If bitching is a social currency, then during the four years I spent at an all-girls school, I was poor.
Really poor. Like, Oliver Twist poor. I don’t mean that in an “aren’t I a nice person who would never bitch about anyone else, I think we should all just braid each other’s hair and talk about who has the longest eyelashes,” sort of way – although that does sound nice – but more in an “I’m objectively bad at this” sort of way. I am bad at bitching.
For me, bitching is a bit like running – or exercise in general. Some people seem to feel invigorated and energised by it, but I find it tends to make me feel strangely itchy and like I need to take a long nap.
But unfortunately, bitching is a part of life. The universe’s law says that for every one nice conversation you have about what movie you’re dying to go to or the hilarious thing you saw on the bus, you will also have to sit through a conversation about why someone is annoying or mean or embarrassing or stupid or just… there.
It’s tricky to extricate yourself completely because bitching is omnipresent, like God or 3G. And sometimes you don’t even want to join in, but you feel like a dick saying “Guys, I would really rather you didn’t talk about Michelle and her unfortunately loud farts because it’s disrespectful.” Whaddya gonna do.
Well, we have some ideas. Here are some crafty ways to get out of bitching without having to actually take part. Here are my faves.
1. Just be nice
Sure, Michelle’s farts smell like month-old blue cheese. That was eaten by a mouse and then the mouse died and started decomposing, and then the mouse was eaten by a cat and then the cat died and it’s been rotting in your grandparents’ weirdly warm basement for three weeks (seriously, there are layers to her farts, her farts have a story to tell) – BUT, try pointing out some of the nice things about Michelle instead.
Like how she always helps you in maths when you don’t understand how the hell x = 32.5. And seriously, has anyone noticed how shiny her hair is?
2. “She’s just insecure”
When your friends start talking about how Carly is such a bitch because she always sends passive aggressive messages to your WhatsApp group, take a minute before you respond.
Sure, it might be tempting to tell your friends that when you told Carly you got a good mark in drama, instead of congratulating you like a regular person, she said: “Oh, I so wish I’d taken an easy subject like you did!”. But rather than piling on the ammunition, sometimes all you really need to say is “it’s probably just because she’s insecure.” And in 99% of cases, this is actually true. Carly is just insecure. And while that doesn’t make the things she’s saying any less mean or hurtful, knowing that what she’s saying isn’t a reflection on how she feels about you, but how she feels about herself, is always worth remembering.
3. Block it
This one only really works in a one-to-one situation, but it’s strangely effective. You are part of the conversation, but all you ever really do is stand there and block the bitching. You’re like the bitching equivalent of a Premier League goalkeeper, or the person who decides to try and find their train ticket at the bottom of their bag while they’re standing *in front of* the gates. Eg.
Them: Hey, did you notice how Katie asked everyone about their weekend, apart from me?
You: Oh, I didn’t notice.
Them: Seriously, she even asked Sarah and she doesn’t even like Sarah.
You: Maybe she just forgot.
Them: She’s just so like that, you know?
You: She probably didn’t do it on purpose.
Them: [Now bored with your lack of engagement] Want to get pizza?
4. Change the topic
This one takes years to master, but it’s probably my favourite move and I find it particularly useful in a messaging situation. There’s only so long I can sit and watch fresh bubbles of bitching appear on my chat feed before I feel the need to do something about it.
The thing about bitching is that people tend to get into a flow. One minute they’re talking about the way Hannah stood them up last week, and then BAM they’re bringing up the time she scrawled something mean on the bathroom walls when she was ten. Bitching has no concept of time healing wounds; instead it likes to rip those bad boys open again and poke around for a while. So it’s important to get in as early as possible with a subject change. Mostly I go for a weird anecdote or a benign question – if you need some inspiration, try these:
Do you guys think I should get a bob? (If you have a bob, obviously this one won’t work)
Do you think seaweed counts as a vegetable?
What’s the name of that film with Cameron Diaz?
Do you guys wipe while sitting down or do you kinda stand up so you’re a bit off the loo seat? (This one can eat up HOURS)
When we eventually find them, what do you think aliens will look like?
Or, final option, if you’re stronger or nicer or just plain better than I am, you could always go full Romy and Michele.
Just make sure you have enough time to clear up that can of worms, ok?