Month of September , 2008

Friendship by the Book: An interview with the authors of Friend or Frenemy?


The term ‘frenemy' is increasingly becoming a part of the friendship lexicon so I was pleased to recently conduct an email interview with Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler, the co-authors of Friend or Frenemy? A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don't.

Andrea is an editor at Cosmopolitan. Her likes: dessert, a white wine spritzer on a warm summer night (seriously), and watching Gossip Girl. She lives, works, shops, and lives to shop in New York City.

Jessica works in book publishing. Her likes: comfort foods, a tall pint of Guinness on a cold winter night, and reruns of the Golden Girls. She lives, works, plays, and lives to play in New York City.



Do you think every woman has a frenemy at some point in her life?


Not every woman has a textbook frenemy (think: the feuds between starlets that the supermarket tabloids love so much), but we think that many of us have had, at one time or another, a friendship that ends up being more negative than it is positive or more toxic than it is healthy. Our friends are often like a second family, so it's inevitable that drama can sometimes arise.



Are some women more prone to these relationships than others?


Definitely. As women, we're sometimes taught to avoid confrontation and put our own feelings last. That being said, a frenemy might take advantage of someone who is nonconfrontational. Also, excessive frenemy drama can surround people who secretly feed off of it. And, while frenemies can happen at any age, they seem to be more prevalent when someone is younger.



How can a woman recognize a frenemy when she has one?


We like to joke that a surefire way to know if someone is a frenemy is that if she (or, in some cases, he) cancels plans at the last minute, you feel a wave of relief. In all seriousness, a frenemy is a negative force in your life who often brings out the worst in you. She's emotionally draining and takes more than she gives in a friendship. To sum it up, even though she's toxic, it's really hard to end the friendship because no one actually expects to break up with a friend.



Why do some of these relationships linger and go on?


In some cases the unpleasantness of remaining in the friendship is nothing compared to the drama of ending it. In other situations, such as at work, you're forced to interact with the person on a regular basis, making it nearly impossible to severe ties. Another reason why these relationships linger is because most women are conditioned to be mindful of other's feelings and would rather endure a friend's flaws than risk coming off as insensitive or unkind.



Why did you choose to focus your writing on frenemies?


We like to write about issues that are pertinent to women our age. After completing our first book, The Hookup Handbook, we were in our mid-20s and realized that our friendships were changing due to a variety of factors. On one hand, things like online social networking, text messaging, and email was making it easier than ever to stay in constant communication with our friends, but also watering down the quality of the friendships. We also noticed that people were hitting milestones, like marriage and children, at different rates, which put a strain on friends that used to have everything in common. And of course, there is the pop culture element: real-life Hollywood frenemies have been dominating the tabloids for a few years now and shows like The Hills and Gossip Girl focus on friend drama.



Do you think that the introduction of the term ‘frenemy' into popular culture will help women? How?


Absolutely. We all have friends that bring out the worst in us or make us feel bad about ourselves. Only now we know that they're not really friends. They are frenemies and should be treated as such (i.e. manage your expectations of this person and limit your contact with them.)


Lipstick Jungle premiere offers a teachable friendship moment


Last night’s second season premiere of Lipstick Jungle on NBC, called Pandora’s Box, offers women a teachable friendship moment. We learn that Nico (Kim Raver) is plagued with guilt over her affair with her young stud, Kirby, and is desperate to save her marriage.


She tells her husband Charles (Christopher Cousins) about her indiscretion with her young stud, Kirby, only to later find out that Charles was having a long-term affair with one of his students, Megan, who has become pregnant. Within 24 hours, Charles dies unexpectedly in a hospital recovery room after double-bypass surgery. Nico is left shaken, with a mélange of conflicted feelings, and has to hastily arrange his funeral.


Clearly distraught, Nico is surrounded and supported by her best friends, Wendy (Brooke Shields) and Victory (Lindsay Price) and one of them asks her:  “Is there anyone here from your family?” Even though there was no one, we know that Nico will be okay because she her friends are beside her. 

Everyone isn’t fortunate enough to have the types of family ties or family members they wish they had. But we are able to make and choose our friends.


