1. Smart girls don’t play with snakes

    Cleopatra came to a sad end --or so the story  goes -- playing with a snakeIn an incredible display of irony on a recent episode of The Real Housewives of New York, Jill Zarin sponsored an event to help stop classroom bullying. Let me be clear, I have nothing but admiration for her step-daughter Jennifer Zarin, a young woman with a facial deformity. She spoke elegantly about being bullied and is an example as to how to behave graciously.

    But one can only wonder what the ladies were thinking as they ripped into each other at an event to prevent bullying. Watching them go at it, it should come as no surprise that studies show that women are among the worse bullies in the workplace, and that mean girls can be as dangerous as bully boys.
    The “Housewives” franchises are my guilty pleasures. Many people may dismiss them as crass nonsense, but I find they too often mirror the values and behavior I see daily.
    I shuddered as I watched Countess Luann attack cast-mate Ramona Singer. The countess demanded that Ramona discuss her problem with Jill Zarin before a planned trip to Morocco. She then informed her, in the middle of the event, that she (the countess) and several cast-mates had been at a spa party, and no one wanted to go on a trip with Singer. She continued to berate Singer for not wanting to share David Meister, the designer who supplies Singer’s clothes for the show. It was almost comical when the countess feigned innocence as Singer told her to stop “getting in the middle and picking a fight.”
    Reality TV is not reality. Producers do edit and manipulate story lines, but a thread of truth runs through it. People often behave this way. We have lost our civility. Gone are the rules that make polite society polite.
    Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be said for good old-fashioned manners, when it comes to getting ahead and getting along.
    For instance, people don’t like to hear about parties they were not invited to. So follow the old rule and never talk about an event unless it was at least five years ago or 500 miles away. You will be more popular. Keep Facebook posts of these festivities to a minimum; a few pictures will do. More is less, and classier.
    The exceptions include family parties, such as weddings, baptisms, anniversaries, and reunions. Class reunions fall in this category, too. Post away! Anyone who missed the event will love seeing the photos. Try to label pictures and avoid posting anything that embarrasses anyone. Be discreet and you will be loved.
    I recently saw the documentary film Bill Cunningham New York, about the legendary New York Times photographer and social chronicler. In it, Annette de la Renta, the philanthropist wife of designer Oscar de la Renta, lauded Cunningham for “always being kind.”
    Follow his example – and hers. Pick your fights and choose your words carefully. Life is too short to go around battling and gossiping over every little thing. I am not advocating being a doormat, far from it. But many little scraps people try to draw you into are just not worth it. Fight for things that are worth it. If someone tries to bully you or tarnish your reputation, stand up for yourself, then walk away. Needy people get a charge out of battling. They like drama and they will drain your energy if you let them. I prefer work, accomplishment, friendship, and creativity.
    Often women who try to bait or bully you are jealous or needy. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Bethenny Frankel left the show after seeing so-called friends attack Ramona Singer. Both Bethenny and Ramona are successful businesswomen.
    Recently, a woman I know casually came to me to vent her frustration after a business venture she had counted on had failed. She was discouraged and angry. It was in an area where I have some expertise and experience, so I was glad to give her some advice and reassurance. I also offered a few tips on how to avoid the same situation in the future. I was careful not to lecture or be negative. I know no one enjoys feeling naïve or stupid, and it is counter-productive. It was a brief and positive conversation, and one that she had initiated.
    So darlings, you may imagine my surprise a week later when she and I were chatting about another matter involving a mutual friend. “Oh,” she said, “she should have asked you – you’re so sneaky.” I quickly objected to that characterization, and she backed down. But as far as I am concerned, that was the end of it, and of our relationship.
    I don’t need friends who take jabs at me — or anyone else, when they are feeling badly about themselves and want to feel smarter. I am simply not interested. It might surprise her, but her behaviour did not make her new friends that day. Smart women know that being friends with women like that is like snake handling – it is just a matter of time before you get bitten. Smart girls don’t play with snakes – just ask Eve.
    Another friend of mine — a delightful, hardworking professional — has had mean girl issues at the office. Recently she was assigned to work with a woman who refuses to get along, no matter what my friend tried to do. My friend even asked for advice from her own boyfriend, an even-tempered professional, but the woman remained surly. Finally, the woman disclosed the real reason for her discontent. She was jealous that my friend gets more respect for creative ideas from their boss. The problem is my friend is the creative person in the partnership, and the malcontent is the administrative person. Perhaps the woman longs to be creative, as do many people.
    The other housewives long for the monetary rewards and fame Bethenny and Ramona enjoy. I think they are foolish. Ramona is savvy and I would keep her close. I am impressed with her business acumen. She has successful jewelry line, skin care business, and now a new wine.
    As for me and my friend, we have worked hard to get where we are professionally. I am not thin-skinned and am happy to help others whenever I can. I have many old dear friends, and I don’t accept bitchiness or bad manners in my friendships. I know it isn’t necessary or healthy. My friend will ride this out. The other women will be the poorer for missing out on a great colleague, who would have their backs.
    Smile and walk away from troublemakers when you can. Always be a lady, even when you have to defend yourself. And remember darlings, smart women never play with snakes.