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My competition win was hijacked by a very strange woman (bit of a long saga)

(218 Posts)
BoffinMum Thu 02-Mar-17 11:22:59

This is in AIBU because I genuinely want to know if I was, but it's borderline personally upsetting so please don't be too robust when you respond.

So I came second in a creative writing competition in another language. I was pretty pleased about this as I had last studied it at school. There were categories for secondary aged pupils, university students, native speakers and people like me (random grown ups, basically). So about 2/3 of the people there were adult winners, i.e. not at school.

The prize was a creative writing workshop with a celebrated writer. Very exciting, although I was a bit nervous about writing in the other language as I haven't done much of that for years. I speak the language really fluently with a native accent (can't say more without outing myself), but I don't write in it very often, because I never went to school or university there, so I am a bit self-conscious about things like spelling and perfect grammar, perfect idioms, etc. Admittedly I am a bit of a perfectionist. Anyway I turned up to the workshop, and waited.

Everything in the waiting area was fine except there was a woman who turned up with three independent school sixth form kids in school uniform (no other kids were in school uniform). She was, shall we say, something of a strong personality, a bit loud, and kind of dominating proceedings. In the movie of her life, I later joked to my DH, she would be played by Miriam Gargoyles at full throttle. I am sure you all know the type. But there's no law against being like that, free country, takes all sorts, etc etc. We didn't actually have anything to do with each other before the workshop.

Eventually we were divided into small groups and all the prize winners went into the workshop room with their assigned author. This woman, with the kids in school uniform, said "We're coming with him" and followed us into the workshop and plonked herself down. I wondered if she was someone's mum. We started with a bit of who we all were and so on, in the target language. She then starting muttering behind her hand to one of the sixth form students that my language skills were poor and I could not speak properly, and sniggered. This made me feel very uncomfortable - I know I speak the language just fine, I certainly was one of the better speakers in the room, and normally I would just ignore something like this on the grounds that she didn't know what she was talking about, but she had actually touched on a nerve. From my point of view, here I was being brave and exposing myself psychologically, and she was essentially starting to be a bit of a bully in the workshop, with a weird agenda. I wouldn't have minded them joining in if they were nice, but they weren't being nice. They were playing strange and inappropriate psychological games and sucking me into something I didn't like. I did not need to be picked on by a bully at that exact moment in my life, so I decided to be vigilant and sort her out if it came to that.

She sniggered about me a bit more, so then I asked her whether she was one of the prize winners. She announced she wasn't, but that one of her pupils was, and she and her other pupils had been invited to the workshop so that was why she was there. Now I could see the organisers hadn't been expecting her, and I had received the same congratulatory email as everyone else, and this was most emphatically not the case - guests were invited to the prize ceremony in the evening but not to the workshop. In addition, no other students and teachers had turned up, which made it even more obvious to everyone that she had misunderstood the email her winning student had received, and was effectively gatecrashing the event. So I responded that this was surprising, as the prize for the competition was supposed to be this workshop, and guests were invited to the evening ceremony but obviously not the workshop, as that was meant to be the prize. She said she was entitled to be there. So I said that if she hadn't entered or won, then I couldn't see what she was doing here. I added that personally speaking, this was quite a brave thing for me to be doing, and I would be grateful therefore if it could be kept to prize winners only, as originally agreed, and not language teachers and their guests. Apart from anything else, I pointed out, the group size would be very large if extra people came in.

She then let rip. I was a horrible person, I was a nasty person, she had never met anyone like me, this was outrageous, I was appalling, etc etc. I was personally attacked in front of all the other prizewinners and the organising committee. They all stood there like rabbits paralysed in the headlights. None of them did anything. We all slightly died of embarrassment.

I got my coat, and very politely said that if this was the basis on which the workshop was happening, I did not feel it was a psychologically safe space for me personally to be doing something artistic such as creative writing, and that I was going to leave and see them all later at the ceremony. I wished them well. The woman was clearly a petty bully who had singled me out for some bizarre reason, in the way that bullies do, and the prospect of me spending all afternoon in a room with her and her pupil sidekicks (one of whom I suspected was her son, as they were physically rather similar and she spent a lot of time muttering with him in a very exclusive way, sitting very close) was to me, quite frankly, highly unappealing to say the least. The organisers said that was a shame, and I should stay, as I was one of the prizewinners, so I hung my coat back up and put my stuff down again.

