BFF

Double Trouble: Losing two friends at once

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QUESTION:

Hi Irene,

This is a strange tale and quite honestly if I knew what to make of it all, I wouldn’t be writing. I have two best friends: the first (BF1), a girl I grew up with and with whom I have a very deep and social relationship; the second (BF2), a girl with whom I went to University and have a close relationship like a sister.

I moved in with BF2 last year after I moved away from my hometown where BF1 lived, but I was only a 20-minute drive away so I didn’t think this would be a problem. I was used to spending every weekend and holiday with BF1 (BF2 lived further away until we moved in together). It is worth pointing out that BF1 has had an issue with BF2 in the past over something trivial.  

BF1 kept cancelling dates with me and many months were going by and I had only seen her twice. She told me she might not be coming to my birthday party as her office party was the night before and she might be hung over. Devastated, I wrote an email telling her I was sad she couldn’t come, and asked if she wanted to talk to me about what had been going on over the past 8 months as I missed her. She responded with vitriol telling me that I thought I was too good for her and how dare I say she was a bad friend.

I responded with an immediate apology. I said I was deeply sorry for whatever hurt I had caused and I wanted to sort this out as our ten-year friendship was worth so much to me. I was met with silence. I have since pleaded with her on five occasions via text and email to speak to me to sort this out but I have never gotten a response.

BF2 knew how devastated I was about what had happened and even went so far as to say how angry she was with BF1. BF2 and I went on holiday last summer and one night she exploded at me telling me that I was an emotional drain and she couldn’t stand me sometimes. I cried and begged her not to be so cruel but she continued by saying that nobody tells me what they think of me so she was going to.

She was shouting that I take everything I have for granted (the back story of this was I was a model and she apparently has an "issue" with this). She had recently been dumped it is worth pointing out. I responded trying to calm her down, saying that I understood she was under a lot of pressure at work and the situation with her ex had been dreadful and that I was always here for her. Maybe I should have just shouted back, I don’t know.

Anyway since then, I quit my job. I had the extremely distressing incident of being sexually assaulted at work then driven out of my job. The perpetrator was my boss. To make ends meet, I had taken a job that BF2 apparently didn’t agree with morally. This job does not affect her in any way; I kept it very separate from our friendship together.

However, she now won’t even spend time with me. She spends every weekend with someone else. She never wants to talk to me anymore, is moving out, and she is planning her birthday without me. She declined to come to my parents’ anniversary party that she comes to every year, my sister’s wedding, you name it. She makes me feel disgusting. All I want is for us to be friends again. Surely, our friendship is worth saving? I would do anything for her and love her so much.

I lost my childhood best friend to a violent crime when I was 19 years old so I can’t lose the only other friend I have ever loved. Do I have too? What can I do? I am so lonely now and feel like my social life is non-existent. I don’t know what I have done. I would apologize for it, if it would help. I now feel that I am a toxic person who nobody wants to love or to be close with because once they get to know me, they will discover they hate me. I know this sounds irrational but I am so low that I’m almost suicidal. Please help me.

Signed,
Feeling Like A Toxic Friend

 

ANSWER:

Hi,

I’m so sorry that this has been such a difficult time for you. It is very stressful to move, experience a sexual assault, be forced out of your job, and lose your two best friends over  a relatively short period of time. The trauma of a sexual assault can be emotionally devastating, especially when the perpetrator is a boss whom you may have trusted. All of this has to be unnerving.

For whatever reason, it sounds like BF1 may have felt abandoned when you moved in with BF2. But you have given her multiple opportunities to patch up your friendship and she isn’t able to do so at this point in her life. It’s always hard to give up a friendship with so much shared history but I think you need to put that one aside for now; you don’t have any other choice. You may be able to reclaim it sometime in the future.

When BF2 ended her relationship with you, she did it in an unnecessarily cruel and uncaring way so I can understand how you might be reeling from it---particularly when it comes as one in a series of losses. She was very judgmental about your job choice and I’m wondering if you are uncomfortable about that choice as well.

