Avoiding Social Vampires: A View from Life in the Doughnut Aisle.



I recognized her as she exited the produce isle. I was sure she saw me too.  A negative and nasty former corporate acquaintance, the type of person I call “low frequency”. My previous interactions with her confirmed that she reveled in opportunities to be mean.  I had witnessed her with others. On top of being mean, she was smooth as hell.  She was skilled at coating her disguised insults with just enough sweetness to confuse the best of people. Our paths hadn’t crossed in awhile, I hoped to keep it that way so I lingered over the fresh herbs and tomatoes keeping an eye out for a safe trajectory to a check-out.

That’s right, I wanted to avoid this toxic social vampire. We had a history.

I rarely trusted myself to be strong in these situations. I dreaded the inability to scrub out the shitty residue left in my brain from such an encounter.

Today, I definitely wasn’t up for it.

As I waited in the check-out line I felt her presence before I heard her voice; she began unloading her basket behind me, while reading aloud the headlines from the trashy magazines. I didn’t turn around. I felt my breath change, my posture stiffen.  I fixated on the large clock hanging directly across from me, the second hand sweeping away time- wishing I had selected another line. We were stalled for a price check, while the elderly woman ahead of me argued with the cashier over the price of toilet paper.

The tap on my left shoulder caused me to flinch, instinctively I turn around. “Well that is you, couldn’t miss that hair. Guess that won’t be staying around long, I hear you’ve got the cancer bug.  And look at you still buying all that healthy stuff, not that it’s going do you much good now ­­­– that must be a piss off.  I mean, all that living healthy for nothing.”

I tuned her voice out by focusing on the conveyor belt; judging her food choices and her words. Judging HER.  Grocery lines are the ultimate display of vulnerability I thought, we reveal so much about ourselves through our food choices.

Mine represented survival, as did hers I realized.

We are all trying to survive whatever way we know.

To say her words felt like getting slapped in the face would be an understatement. My blood was hot, my heart racing.  I’ve never been one who could generate a witty response on the spot, I did however contemplate delivering an East Coast throat punch that would land her ass back in the doughnut aisle where she had clearly spent some time looking at her stockpile.

Breathe and say nothing I told myself. It equals a NO. Silence IS a powerful answer.

The Mantra “Take no shit–do no harm”  ran through me.

When I tuned back in, she was spewing comments ripe with conditions that commanded my compliance.

“Here I am with my doughnuts and potato chips. Yep, I know, that’s what I’m eating these days, it makes my life happier.”

Her rambling segued into how she hated her stressful job, but needed the money. Lamenting about her kids, and the wasted years, some of dieting and exercising only to end up where she began.

Again, attempting to reinforce that my lifestyle was futile, she offered:

“My advice to you is that life’s too short to deprive yourself.  If I were you, I’d be eating whatever I wanted and lots of it. You’ve got a free ticket now. I wasted lots of years eating salads and it didn’t do me a damn bit of good, just like you hey. I wasted too many years giving up things I loved; besides, you could stand some meat on your bones.”

As I paid the cashier, I managed to utter: Well, it sounds like you have stock piled an abundance of wasted time in your life. I’d be pleased to take it off your hands anytime.

I turned and left.

In the safety of my car I dug into my judgment laced organic strawberries, still reeling from the shitty encounter.

Her words made me want to justify my choices, my faith in life.  I wanted to inform her toxic ass that I wouldn’t lose my hair.

I wanted to tell her she was ALL wrong.

And then it started…..the old mental tapes on replay. Old voices began making excuses for her.

Maybe I could have been nicer, she was misery on two legs.  Maybe I could have tried to make her feel better.

She was using my situation to tell HER story, one of regret and wasted time. She had attempted to hand me her shit to feel better at my expense.

Maybe I could have said, it must be hard to see the beauty of life when you’re stuck in the same rinse and repeat cycle of settling and feeling like you have wasted your life.  It’s hard when relationships aren’t like you dreamed and you wake up in a life day after day that feels like it’s for nothing.

We all get knocked down. Being knocked down in life hurts.

It’s hard to see the beauty in ourselves when we’re feeling defeated, stressed and tired.

When you hate your job but the bills and the expectations pile up. It’s hard to see the beauty when you feel trapped.

Maybe I could have told her to remember that even if she felt she has fallen down, felt overwhelmed, and just wanted to burn it all down, that she can always get back up.

I didn’t say any of that.

Because… here is what I know without any doubt.

There will always be people who cannot accept or handle your grace, your beauty, your wisdom, your heart; because they can’t find their own.

So I summoned everything I had in me.

I walked away.

I chose me.

Zero excuses.  Zero desire to fix.  Zero fucks given.

That’s the strength that we all have.

And to me – that’s the real beauty of life.