She then let rip even more and got threatening. She said I would be in big trouble with her headmaster, that this had been presented as a sixth form workshop for pupils and their teachers, that they had come all this way, that I was outrageous, I was disgusting, she had never met anyone as horrible as me, etc etc etc. It went on for one or two very long minutes until she drew breath. I then said (and I am not proud of this, but it did get rid of her) "Have you finished?" She just looked at me. I then said, "There's the door" and she flounced off with her coterie, muttering into the distance, leaving the one prize winning pupil behind to take part in the workshop. (I later worked out this boy was a native speaker of the target language but attending an English school and had most likely cheated by entering the school category rather than the native speaker one, but in actual fact he had only come fourth in his category anyway - runner-up - so it was not the end of the world).

The workshop went OK, after I explained I was not a horrible person and I was actually someone who loved writing and was trying a risky challenge here. In fact, the writer hosting the workshop was absolutely lovely and everyone really enjoyed it. But the shadow of the strange woman hung over it for me.

Then we went down to the evening ceremony, which was due to start in about 20 minutes time. There the bully teacher woman was again. In fact she floated around the entire space announcing in a very loud voice to anyone standing around how badly she had been treated and what a horrible person I was, over and over and over again, to anyone who would listen, making sure I was in earshot the whole time. Luckily my DH had arrived for the ceremony, so I stood with him, completely ignored her, chatted politely to a few participants and organisers from time to time, and I reckon she didn't dare come over to me because he was there (he looks very proper and CEO-like so people tend not to have a go). She then sat on the front row with the entourage from her school flanking her. Luckily she shut up during the ceremony although I would not have been surprised if she had sprung up while I was on stage to make some sort of objection, like the mad person at the wedding in a Hollywood film. I would have left at that point if DH hadn't been there, quite frankly.

Then afterwards there was a drinks party and she carried on slagging me off around the room loudly. I just ignored her and chatted nicely to a few other people, all of whom were lovely. We left pretty soon afterwards. DH took me out for a nice supper. DH is wonderful.

I have to say though that I am still feeling quite disorientated and a teensy bit upset by the proceedings and I really didn't like being painted as an evil person. Nor do I like not feeling I handled it as well as I might have done (although I was pleased at my sophisticated and very adult anger management skills as I actually wanted to bash her on the head with my handbag quite a lot of the time, but calmed myself down and behaved in a very dignified way). Clearly, though, this woman has major problems, to behave like that in public. WIBU to object to her being in the workshop?

I wish AuldAlliance or ScottishMummy had been there as they would have dealt with this woman magnificently.

Wishiwasmoiradingle2017 Thu 02-Mar-17 11:28:20

No you were not being unreasonable at all. . You were fab!! grin
Congratulations on the prize also!!
I prob would have ran out in tears!!

BoffinMum Thu 02-Mar-17 11:30:50

<slight tear> That has made me feel quite a lot better but I am actually slightly crying now. It was like being back at school. I went to a very bitchy girls' school.

starsinyourpies Thu 02-Mar-17 11:32:13

Well done you for speaking up! She was completely taking the piss.

BoffinMum Thu 02-Mar-17 11:33:10

She was, wasn't she? The organisers were in a bit of a flap about it behind the scenes, I think. It hadn't even occurred to them someone would think they could come along on that basis.

poppy2021 Thu 02-Mar-17 11:33:46

I think you handled yourself magnificently and should be very proud of yourself. You didn't bring yourself down to her level. Hold your head up high. Well done

BoffinMum Thu 02-Mar-17 11:34:55

I love MN

Greyponcho Thu 02-Mar-17 11:35:49

As a teacher she shouldn't have behaved that way - the event was for a range of people, including those learning/developing their language skills.
I'm sure she wouldn't have appreciated people taking the piss while she was learning the language. Nothing gives her the right to do so to others.
YANBU for not wanting that vile woman there, although I could've understood if she had to because of child protection/supervision issues, which she did not cite.

BowiesJumper Thu 02-Mar-17 11:38:13

Do you know which school she was from? I would definitely write to the head teacher and tell him how badly this woman represented his school.

highinthesky Thu 02-Mar-17 11:39:25

The OW sounds like a seelly, seelly beeaach.