Given how lonely and depressed you feel, you should contact a mental health professional to help you work through these losses and move forward. If you have any thoughts of suicide, you should contact a suicide hotline immediately.

Although you have a track record of being able to make and keep friends, it sounds like you have lost confidence in yourself and your ability to be a good friend. An objective person, like a therapist, may be able to help you think through and resolve the impact of these traumatic events. At the same time, try not to isolate yourself and succumb to feeling like you are toxic. Look for opportunities to be with other people, including your family and other casual friends.

Best wishes,

Irene

 

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

 

 

Reader Q & A: Is my childhood friendship worth saving?

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene:

My best friend, well ex-best friend and I grew up as next door neighbors...destined to be best friends forever. We were those girls who were inseparable and would laugh at the most silly things no matter how silly we would look. After 19 years, we were still the best of friends and closer than ever. I am the more outgoing one whereas she was always more on the shy side, so a lot of our friends were friends with "us" through me.

I set her up with this guy who was a year older than us and hung out with the same crowd as us. He seemed like such a great guy, but we soon came to learn differently. He started to hit on all of us when my best friend wasn't around. One night at a party he put his hand on my rear, but it was a quick innocent brush, if you will. My boyfriend was there to witness it and so were a bunch of our other friends, including some people that my friend worked with. Unfortunately for me, there was one girl she worked with that did not like me one bit and went back to my friend telling her that I was hitting on her boyfriend when she was not around.

The immature and irresponsible side of my friend decided to shut me out for a few days and not talk to me, but her boyfriend wasn't so shy. He called threatening me saying, "Whatever you told Jessica, you better tell her it was all a lie or I swear I will cut your throat". I had no idea what was said at this point and tried to get him to calm down and explain the situation. Well that didn't go so well, since he was hotheaded and mean.

I got in touch with Jessica's younger sister who told me everything that was going on. I left Jessica voicemail after voicemail and she finally called me back. I told her that if there was ever a problem she should come to me, but that I was really disappointed in the fact that she would think I could do something like that to her. We made up of course, but there was another issue on hand...the way her boyfriend had spoken to me.

She understood, but asked me not to make her choose between him and myself. I promised not to, but I told her that I could not and would not be around him at all!!! I guess you could say that pretty much started our distancing right there. This all happened in October 2006, we did not speak again until the next New Year's Eve. We were all together at a party (yes, her boyfriend was there) and we had realized how important we were to each other. Her boyfriend I guess was not happy with that, found a new way to come between us, and started another argument with me. That was New Years 2006 and we have not spoken since.

She has not been with that boyfriend for about a year from what I can guess and she has tried to reach out to me over the past few months. My life is so much different now and we've been through so much. Can we ever get back to that place?? Should I even let her back into my world after cutting me out for so long?? It's her birthday today and yes, I do miss her, but I've been fine for the past two years and have so many other reliable friends in my life. ADVICE PLEASEEE and I'm sorry for the long entry, but it really is the only way to understand everything that has gone on between us.

Sincerely,
Sandy

ANSWER:

Dear Sandy:

It sounds like your childhood friend was in a "difficult" relationship. If her boyfriend threatened to "cut your throat," it's reasonable to assume that he was possessive, controlling, and angry. It sounds like he was very threatened by your close friendship with Jessica. (Sometimes, men like that don't want their girlfriends to have any friends.) Since he has been out of your friend's life for some time, it sounds like she outgrew this unhealthy relationship.

Since you have so much shared history together, I think you should give the relationship another chance. Can you send her a belated birthday card, telling her that you were thinking of her on her special day, and would love to get together for coffee or a meal to catch up with each other? There's not much to lose and everything to gain.

If she says no, you can forget about the relationship and move on with your life (as you already have). Or you may meet and discover you no longer have much in common---except for your past. Not all childhood friendships last forever.

