Are women catty?

With "skinny girl" Bethenny Frankel before she made her millions. Now, as bloggers attack her she says she has big problems to go with her big money.The question seems perennial, but yes, darlings, I would have to say many of us are catty. This is a subject that keeps coming up. It seems no matter how young or old you are – or, rich or poor — at some time or another you will have to deal with catty behavior. 

Often it involves undercutting an accomplishment or cutting someone down to size, but it can be subtler. Some women like to blow hot and cold with their friends depending on their moods. They make little hurtful comments that sting when you least expect it. A friend, after all, knows just where to stick the knife.
It seems no one is immune. There have been many articles about how The Real Housewife of New York’s Bethenny Frankel lost her baby weight so quickly and how great she looks. I was amazed at the catty comments some women posted as to how her weight loss is due to “having money,” or that she isn’t all that thin. Now there seems to be controversy about how much money she made selling her Skinnygirl cocktail business. It was obviously millions, but the actual number is her business.
Catty comments are often made about women who look youthful. Ramona Singer, from the same show, is often accused of having had plastic surgery. Her detractors say she looks great at 50, plus because she has money. Pure envy motivates this type of cattiness. Too bad it won’t help those who engage in it get thinner, look younger, or be happier.
For a long time, I didn’t recognize cattiness for what it was. I grew up in New England, where I was encouraged not to think too much of myself. We all were. Conceit and self-involvement were frowned on. I am pleased to say I still have the same darling friends I had in high school, and there is not a cat in group. They are all bright, beautiful, attractive women. We had a few mean girls in high school, but when you have fabulous friends and a few smart older mentors to give you good advice, it is easy to ignore them.
Besides, the mean girls at my school were really “unhappy girls” with issues. They restricted themselves to things like not inviting certain people to parties. Surprise to them! Most people didn’t care or notice; there was always a lot going on any given weekend. And being bitchy did not get you too far.
I see the same dynamic play out on Bravo’s Housewives shows all the time. Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey — saddled with debts and facing competition from her young sexy sister-in-law — is fighting with everyone. 
It’s easy to see why Teresa feels threatened. She is now the “poor girl” in the group. She has also lost her position as the most “fabulous” to a younger woman. Her fury and frustration has made her thin-skinned and vicious at times.
It’s easy to understand, but still not pleasant to be around.
Almost everyone I know has run into mean girls or catty women. I have been lucky; usually I have been able to just walk away from them. I know some women are not as lucky. An old high school friend was tortured by a grown-up mean girl boss at work. Luckily she has moved on to a new job.
For years, I just never saw them coming. I never knew when or why some women would get confrontational at a party for no reason. The attacks always seemed to come out of nowhere. I was taken aback when some woman wanted to argue for no good reason. Now I know the warning signs and will avoid a hostile person. I will simply refuse to play their game. I just don’t get a charge out of pointless arguing. I have nothing to prove and it makes me a little sad.
I have read many explanations for catty behaviour. Some experts say it is because women are judged by harsh subjective criteria that we can’t control, such as appearance. Others say we compete for the attention of men and it makes women feel threatened. Still others fall back on the old saw that women are treated unfairly in the workplace and elsewhere based on their looks. I am sure there is an element of truth to all of this, but darlings, life isn’t fair and there are no excuses for shoddy behaviour.
When I was younger, I found confrontations came fast and furious from slightly older women. They would attack my clothes, opinions, or even my right to hold an opinion. Mostly these attacks came at social occasions when they perceived I was getting too much attention. I was always surprised because I have never been one to exclude women and have always had many women friends. Sadly, I see younger women I know dealing with the same cat-attacks. My advice is always the same: avoid and ignore. These unhappy mean girls are not worth the stress.
Now that I am older, the hostile remarks are subtler. My main offence seems to be that I have a husband and therefore I am not as vulnerable as those who do not. I am told I will never have to work as hard or “know their reality.” I find this amazing, as these things are said by women who know little of my life. My friends who are single, some with small children, don’t feel the need to attack others. They are successful and happily living their lives. They know we all have challenges and triumphs. If they long for a partner, they know it has nothing to with my marriage or anyone else’s.
My successes and setbacks do not hinge on anyone but me. I am grateful for my friends’ support, but their success does not diminish me or reflect on me. I can be pleased for them because I love them.
I am always startled at how quickly some women draw the battle lines and toss down the gauntlet. It is as if they exist in a perpetual game of Dungeons & Dragons, where one must be labelled friend or foe, and the battle is always in progress. These women will pick on your job, opinions, clothes, weight, shoes, or zodiac sign. They can’t help themselves; envy and unhappiness drives them like drugs drive a junkie. Still others use their friends and acquaintances as an outlet for their bad moods and disappointments. They lash out with barbs and petty behavior when they feel needy or small.
Darlings, so many women are catty because we let them get away with it. We don’t call women on their behaviour often enough. Sadly, catty mothers often raise catty daughters. If a good friend – and I have few who have taken a swipe at me — I let her know privately that if she does it again we will not be friends. Disagreeing is fine, but cattiness is not. I don’t think having different opinion, even a harsh one, or making private observations, is a problem.
Cattiness is distracting. It uses up creative energy. It holds women back and makes us small. Cattiness is undercutting and swiping at person is bitchy and meant to diminish.
Cut catty women — and men — out of your life. Life is too short to deal with their nonsense. If the nasty person in your life is your boss, call in your chits from friends and start looking for new work. Cattiness kills your soul; don’t let it into your life. You should be able to glory in your friendships, not have them get your back up — like a cat.