Big love,

Courage Life Spoken Out Loud Wellness

  • Sue Ann Gleason April 25, 2015, 8:57 pm

    First, I must be living in a bubble because even though I know mean spirited people are everywhere I just can’t imagine encountering that wrath, those words, without visibly flinching. Ugh. I am so sorry you had to endure that. And your words: “There will always be people who cannot accept or handle your grace, your beauty, your wisdom, your heart; because they can’t find their own.” So true. So beautiful. So real. Thank you.

    • Dana April 26, 2015, 7:22 pm

      Sue Ann, bubbles are good :) There is a larger back story to this person so the context does seem jolting because it was. Tests then lessons, tests then lessons….sigh

  • Valerie April 25, 2015, 10:57 pm

    Thank you. I had my own encounter with a group of social vampires yesterday and I’ve been trying to convince myself to rise above it all day. I’m grateful for the implicit permission to just feel hurt and to not add to my own pain by beating up on myself for not being able to just let it go so quickly.

    Zero excuses. Zero desire to fix. Zero fucks given indeed.

    • Dana April 26, 2015, 7:19 pm

      Valerie, I am still learning how to handle these rare situations, because people like this I believe are rare, in my world anyway. My saving grace was that I saw her and had time to mentally prepare in case we crossed paths…it is hard when bullies show up as adults with such force. Go easy sister and sending you heaps of love and grace to walk away guilt free from your toxic bunch time and time again. xo

  • Lori April 26, 2015, 1:26 am

    I feel badly that you had the misfortune to encounter this acquaintance, especially during such a vulnerable time in your life. It is obvious to me that she is an angry woman looking for conflict. The battle she is fighting isn’t with you, it’s with herself. Sending you hugs of love and positive vibes for your recovery. I hope the act of writing this post was cathartic for you. ((hugs))

  • Kim April 26, 2015, 2:02 am

    Dana, you are a wonderful woman. You were my supervisor at one time in my career. You exhibit grace and beauty. I feel so awful the way this person treated you. I can hardly believe a person could be so mean. You had the perfect response, displaying class and kindness. Thinking of you. I admire you in every way……you are a fantastic writer! LOVE your blog.

    • Dana April 26, 2015, 7:25 pm

      Hi Kim! Love that you found your way here! Thank you! XO

  • Cathy April 26, 2015, 1:50 pm

    Did she really say that? I’ve never experienced such vitriol in my life (thank Goddess).

    I so admire that you handled it with poise – I would have melted into a puddle on the floor – and the courage to NOT punch her.

    I admire what it took for you to turn it around – albeit while consoling yourself in fresh produce – to see that it’s her own pain and inability to see past it that has her lashing out so cruelly, like a caged animal. (Even the fact that she sees vegetables as deprivation and chips as nourishing speaks volumes.)

    Beautiful, Dana!

    • Dana April 26, 2015, 7:15 pm

      Yes! Cathy she really did say that, and more that I chose not to disclose because it may have allowed some in my community to identify her. She really exists.

  • Susie Mordoh April 27, 2015, 1:03 am

    Holy Sh#%!t!! is my first reaction. Even though this woman was projecting her insecurities on you, I have a maternal response to want to protect you and give her crap right back to her. That being said it would be futile and you did the right thing. You were decerning and walked away. I only hope the reverberations has left you already.

    Sending you big love, healing energy and an extra hug too!! XO sweetDana

  • Maria April 27, 2015, 5:03 am

    Hey Dana, I have to say I resonated so much with all of this – so beautifully written, laughing out loud at one point – too funny and yet so real. Power to you gorgeous soul. Blessings xx

  • Faye April 27, 2015, 12:16 pm

    Deep bows to you my friend for not delivering the East Coast throat punch. Jaw dropping example of absolute cruelty on her part but you handled it with grace and beauty – as always!!

  • Michelle April 29, 2015, 11:52 pm

    No she didn’t.

    I am in shock. She actually said those things to you???

    Woman, you are a bad ass. Brava for handling this with guts and grace.

    You need to syndicate this piece all over the Interwebs. It’s one of the best posts I’ve read in the past year. Truly.

    I can’t wait to see you prove her wrong. xo

  • april April 30, 2015, 3:48 am

    i must admit i’m reeling a bit from the shock of those spiteful words – oh my goodness, dana. you are the classiest though, miles beyond the way i would have reacted. “she was using my situation to tell HER story, one of regret and wasted time.” absolutely, yes. but to recognize that under the circumstances? you have impressed me beyond words. hugs to you, beautiful woman.

  • Harinder April 30, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I loved your post; it made me think twice before I say anything to such people again. I don’t know if you remember me, but I was a BC at FVI when you were a CM. I enjoyed working with you everytime you were on shift. We cannot stop vampires from speaking, but you are right we can stop ourselves. thank you for your inspiration.


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