The best of outcomes might be that you really connect again---even though it may feel a bit awkward at first. Caution: If you get together, don't dissect or ruminate over that unfortunate chapter of your lives---and don't try to get too close too quickly.

Let us know what you decide and how it turns out.

My best,
Irene

 

Reader Q & A: The Saga of the Disappointed Diva

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

I'm currently going through a friend breakup. She became very emotionally needy at the beginning of our relationship and I always felt compelled to help. She told me that I was distant and needed to let my guard down so that we could be close. I did and we eventually became BFFs.

I sort of became distant from my other friends and probably depended on her a lot more than I liked. We've had 3 riffs in three years. In my opinion that was a telltale sign that "the plane was going down." She is in an odd relationship with a total loser (with a child) who is extremely controlling. I've played the support role and picked her up when ever he tore her down.

The catalyst to prompt me to write was this was the most ridiculous thing ever. One, I was PMS-ing. Two, I had a blow up in a restaurant with a member of the wait staff (they told me to shut up). Yes, I behaved like a total ass and unfortunately, my frenemy's son began to cry.

She became belligerent outside of the restaurant (this was a first) and made a scene for an hour. We both were angry and exchanged some nasty words when she got back into the car.

Unexpectedly she smacked me.....yes, I know. I lost it and we engaged in a cat fight in the back of the moving car. It was a long ride back....and she began to apologize (total half-ass apology) and I said nothing.

Three days later, I texted her because I'm torn up about it. I want to have a face-to-face conversation. She tells me that she needs time and has refused to speak to me. She has made the entire situation about her son and has not addressed me at all. She is passive aggressive and extremely controlling. She also has poor communication skills and avoids confrontation at all costs (who would think after reading this).

I feel dismissed because I know that this is a game for her because she reacted in the same manner with the other two very minor riffs. It makes me so angry because I feel like she is totally breaking the girl rules and is acting like a total man. Unfortunately she is the only friend that I have ever loved and she knows it. Moving forward and changing lanes.... What a bitch!

Signed,
Disappointed Diva

ANSWER:

Dear Disappointed Diva:

It sounds like this relationship with your friend has been stormy from the beginning and you're feeling upset with yourself and with her----because you gave up your other friendships only to get dumped by her in the end. But you do say that you already realized that "the plane was going down," so it shouldn't have come as too much of a shock that the two of you were drifting apart.

Although it's always painful to be the one who is dumped, I think you both need a long sabbatical from this relationship. You can't make her speak to you if she doesn't want to. I worry that if you got together now, things might get worse.

In any case, the friendship sounds too complicated to work. You can't stand her "total loser." I'm sure she recognizes this and it puts her on edge. Also, it sounds like you both have problems discussing your feelings with one another openly. Finally, you need to put a lid on your temper, PMS or not. You can control yourself but you can't control someone else.

When an argument between two friends turns physical---especially in front of a child---both adults need to take a long, hard look at themselves AND their relationship. It sounds like you harbor a great deal of hostility towards one another. This unfortunate incident was totally out-of-control and you have both breeched relationship rules rather than "girl rules." An explosive "riff" like the one you had with your once-BFF will be difficult, if not impossible to overcome.

Hope this is helpful. Try to take away the positive things you've learned from this relationship (e.g. opening up) and apply them to nurture new relationships.I know that with time and self-reflection, you will heal, temper your anger and hurt, and emerge healthier from this painful experience.

My best,
Irene

 

Reader Q & A: Finding a Best Friend

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

I am a person who has learned to value my female friendships. I've always tended to prefer a one-friend-at-a-time, with a lot of intensity, type of friendship. But it is something I can't seem to find.

Briefly, I had a relationship like the kind I want with a woman who continues to feel like a friend/sister. My "best" friend was someone who lived close by and we had a sister-like relationship (even though I have two sisters!). She felt the same about me and I know she would be there in a heartbeat for me as I would for her. However, she lives three hours away and isn't fond of chatting on the phone.