LemonBreeland Thu 02-Mar-17 11:39:31

You handled yourself well and it's a shame the organisers didn't do anything to help you or back you up. Letting her be that awful to you was not on.

RitaConnors Thu 02-Mar-17 11:40:00

I want to say you go girl but I shan't as it's terribly vulgar.

I think you did enormously well. She was a bully.

If she'd kept her gob shut in the first place, maybe she'd have flown under the radar and ended up staying.

highinthesky Thu 02-Mar-17 11:40:29

Actually why don't you let her headmaster know of how she has behaved? It sure doesn't reflect well on the school.

ImperialBlether Thu 02-Mar-17 11:40:40

It doesn't sound as though she had the right to be there for anything except the evening event. You were right; she would make it difficult for you to contribute and with creative writing you need supportive and positive people around you.

I would make a complaint to her school.

Btw who was the writer?

IamFriedSpam Thu 02-Mar-17 11:41:02

YOU handled yourself very well - I'm jealous I wouldn't have had the guts to do it! She sounds mad as a bat to be honest. I love the "you'll be in trouble with my headmaster" line - sounds like she has never left school!

honeysucklejasmine Thu 02-Mar-17 11:41:03

I think you did marvellously, and would be dropping a note both to the kids school (if you managed to catch its name) and to the organisers to explain how her behaviour affected you.

WhatHaveIFound Thu 02-Mar-17 11:41:17

No you weren't being unreasonable at all and well done on standing up to her. I'm just astounded that the workshop organisers didn't just ask her to leave. Can you write to them to let them know how her behaviour has affected you?

Congratulation on your prize btw!

MagicMojito Thu 02-Mar-17 11:41:29

star I think you did well. Some people just have zero self awareness. I bet everyone thought she was bat shit grin

BoffinMum Thu 02-Mar-17 11:42:53

Bowies, as I work in the field of teacher professionalism and standards I was sorely tempted but felt that would a bit like Donald Trump. Sometimes you just to move on. If she's that nasty she'll be doing this regularly and will come a cropper in front of him.

onalongsabbatical Thu 02-Mar-17 11:44:19

BoffinMum YANBU, she sounds absolutely horrible. My guess is she may have felt on the back foot being caught out like that, but if I'd been her (never!) I'd have slunk away tail between legs apologising for mistake, and she chose to full on attack you instead, as a tactic (conscious or unconscious) to try and look as if she was in the right. So glad your DH was there and is so supportive and lovely.
And congratulations, what a fantastic thing to win! I write, too. It's a funny lonely business and some affirmation and positive feedback is well needed encouragement. Bloody well done. star

ExplodedCloud Thu 02-Mar-17 11:44:35

YABU. When you say I then said (and I am not proud of this, but it did get rid of her) "Have you finished?" She just looked at me. I then said, "There's the door"
You should be feeling v v proud of that!
That was perfect and extraordinarily self possessed.

So it sounds like you pushed yourself on all sorts of levels and won in all sorts of ways. Well done. She made herself look like a right pillock and I'm sure everyone felt for you. Loving the idea that she threatened you with her headmaster grin

Well done you! flowers

chitofftheshovel Thu 02-Mar-17 11:45:51

Bloody hell, she sounds like a right bitch.

It sounds like you handled it perfectly, although TBH I think the organisers should have stepped in and asked her to leave.

Congratulations on the prize.

GallivantingWildebeest Thu 02-Mar-17 11:45:55

She was a teacher? shock

I'd contact the competition organisers now, tell him just what you say here, say you feel they let you down terribly by being so faffy and by not standing up to this woman and telling her the rules of the competition.

I'd also find out the school this woman taught at and complain to the HT. Say EXACTLY what happened.

She sounds like a complete entitled bitch and a bully. I honestly can't believe that a teacher acted the way she did. That's horrendous.

Well done to you for winning! Who was the author?!

BornStroppy Thu 02-Mar-17 11:47:38

God, OP.

Top points for dignity.

WTF were the organisers doing while this tirade was going on?

I would raise it with the school. Her behaviour reflected very badly on the school and as the pupils were in uniform it would clear to all attendees which school it was.

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