Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | July 14, 2008

Double Trouble

Oh dear, the twins were at it again. Those bratty, preteen girls (potentially the most dangerous and merciless of all living creatures, of course), standing less than 50 feet away, whispering to their bratty little friends, simultaneously casting furtive glances in my direction, smiling, laughing, and continuing to whisper. This little activity had been going on sporadically over the years, and I’d begun to wonder if they’d finally outgrown such childish behavior. Clearly, they hadn’t.

“What were they laughing at,” I mused. What could there possibly be wrong with me in such an outstanding way as to provide fodder for preteen gossip for such a long time? I was curious, but more than anything, I was annoyed. Stupid little children playing games, I know, but still. The rudeness, the arrogance they displayed infuriated me far more than not knowing what it was that they were saying. Call me pathetic, but I wanted revenge. I wanted to embarrass them. I wanted to humiliate them. I wanted them to know who they were dealing with, and I wanted them to regret tangling with me in the first place.

I confided in a friend, who surmised that my feelings were the result of having been teased in school when I was young, and advised me to ignore them. I reckoned she was right, and that I should probably consider acting like an adult. And I did consider it. For about three-and-a-half minutes. And rejected it. Children they may be, but I decided that in this case, that’s no excuse. Such blatant rudeness (not to mention disrespect for, gulp, “elders”) shouldn’t be allowed to pass quietly, and frankly, my patience for these little antics ran out long ago.

I’ve pondered a number of scenarios for dealing with this pesky little problem. The girls are downstairs neighbors who dote on the Little One and make small talk with the husband, so the plan must be cunning enough to somehow teach them a lesson, while at the same time not making me look like the bad guy. Giving dirty looks had little to no effect, so clearly, we must turn things up a notch. Telling their parents? I’m not sure. A bit traditional, and I’d feel as though I was running to the principal to tattle on the school bully. I’ve thought about singling them out in front of everyone in the vicinity and smilingly asking them what they’re whispering about, and if it’s something they’d like to share with everyone. I’ve considered playing on the insecurities of their friends by pointing out that if this is how the girls treat me when I’m standing right in front of them, I could only imagine what they might be saying about their friends behind their backs – they may or may not believe it, but the seeds of uncertainty will have been sown. I’ve mulled over the possibility of pointing it out to other neighbors as it happens, catching them in the act and embarrassing them. And, evil mother that I am, I’m thinking about telling the Little One (out loud and in English) the next time they call him over that I’d prefer he not hang around with them, since they’re not very nice to his mommy, and then sending him over (hopefully in front of their mother) so that he can innocently ask them why they aren’t nice to his mother. And of course, I could always take the high road and continue to ignore, but it wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as public humiliation and fighting fire with fire.

So, what would you do?



  1. I need more info……….do you know these girls? Where did this happen? Is it at someplace that you frequent often? Any idea what they are laughing at in particular?

  2. They live downstairs, and I’ve known them since we moved in more than ten years ago. The “scene of the crime” is the area downstairs, which is kind of a courtyard used by the eight families in our little block – it’s where the kids play, where the adults hang around talking, etc. I don’t have a clue as to what they’re laughing at, other than that it’s obviously me.

    I can picture the wheels in your brain spinning furiously right about now… 🙂

  3. I really do not understand the issue. They laugh because you ignore them all the time and you became the “talk of the kids”.

    You have a few options (none of the ones you mentioned seems right to me):
    1) Wait till the little one is old enough so he gets to know what is going on.
    2) Next time you pass by smile to them (a nice smile not the american #1 or #2)
    3) Next time you go and show some intrest in them, ask them for what they are doing, school etc.
    4) Repeat 2,3 and see what happens

  4. Arik, You’re a good friend and I have a lot of respect for you, but you’re way off base here, and slightly patronizing.

    I’ve never ignored them, at least not until they suddenly began this rude behavior. Even then, I’ve never been rude to them, and have been nice – talking with them, joking with them. As time passed, I assumed they’d outgrown their childish behavior and continued to be friendly. Clearly, I was wrong, and clearly, your tactics haven’t worked with them before, and I can’t imagine them suddenly starting to work now.

  5. response to Arik:

    I think you have some good suggestions in #2 and #3 (although I have no idea what a #1 or #2 American smile is).

    But… what makes you think that Liza isn’t already her friendly self with these neighbors? Maybe it just isn’t working.

  6. oh man……..I would ask them point blank in a very friendly way. I say call them to the mat. At least they will know that it is not appropriate behavior and people notice.

  7. Have you considered hiring the Zohan to eliminate them? Razor blades in the falafel balls? Rat poison in the chumus? I have found these methods to be very effective.

  8. I’m completely with Maryam in Marrakech, and I will tell you why. (Because, you know, you might have suspected that i wouldn’t. Ha, as if.)

    First of all, being a rare blogger who knows you in real life, i want to remind you what an awsome person you are. You’re intelligent, funny, pretty, and just plain ol’ fantastic. The friend in whom you originally confided is in all likelihood correct in her surmising that you are (temporarily) reverting back to your highschool days and the feelings you experienced then.

    I know how that feels, i’ve been there too. And it’s hard — so very hard — to detach and realise eh really important thing — which is that you, not they, have the upper hand here. You have the life experience, the age, the wisdom, the life, the knowledge, the everything! — that they don’t. Who gives a flying FUCK what they’re saying??? Seriously. What could they possibly say that could mean anything, or that would even be true?