I have two other friends whom I care about, one who lives 20 minutes away, who both seem totally engrossed in their own lives and rarely contact me. We get together about twice a year. We all have kids who are fairly close in age. One of them was in a serious car accident and I really went out of my way to support her through that time. I find myself resenting that I am the one maintaining the contact and seem to be the one who is "into them"- wanting to go out/get together, to do girls’ nights out, etc.

I can't seem to get the friend thing down without a lot of emotion, longing for more yet not being skillful enough to find it. I am forced to socialize with other parents that I like well enough but can't seem to take any of them to the next level. I get so frustrated that others have a knack that I do not. P.S. You can probably tell that I am not good at small talk! LOL! What I'd like to know is what do others have, what is it that I am missing?

Thanks so much- any ideas will be appreciated.

Starrlife in New England
starrlife.wordpress.com

ANSWER:

Dear Starrlife:

Your situation is actually a very common one: You’re yearning for a best friend and don’t have one at the moment. Friends move (like yours did); get involved in new careers; have children; have fertility problems; get married, divorced or widowed---there are numerous reasons why even very close friendships are prone to change over time. Although you are separated by geography, it’s nice that you have a close friendship to hold up as a measure for the kind you are seeking.

Not to make light of it, finding a best friend is like finding a buyer for a house: You only need one. Your current acquaintances, or mom-friends, are important relationships even though they miss the best-friend mark. Finding a best friend involves 1) meeting someone new, and 2) giving the relationship time to grow and become more intimate---by sharing additional layers of your selves with one another.

You need to create opportunities to find ways to meet new people. Can you get involved in organizations or activities in your local community? Do you have any hobbies? Can you take a continuing education class? Can you join a gym? Are you passionate enough about one political candidate or another that you would like to work on a campaign? Are you involved with the parent teacher association? I realize that your child or children may be young so this will entail finding childcare---either your husband, another relative or a babysitter---for one or two evenings a week. If you need a rationale for yourself---a happy mom is usually a better mom.

In short, you need to put yourself in situations where you can meet new people. I have no doubt that eventually one or two of these relationships will “stick” and grow into the type of best friendship you want.

Best,
Irene

 

Reader Q&A: Achieving closure after being dumped by a friend at work

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QUESTION

 

Dear Irene,

I’ve read many of your posts regarding the breakup of female friendships and I am going thru one myself as we speak. Anna and I met two years ago at graduate school. A little over a year ago, I helped get her a job at my company and we become inseparable. We did everything together from going to dinner, the movies, and jogging at the park. Also, we spent a lot of time texting and instant messaging everyday at work.  

About three months ago, Anna had met a new friend, "Lisa," and I felt replaced. Little by little, I felt pushed aside and believe that Lisa had put a rift in the friendship between Anna and me. All of the sudden, Anna and I spent less and less time together as she made for time for Lisa. The two of them would go bar hopping, swimming, and yoga together...all of the activities that I do not enjoy but Anna likes.

So, one day after I dropped Anna off home from lunch, I texted her saying that maybe we should give our friendship a break because she and I have gotten into many small arguments within the last couple of months. I said that friendship is a two-way street and I was tired of working doing all of the work. So, she texted me back saying, "Fine and take care."

The next day, I felt badly about what I said and texted Anna saying that I was very sorry and hope that she could forgive for the angry outburst. Anna texted back saying, "There is no need for you to be sorry.” She was and had always been a b$$ch to me. She said that I needed a friend that could be there for me constantly, someone to listen to me, and someone to keep me company." Anna said that she feels badly but she cannot be that kind of friend to me and for me to take care. However, she still would like to be a work acquaintance. Nevertheless, this took place over 6 weeks ago and Anna and I have not spoken since. We often avoid each other at the office because things feel so awkward.

I’ve texted Anna several times since then, asking for a face-to-face meeting. I told her that I have and will always continue to value her friendship and would like to work things out with her. Last week, she answered back saying that our friendship just doesn’t work anymore and for me to move on with my life. She said that she has nothing to say to me. 

