Kyle really loved his girlfriend, and wouldn’t be the kind to do anything like this to her. It was a good enough explanation for me.

At this point, I still maintain that Kyle is my good friend, and I’m really tempted to tell him what Nikki had told me. I want to speak with him, one on one, and say, “This is what she told me. You can lie to me or tell me the truth about what’s really going on, but whatever you tell me, I will take at face value. As the truth.” Because if Nikki really is lying, I believe Kyle deserves to know.

As for Nikki, well, I’ve always been wary of her. Keep in mind that “wary” does not equal “hostile,” though. I’ve been warm to her, just as I’ve always been, but I need to be careful since she’s most probably unstable. Ever since I could remember, she’s often gravitated towards me for some reason, despite the fact that we have little in common. I suspect that she only wanted to be my friend because I hold a reputation — through no effort of my own, mind you, because I can be as street-smart as the rest of them — for being slightly better off than most of my co-workers, financially speaking (in other words, “spoiled brat”), and hanging out with me would a) make her look rich, too, to sort of her redeem her reputation for borrowing money from lots of officemates and nicking food off their plates at lunch, and b) make me her meal ticket.

After our talk, I’d offered to treat her to breakfast, because my personal rule when it comes to treating other people is to offer to those who don’t ask. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” she insisted as we walked to a table with our trays.

“It’s fine, I’m paying.”

“No, really, I have money, I’ll pay for this tomorrow.”

She never did pay me back. Readers, if ever somebody treats you, there’s no need to lie about paying that person back just because you’re trying to not look dependent. Just say “thank you.” It’s polite, and it isn’t misleading.

In fact, the following day, not only did Nikki conveniently forget to pay me back, but the first thing she said once she approached my desk was, “TA, can I borrow some money?”

Oy vey.

So, in this whole sordid tale about lies and rumors and infidelity, I’m not so innocent myself when it comes to dishonesty. I have a few little white lies up my sleeve, too:

“Uh, sorry, I don’t have any cash on me right now.”


1. Karen - May 6, 2008

Say encouraging things when prompted, don’t loan Nikki any more money, and establish a cordial working relationship. Nothing more. She needs far more (life experience? therapy? self-esteem?) than you can possibly provide. Don’t help her avoid this need.

As far as office gossip about personal lives goes, it is irrelevant. Plant that in your head: it is irrelevant. The first time I realized one of the managers in my department was deeply involved with one of the engineers, I decided he was a jerk. When I got into a casual conversation with him and some other people, and he was asking for ideas about where to take his wife for their anniversary, I decided he was an absolute jerk.

But he was a damn fine manager. He fought for his engineering team against higher-ups who were convinced we were shirking, or making a big deal out of nothing. He encouraged a lot of positive cross-communication between different teams, to all our benefit. And aside from some privilege accorded to his beloved, he was scrupulously fair. I finally decided I didn’t have the right to judge him in any role but an employee, and he was an exemplary manager. I actually cried when he died suddenly. He was in his 50’s.

Save yourself a whole lot of grief, time, trouble, and anxiety by NOT being your colleagues’ sounding block for their personal problems. Occasionally colleagues will become real friends; I have a few friendships, of varying closeness, retained from past jobs. My advice doesn’t apply to them.

And never, never agree not to tell anyone a secret. If the friendship is such that you would do that no matter what, then your friend wouldn’t explicitly ask it; it would be understood. Answer with something noncommittal, and be glad if the person decides not to confide in you. Otherwise, you’ll endure a lifetime of questionable confessions.

Final point: I have met with colleagues religiously for social gatherings in certain jobs, and enjoyed myself; I have engaged in lots of friendly personal but not-too-personal conversations, with family and common interests as topics, that were often of mutual benefit; and I’ve gotten along well with about 90% of the hundreds of people I’ve worked with. But my most inner feelings/thoughts/judgments are my own, and not shared without careful thought.

2. Holy Prepuce - May 6, 2008

Nikki is lying. How do we know this? (1) She’s a liar, and, on the whole, we should assume that the unverified statements of liars are probably lies; (2) we see here the classic method for introducing a big lie about herself: first trying it out on you by attributing it to other people and watching your reaction, then, when you didn’t immediately challenge the whole concept, “confiding” in you that the other people are right.

Don’t believe her for a minute. She wants you to believe she buys designer clothes; she wants you to believe she’s a runway model; and now she wants you to believe that she’s having an affair with Kyle. The first is demonstrably false; the second is not easily verifiable but highly unlikely; and it follows that you should reject the third as well.

