I have a problem with a work acquaintance who can be very crass and obnoxious, and I would like some advice on how to deal with her without being rude myself.
I am not friends with my colleague "Hyacinth" - she is pushy and has been known to say really inappropriate things in front of senior colleagues, so I try to distance myself from her.
Hyacinth has gotten into the habit of asking me where I purchase my clothes, bags, and shoes, and critiquing how much they cost. She always does this in front of other people. Usually I can get away with "oh, I don't remember, I've had this for a while" or "it was a gift", but occasionally she will recognize a well known brand and latch onto it.
Hyacinth: Is that bag from X designer?
Me: Oh, it's just a bag I've had for a while - I really enjoy it because it's very comfortable to carry and goes with a lot of stuff. (I then try to move on quickly to other topics. When the bag is from X designer, I don't want to tell her because she will lecture me about how I shouldn't waste money on it. I'm not really sure what else to say here. It would be awkward to tell her to let it go and that I don't want to talk about it. Should I say less? I don't want it to seem awkward, so I try to be conversational when she remarks on something that I'm wearing/carrying. My bags don't have noticeable logos on them - maybe just one really small one on the hardware if you get really close.)
Hyacinth: I'm pretty sure that's X designer. Did you buy it yourself?
Me: It was a gift. So about the project...
Hyacinth: It must be nice to have your parents buy you everything. I'd never want to waste that much money on a bag. That cost $X - it's a complete waste of money.
As you can imagine, this is really awkward and embarrassing for me and for other people in the group.
I don't discuss any financial problems at work, nor is there anything about me that would make people think that I'm really poor and or that I am getting into debt buying stuff that I can't afford. Hyacinth is about my age (mid 20s) and we work in an environment where it's not unusual to see people wearing/carrying luxury items - it's usually the more senior people, but the younger people do own nice things as well, so I don't really stick out unless a person is very familiar with various designers and can identify their clothes/shoes/bags without an obvious logo.
Hyacinth has been unpleasant toward me since I met her - she once started a conversation by asking me "what's your deal", and then rapidly followed that with "what do your parents do", "where did you go to school", "where did you go to high school", "is that a private school" and "do you have a boyfriend". All normal questions, but the rapid fire questioning without giving me a chance to ask her anything in return made me feel like she was sizing me up. I also don't think that it's a matter of her being jealous - she seem to wear nice clothes and has a disposable income. Both her parents work in a lucrative field and went to fancy schools, which she never lets us forget. (Not sure why she talks about it all the time and brings it up every time she is introduced to a new person, since pretty much everyone in this environment has/is working on a graduate degree from a great school, so it's not like she's impressing us.)
My questions are:
1. How do I stop her in her tracks when she asks me if an article of clothing is from X well-known designer, especially in front of other people?
2. How do I respond to her lecturing me about the price of things? Is it better to let there be an awkward silence and switch topics, or should I tell her that I don't want to discuss how I manage my money? I'm not sure which is less jarring, especially since she often does this in front of other people whose opinion of me matters.
3. If you were in my shoes, would you stop wearing some of the nicer things that you own to work, or would that be giving her too much power? I really don't want to have to do this.
She really only seems to do this to me. Other people whom I like seem to get along with her just fine. To clarify, I don't mind someone telling me that they like X item of clothing that I'm wearing or asking where I got it. It's just that Hyacinth seems so catty and focused on the price.