Reader Q & A: Needy Friends: They just don't understand





Dear Irene:


I have several girlfriends who seem needy to me. While we all go through difficult times, it seems they always have problems. I am unmarried, with a boyfriend who lives an hour away, I am running a business and my household and they have all of the support - husbands, children, family - which is great. But for some reason even with all this support they do not seem to have anyone to go to. I am essentially alone - which is fine and I get up everyday and do what I have to do.


Every single time I talk to any of them they are always asking me to come visit or to go out---one hour away driving from my home after I've worked all day. I don't get it. It is really annoying and upsetting to me. I want these friends to be a part of my life not my whole life.


One seems to think that I should hang out at her place while she complains about her husband and yells at her two kids. The other wants me to sit with her while she - using her words "wallows" - she has nothing to wallow about - nothing bad has happened to her. I feel like these people have no problem always asking for something from me. I am tired of it.


Anonymous Single Person




Dear Anonymous Single Person:


I guess your friends assume that because you don't have a husband or kids, you have no responsibilities to yourself, your business, or to other people. NOT. If this is their thinking, it makes me wonder how you ever managed to surround yourself with "several" of these self-centered people.


I am so happy that you are able to say that you are tired of these lopsided relationships. Identifying the problem, even to yourself, means that you realize you deserve much more. These people are going to continue to act the way they habitually do unless you give them a reason to change their behavior.


As a first step, set some firm boundaries (to them and to yourself) about how often you see them, where you see them, and what you do when you are together. Can you suggest that you get together and see a movie? Go to dinner? Go to a gym? Any of these would offer a more neutral turf and might also offer a much needed respite for your family-beleaguered friends.


If you're tired after a long day, you're entitled to say you that you are---why not ask them to get a babysitter or relative to watch the kids and come see you? Can you tell them that it doesn't help to "wallow" in pity and suggest that you do something else when you are together?


These are a few suggestions but I think you will need to evaluate each of these relationships that you lump together as ‘needy friendships' and figure out what you are receiving from each one. For relationships to be rewarding, they need to offer a sense of intimacy (feeling like you understand her and are understood) and a sense of reciprocity (like you are getting as much from her as you are giving). I'm not sure that these "friendships" you have described offer either.




Four calls before 8AM


As long as I can remember, my mom has called me at 7:46AM on every single birthday. That’s the precise time when I was born.  I remember years when I resented her calling as I was rushing to get to work or was taking advantage of a rare chance to sleep in on a weekend. Then I began to really enjoy the little ritual.

At about 7:15AM this morning, the phone rang. It was my sister calling to wish me a happy birthday. A few minutes later, my friend Betty was playing a recording of a Mañanita song on the phone to wish me a happy birthday as she had done for all her relatives in Mexico since she was a young girl. Then my friend Risa called from Maryland on my day, even though she had already called me the day before, sent a card, and sent beautiful flowers. The last call came at about 7:50; it was my friend Donna who was calling to confirm our luncheon celebration.


Before long, it was well past 8:00AM and I realized that this was the first time that my mother’s call hadn't come. From a cascade of chronic ailments, my widowed mom has become quite frail over the last year. She is sleeping later herself, and has trouble seeing and pressing the buttons on the phone with her gnarled hands. Even when we do speak by phone and visit her several times a week, she often doesn’t hear what I’m saying. She managed to have her aide help her call me later in the morning and with some help from my friends, she was able to join us for lunch in her wheelchair. A very social person all her life, she didn’t have much to say and picked at her food. Accommodating to age, loss, and disability has been a tough passage for my mom---and for me to bear witness.


Friends help us get over life hurdles, big and little, whatever they may be.  Never underestimate how meaningful an “I’m thinking of you” phone call can be on a friend’s birthday.


Friendship by the Book: An interview with Anne Roiphe

Epilogue (HarperCollins, 2008) is a gripping memoir by National Book Award finalist Anne Roiphe, who was forced to recompose her life after the sudden loss of her husband of 39 years. With compelling candor, Ms. Roiphe shares the intimate memories of her happy marriage and the uncertainties of her life as a new widow. In Booklist, critic Carol Haggas writes, "No one can really prepare a woman for this passage in life, but Roiphe's luminous memoir is a beacon of help, and ultimately hope."


After reading this provocative book, I mulled over its lessons, some of which touch on female friendships, and was thrilled when Ms. Roiphe graciously agreed to expound on some of her thoughts on that topic in an email interview.