Oooh, and here’s the big metaphor to bring this back to atheism: Religions make demonstrable false claims about the natural world, and unverifiable but highly unlikely claims about a supposed supernatural world. We rightly reject both, and, as a consequence, should reject religious claims about moral philosophy (e.g. that it’s right to shun gay people or wrong to have sex before marriage).

See, it all comes back to atheism somehow.

3. GDad - May 7, 2008

Holy Prepuce hit it right on the head. (ow!)

Nikki is lying.

4. Teen Atheist - May 7, 2008

Karen: I appreciate the input. Thanks very much, I will keep it in mind! πŸ˜€

5. Teen Atheist - May 7, 2008

Holy Prepuce, you win for that response. Isn’t logic just awesome? Here, have my internets.

*bows to you*

6. Teen Atheist - May 7, 2008

GDad: Agreed.

One question, though: should I tell Kyle about this?

7. the Shaggy - May 7, 2008

Man, she reminds me of this girl I knew in university. She did so much of the same thing, but was overly judgmental to boot. Anyone who had sex outside of a relationship in our residence was branded horrible names, and any friend who got into a relationship which made them happy was shunned and ignored. She was also a hypocrite in that – randomly started sleeping with someone from a neighbouring residence (he refused to turn the light on; maybe because she was ugly and easy?), and boasted about it to everyone.

The best dishonest hypocrisy story of her was concerning this girl who lived below me. Poor thing was a sweetheart who got the slut brand pretty quickly. When the hypocrite was in my room moaning about boys, she then went on about her image of being a drama queen judgmental gossipy bitch. She said “It’s like that girl… I NEVER called her a slut, I wouldn’t do such a thing.” Shortly therafter, the girl from downstairs came up to say hello (we did have some semblance of a friendship which was always awkward by her attempts to sleep with me and the other girl’s banshee-screech rumours. Wait, why didn’t I ever go for that? gah!), and as she walked away, my dear bitch slid the door shut whispering a vile “SLUT!! SLUT!!! WHORE!”

Honestly, if your friend is spreading these rumours, as it sounds like she should, I would tell Kyle. Not in an accusing, “DUDE I HEAR CRAZY STUFF” way, but more in a “I have been hearing this from the horse’s mouth. I don’t know if t is true, but thought you’d want to know what is being said in either case.”

8. BillyWarhol - May 8, 2008

Keep Rockin’ Girl! Awesome knowing Everyone yer Age hasn’t been Brainwashed!! Thank heavens* ;))

Refreshing to see yer Courage + Bravery*

I hear ya loud n clear ya!! Keep Strong + Keep Faith in Atheism!! ;)) Peace* I wish Richard Dawkins author of The God Delusion would have made Time Mag’s 100 Most Influential People in the World* ;))

9. Teen Atheist - May 8, 2008

Thanks, Shaggy! Took your advice and spoke to Kyle about it. Will blog about the update sometime within the week.

10. Teen Atheist - May 8, 2008

Holy Prepuce: Got your email! Short answer is “yes.” πŸ˜€

11. Parents Just Don't Understand - May 8, 2008

Wow.. I would tell’em..can’t keep it to yourself

12. Holy Prepuce - May 9, 2008

#9: …leaving everyone else to wonder both what the question was, and what the long answer would have been! I’ll never tell.

13. theShaggy - May 9, 2008

I look forward to reading about it. I hope it went okay.

14. GDad - May 9, 2008

Yeah, how did it turn out?

15. Teen Atheist - May 11, 2008

Holy Prepuce: πŸ˜‰

It’s not much of a prize, actually, since tons of visitors have asked that question and gotten an answer before. I’m still thinking of something better for you. If you have any ideas, though, fire away!

16. Teen Atheist - May 11, 2008

Billy: Thanks much!

Parents: I did. πŸ™‚

Shaggy, GDad: It went well, if mostly uneventful. Hee.

17. Tiffy - May 15, 2008

You’re right — thinking too much is good for a blogger πŸ˜›

And maybe give the girl the benefit of the doubt — maybe she forgot to pay for it. That she totally did forget. Happens to everyone. LOL. It’s the whole pride thing!

18. Teen Atheist - May 16, 2008

Tiffy: Hee. I’ll agree with Holy Prepuce on this one, though (“She’s a liar, and, on the whole, we should assume that the unverified statements of liars are probably lies”). More details to be included in my follow-up entry. πŸ™‚

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