    But i digress. You are, as I said, fabulous. And they’re prats. Plus you have the upper hand here, because you recognise the situation — and information and knowledge is power. Use it. Confront them. Be firm, be confident (what’s not to be confident?). Be sure of yourself.

    Will it stop them laughing at you? Maybe, maybe not. But it will redress the balance of power — and that is definitely worth being a grown-up for.

    A direct approach delivered cooly and calmly, with not a hint of anger but rather a hint of a smile that says clearly “It’s me laughing at you, you pre-pubescent shmucks, not the other way around” will throw them and they may even reconsider their behaviour regarding you and whoever else they’re bullying in school or wherever.

    Wow, that was a long-ass sentence.

    Be strong, Liza. You’ve reached the place where you don’t need to worry about the stupid bullies ganging up on you because you have the intelligence to kick their ass with what really matters. Your brain.

    Love, hugs and a friendly chuck on the shoulder just because i love ya,

    Trollmamma x

  9. On second thought, I like Trollmamma’s advice more.

  10. Yo babe, listen. They are preteen and therefore idiotic. (They will become more idiotic as they enter into their teens, guaranteed). From my own pre-teen days of idiocy I can tell you what they are most likely doing/whispering –nothing! That is to say, they are not whispering anything _in particular_ about you but rather playing the game of “we’ve got a secret about you” simply to get your goat/your attention (but more importantly be the center of attention of their little friends). I can remember (I’m a better person today, honestly) engaging in similar “campaigns of terror” against not only selected (quite randomly) neighbours but also school comrades. Most of what you whisper in such a campaign are completely innocuous things like “is she looking? yes? hee hee hee.” You may pretend to have some sort of “goods” on the victim, generally fabricated on the moment –though I was lucky enough to have had one neighbour who, in the heat of an argument with her husband screamed he was forcing her to commit suicide and that she would jump from the window (which she did) but since they lived in a single-story house…-generally though, the neighbour/schoolmate etc is the innocent but seemingly neccessary victim of one’s need to get attention from one’s friends. They are only doing this in the presence of their friends, yes?!

  11. Oh yeah, we not only engaged in a whisper campaign against the poor neighbour who “attempted suicide” but also blew her mailbox off with an M80, doing a great deal to improve her mental health, I’m sure. See, things could be much worse!

  12. Dammit! You’ve all gone grown-up on me! Even Benji (though it took him a bit longer than everyone else…). Here I was, picturing y’all rubbing your hands together gleefully (rubbing one’s own hand, obviously, and not rubbing each other’s hands – that would just be freaky and unsanitary…), hatching evil plots, etc. Where’s your sense of adventure, people?



  13. Chuck some water balloons at them next time.

  14. I honestly haven’t a good answer, but your dilemma reminds me of a story my Mother (z”l) used to tell my brother and I when we encountered similar situations (as kids)….

    My mother taught a high school remedial English class in New Jersey in the early 1960s. Being born ‘n bred in Boston, she had a particularly strong accent. The majority of her class were African American students whose families had moved up north to escape the violence which resulted from the civil rights movement (and clashes with the good ole’ boys) in the deep south.

    My mother was a slim and prim sort of a woman — but she was passionate about the English language and literature. Every day she got up in front of the class, eager to teach, eager to educate and eager to win the esteem of her students.

    Every day, however, as soon as she began the days’ lesson, the classroom would erupt with the sounds of stifled giggles.

    My Mom was both mystified and humiliated.

    After several weeks of this, she finally summoned the courage to ask the class why they could barely suppress their laughter each time she opened her mouth.

    She couldn’t imagine. She thought that perhaps her slip hung beneath the hemline of her skirt. Perhaps one of the more mischievous students had tacked a “kick me sign” to her back each day. (Remember this was the early 1960s — the classroom was definitely “kinder and gentler” than today’s!)

    She’d imagined so many responses to the question. Yet she was completely unprepared for the response.

    As soon as she asked the question, a young woman eagerly raised her hand to respond. “Miz’ P” she said, “we can’t understand none of the words you’s sayin’.”

    Deep south meets Boston in a NJ classroom.

    In the end, my Mom was glad to learn that the laughter said more about the classroom than it did about her. Except in very rare cases, I suspect this is always the case. Rude says so much more about the perpetrator than the victim. Try not to let it eat you up.

  15. Er… have you tried strangulation? Should work pretty well. If not, throwing cow patties should do the job.

  16. My first instinct was to go for ignoring and/or dirty looks but you seem to want to go for the jugular. So I will shed my grown-up cape and wear the mean hat on…

    Nyark-nyark-nyark. (evil laugh).

    One thing we need to avoid – and that would be our ceiling: you don’t want them to go running to their parents and have THEM knock at your door asking you to back off from their kids. That would not be cool and is not sure to get the kids off your back.

    a. When you seen them, especially when exiting the house with someone, point at them and laugh and whisper something in your friend’s ear. That should disconcert them a little.

    b. Put mud/something gooey on the spot they normally sit. Keep an eye on the crime scene; and laugh out loud.

    c. Buy candy for all the other kids and make sure they don’t get any.

    c. Maryam in Marrakesh’s civilised way with a twist: do that while in front of their friends, in private; otherwise they’ll be twisting the conversation and chirping about it with their friends. No, no – embarrass them in public.

    Okay, that was all the evil I had.
    Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go manage a country’s national budget forecasting. (hehehehehehe.)

    I’ll be back, of course, if I have more. 😀

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