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.

The *itch is back

Her new new show Bethenny's Getting Married got a boost from the feud with former BFF Jill Zarin?

Recently I got a little annoyed when I had to say to no to someone. I was being pushed, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t care for the wheedling or the disappointed tone when I had to refuse the request. I don’t say no to people very often. If I can help, I will, and that is what is so frustrating about the lack of give and take. This is not the first time this has happened. I have started to wonder if being nice and considerate is confused with being a doormat by too many people.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from a defenseless victim. I have an edge. A wicked sense of humour is a formidable weapon. I can defend myself when necessary. But, why should I? I prefer civility and cooperation: two things the world is sadly lacking these days.
I don’t want my default setting to be an automatic “no”. Nor do I want develop the type of confrontational persona I see so often these days. It’s unattractive. I always wonder what is wrong with someone who is confrontational for no reason. What makes them so insecure? I am always amazed to find that some people, especially women, think these tactics convey confidence and power. The opposite is true.  
Joan Collins the iconic*itchGranted some successful and powerful women are *itches. We have all heard about them. And no, I don’t mean women who are assertive and called names for it. I am talking about successful “mean girls”; the one who are nasty, manipulative and demeaning for no reason. Joan Collins perfected this type character in the 1980s in her iconic roll as Alexis Carrington. People still adore her for it. It is fun on-screen, but not in person.
Audiences couldn’t get enough for Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. I have to wonder if the new Bravo series, Bethenny Getting Married would have had its record high ratings if not for the feud between Bethenny and her former BFF Jill Zarin. All the Bravo Housewives series are popular.
When it come to entertainment — the *itch is back. Human behaviour is fascinating. There is a certain entertainment value in seeing outrageous people behaving outrageously. Princess Anne Banton Lofters, the creator the Real Housewives of Atlanta, told me “people like to live vicariously. If you are just a housewife, it’s exciting to see a catfight and watch women who drive fancy cars. They like to see a fantasy life and watch these women who are larger than life, with all their drama. They may sit at home and say ‘Isn’t that awful that she did that!’ – but they enjoy it”.
I think she is dead on. People like to root for their side just as people who watch sports. Or they enjoy seeing someone do something they would secretly love to do, but they would never have the nerve to do it, or they wouldn’t have the stomach for the repercussions. Those of us who think about repercussions are the last guardians of civility. I know that thinking about the damage that bad behaviour wreaks is often what keeps me from losing it. And heavens know there are days I would to love to pitch my own fit at rude and infuriating individuals. 
That brings me to those who scorn these shows – the participants and the viewer. I got a kick out of talk show host Joy Behar, who recently said she couldn’t believe how women on those shows talked. She constantly talks over her own guests and insults people. Perhaps she doesn’t see herself, or she feels her status as a “comic” excuses her. Some friends, who can’t watch such things, are the worst offenders when it comes to bad behavior. Even though I love them, there is no way to avoid the fact sometimes they are fractious, outspoken, and just plain *itchy.
Lots of lovely people don’t watch reality TV or Dynasty-type shows, but they are polite about it. It’s the way I am about sports. I don’t get it, but I see no reason to be rude about it.
The *itch may be back in style, but the tide turns quickly, as Jill Zarin on The New York Housewives found out when she got a little too nasty in a fight with the popular Bethenny Frankel. Viewers turned on her big time. It was ugly. But then again viewers are fickle, so she may be next year’s queen of the small screen. One thing is certain; controversy keeps you in the news and sells merchandise. And no matter no how popular you are, everyone won’t love you. Someone will always take a shot at you for something. Staying civil under fire is a good thing, but being a doormat is crazy and self defeating. I’m not much on being a wallflower who fades in the background. But I don’t think that means you have to be a *itchy bullhorn and drown out everyone else either.
As for me darlings, I am going to stick to being civil. But I like knowing that I can channel my inner Joan Collins whenever I need her. 
NB: I spell it *itch not out of any false gentility, but to avoid getting DD stuck in overzealous spam filters that don’t like certain words, especially for those of you who read us at work.



Get Bethenny’s booty

The original “Skinny Girl”, Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York, now has her own workout DVD. And it is not bad at all. Bethenny and her personal trainer, celebrity instructor Kristin McGee, present a relaxed, but effective workout. Bethenny’s workout recipe is combination. There is a 40-minute hatha yoga workout that will tone, sculpt, stretch, and flex. She follows it with a basic stretch workout. Many women do not realize that working out with weights is what will help you lose weight, not cardio! You need both, but the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn!

There is even a quickie bonus booty work-out! I loved it. It was deceptively simple, but very effective. This would make great mother’s Day gift, if Mom is a fan of The Real Housewives of NYC or Bethenny. Or, get it for yourself. It is the perfect  get-in-shape for summer DVD.
Bethenny Frankel is a New York Times bestselling author of Naturally Thin and The Skinnygirl Dish. See the archives for our reviews.
Bethenny and KirstinA certified personal trainer, Pilates master, and yoga instructor, Kristin McGee has worked with numerous celebrity clients including Steve Martin, LeAnn Rimes, and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.
Available for pre-order now, Body by Bethenny will be sold exclusively at on May 4.