Roiphe is the author of fifteen books and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Vogue, Elle, Redbook, Parents and The Guardian, and is a contributing editor to the Jerusalem Report.


In the book, you mention an old friend who called to offer her condolences and said, "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes." How can women better support each other in times of grief? Are there any words or actions that might be more soothing?

I guess the trick would be to avoid any phrase that sounds like pity or condescension, or gloating about one's own life. The simple words would be, 'It must be hard" or "I can imagine how difficult that must be," etc.

After your husband H.'s death, you seemed to focus on meeting men rather than women. You seem to be more tolerant of their foibles than those of your female friends'. Can you explain that?

I have many women friends who I talk to often and see often. I was interested in a man who might be more than a friend, but a real companion in life that includes physical connection... That is harder.


You talk about a "sisterhood of widowhood" to describe the kinship of women who have experienced the loss of a spouse. Do you regret not nurturing female friendships more during the years before H.'s death? Do women need bonds like these to fall back on?

I think it is a good thing to have woman friends at every stage of life, we confide in each other, we support each other, we understand each other most of the time. Of course, sometimes we are competitive or angry or distant too. But I do think it is important not to let the main friendships slip away in the sweep of the days.

In the book, you mention a fractured friendship with your friend Y. that you made efforts to rekindle. What are your thoughts about being rebuffed? Was it you, your friend, or some combination?

I am not a perfect friend and it is impossible not to rebuff or be rebuffed if you move about the world. I wrote about this not to accuse but to say this is part of it...sometimes you put out your hand and it isn't taken.

Friendship by the Book is an occasional series of posts on this blog about books that offer friendship lessons. To read other posts in the series, use the search function on the right side of the page.


Reader Q & A : Young mother finds female friendships discouraging



Dear Irene:

I recently experienced a broken friendship with someone that was my closest friend at the time. We both have 3-year-old boys who were best buddies and attended part-time preschool together. However, I began distancing myself as she was quite needy, manipulative of family, and superficial, though I did help her out quite a bit when her second child was born a year ago (neither of us have family nearby).


At the time I began distancing myself, she began a new friendship with another woman who seems to be more her type - and someone I never connected with. Since the end of my friendship, I have attempted to find more female friends without success. I have one young son and another child on the way, so my pool of potential friendships is limited right now to women in similar situations: stay-at-home moms with young children.

In newer relationships, I find many women to be very similar to her: manipulative, talking about each other, out for themselves, interested only in relationships in which they gain something, superficial, materialistic, complaining about husbands all the time, etc. I really do not engage in these behaviors. I believe they are destructive, though I understand that in many instances they work to keep these women connected to each other.


I believe the other factor in this conundrum is that I have a doctorate, a factor I wonder if others are intimidated by. Many of the women I meet seem to fit the stereotype of majoring in their MRS in college, or have never gone to college. I tend to stay on the edge of things rather than join a group as my values are completely different. I have attempted to reach out in several instances to make new friendships but there was always a little red flag raised in the back of my mind about the person, so I would back
off, trusting my gut.


It truly feels as if I have never left junior high or high school. I fear that this is the norm in female friendships, and that finding a friend who holds my same values/ideals of friendship will be the exception, which is quite discouraging. Is my observation accurate? I have had a few women tell me "yes." My experience in graduate school was approximately the same, but the women in graduate school were very competitive and had completely different motives for their behavior. I thought once I completed graduate school I would enter a world in which individuals were mature, respectful, caring, etc. but perhaps this is too high of an expectation?


Any input you can provide is greatly appreciated. 





Hi Chris,

Compared to almost every other stage of a woman's life, except perhaps--old age, being a stay-at-home mom with young children is one of the most challenging times for making new female friends. Realistically, your opportunities for meeting new people are likely to be limited and having a little one with another one on the way, you must be busy and exhausted. Yet, your note makes it obvious that you really would like to connect with another woman in an intimate way.


Here are a few simple suggestions for a complicatd problem:


Stop thinking all or none. Admittedly, it's hard to find any one person to meet all your friendship needs. Instead, can you patch together a few different friendships? For example, a phone friend (perhaps someone you know from the past); a mom-friend, so you can have playdates for your kids; an academic friend (perhaps someone who is interested in the field of your doctorate)?


Find new places to look for friends. Since you are somewhat homebound, can online friends fill some of your needs, either people you meet in social communities or people you know that don't happen to live close enough to get together? See my post on the trend towards moms logging on for companionship and advice. Can you have your husband or another relative babysit a night a week while you take a continuing education course in your community, work on a political campaign, or join a community group?


Try to be more open about the people you do meet. You may be stereotyping the people around you and not giving them or yourself enough time to know one another. One difference between an acquaintance and a friend is often the length of time two people know each other. It takes time for people to get to know one another, and to feel comfortable enough to share intimacies with one another. Could you be crossing women off your dance card without giving them a chance? Women who seem shallow at first may have more depth to them when you get to know them better.


I hope this gives you some food for thought. Congratulations on your pregnancy! What an exciting time for you and your family. Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to write.



Generation Y Moms: Log on to connect to other moms

Gen Y moms (born between 1982 and 1995), AKA  babies of baby boomers) are pushing the digital envelope. Compared to Gen X moms before them, they are more likely to use the internet to form bonds with one another to hone their parenting skills. A research brief on MediaPost draws distinctions between the way the two groups use a popular parenting site,

Generation X women (born between 1965-1982, AKA post-baby boomers) tend to rely on the internet for more practical applications, like shopping and uploading pictures---as compared to Generation Y women, who are more likely to use technology to connect with other moms---by texting, sharing photos and videos, and chatting as members of online communities.

According to the report: “It…reveals a trend among the younger Gen Y moms of relying on the common experience of members of their cohort to help them navigate their journey through parenthood.”

As a baby boomer, the telephone was the tool I used to connect. I would call my one-and-only best friend and next-door neighbor Judy, who had given birth a few years before me, to find out all the tricks she knew and I was yet to learn as a young mother. Now young moms can learn from groups of their peers, 24/7, as long as the baby takes naps and sleeps through the night. But if that were the case, why would they need parenting advice? :-) 

Friend or Frenemy: Redux


In an interesting article in yesterday’s Staten Island Advance, relationship columnist Elise McIntosh looks at the distinctions between friends and frenemies.


She interviewed the authors of the new book Friend or Frenemy: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don’t (Harper 2008) by co-authors Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler (discussed in a previous blog post here) and also solicited my thoughts about these ambivalent relationships.


McIntosh notes that most people have someone in their lives “who falls in-between a true-blue pal and full-fledged foe.” These are the women with whom we’re ostensibly “friends” but who are very unsettling to be with for a variety of reasons.


What do you think of the term frenemy? Is it helpful to have a word that allows us to better identify, talk about, and resolve these challenging relationships?

National Women's Friendship Day - Sunday, 9-21-08 - Save-the-Date!


Kappa Delta Sorority created a day for us: National Women’s Friendship Day, celebrated on the third Sunday in September each year since 1999. The day is intended to provide an opportunity for women to recognize those friends who play important roles in their lives.

“Our main goal is to encourage women to recognize the value of female friendship, something that is often taken for granted,” says Melanie Schild, Executive Director of Kappa Delta Sorority, the creator of the holiday. “For this 10th anniversary of the day, we encourage women to celebrate the entire month of September.”


In preparation for the day, pause and take stock of your friendships:

  • Do you have enough close female friends or do you need more?
  • Among those you have, which friendships are important to you and worth keeping?
  • Are there some you've neglected?
  • How can you kindle the ones that you value?
  • Are some consistently draining and unfulfilling? Can you mend them or end them?
  • What opportunities can you identify to forge new friendships?

When you have completed your personal inventory, take action!

  • Whether it’s a phone call; email; note or card; text-message; brunch, lunch or dinner; shopping jaunt, tennis set, girl's night out or girlfriends’ getaway, make yourself a promise to nurture your friendships. These ties are vital to your physical and emotional well-being at every age and stage of life.


Good News - My Friendship Blog was nominated for a Love this Site award!


How exciting! Fractured Friendships was nominated for a Love This Site Award from Divine Caroline in the relationships category.

No pressure or anything, but I think this site deserves to win, so please, vote soon if you have visited this site and found anything here that is been helpful to you and your friendships.

Just CLICK HERE to find the relationships nominees and vote for Fractured Friendships!