However, despite her response, I still feel the need to have one last face-to-face meeting. The break-up of our friendship clearly had more to do than just that one text and I want real closure. So, should I try to reach out to Anna one last time or should I just let her go? Seeing her every day at work and not speaking to one another makes it very painful for me.  I still want to reconnect with her and be friends once more.

Marcie 

 

ANSWER 

Hi Marcie:

What a painful and difficult situation! In addition to losing a close friend with whom you once spent a lot of time, you still have to face her (and her new best friend) at work. That really has to hurt!

You are correct---the friendship didn’t break up solely because of the text message (although texting generally isn’t a good way to handle sensitive discussions, as I’m sure you are now aware). But you were already seeing red flags that something was wrong: You were arguing with each other more and she was choosing to spend her time with Lisa rather than you. If Anna had wanted to, she could have brought you into their circle. She chose not to without any explanation or apology, even when pressed for one.

It’s infuriating when a decision to end a friendship is unilateral---and you aren’t the one who makes the decision. It is natural to feel hurt and angry, and to want some closure. Unfortunately, it looks like Anna isn’t ready to talk or discuss what happened. Anna may be more close-mouthed than you, in general, and have less of an interest in intimate relationships than you do. Whatever the reasons, she has made it clear that she doesn’t want to talk about your split and while you may have been close at one time, given what has happened, it doesn’t appear like you will be able to get over this rift.

You definitely need to back off at this point and involve yourself with other friends at work and outside work. There may be some truth to Anna’s accusation that you are too needy or perhaps you are only too needy for her. You need to dig deep into yourself and think about what you asked of Anna in the past to determine whether you need to set boundaries for your future friendships.

You will be able to achieve closure when you assume control of your circumstances. When you accept that the relationship is over, you’ll feel better about the situation and about yourself. As brutal as it sounds, this isn’t the first time a good friend has been dumped and won’t be the last. You deserve someone who will appreciate your kindness and sincerity, and whose personality and interests are in better balance with yours.

Focus on your work and maintaining a professional demeanor in the office. And try to forget about Anna’s relationship with Lisa: that will probably become history, too. It’s going to take some time but I promise, you will get over this trauma.

Let us know how it goes.

My best,

Irene

 

Baltimore Jewish Times: We're friends, our children aren't

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In this week's Baltimore Jewish Times, journalist Amy Landsman wrote an article called, We're friends, our children aren't. She describes some of the challenges of balancing mom friends and kids friends.

It begins: You’re pregnant! And so is your BFF! Instantly, you dream about play dates, outings around town, even vacations that your growing families can share. And for a few years, that just might happen. But one day, the kids get that independence thing going, and little Johnny or Susie announce they just don’t like little Hannah or Joshua. What do you do?...

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to add my two cents, Amy! You can click the link above to read the article. What do you think?

 

 

 

Friendship by the Book: Friend or Frenemy?

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When a new book on friendship came on the scene, I was eager to see where it fit on my already bulging friendship bookshelf. The just-released Friend or Frenemy: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don’t (Harper, 2008) by Andrea Lavinthal & Jessica Rozler is a quick summer read aimed at teens and young women who can probably breeze through the fast-moving pages within an hour---even while texting.

The chapters read like a series of Cosmo Girl magazine articles with lots of headers, little quizzes, and charts liberally interspersed between text. The book is an unambiguously humorous, rather than serious, take on friendship that makes abundant use of whimsy and has oodles of contemporary cultural references.

If you have no frenemies and you feel well-befriended, you will laugh out loud at the author’s portrayals of “users, losers and abusers” and “odd couples.” My favorite pages (perhaps because I tend to be deadly serious): the timeline of "Tragedies in Girlfriend History" and the chapter called "Misery Loves Company," on making new friends.

If you are heartbroken about losing a friend or feeling alone, this book isn’t the antidote for you---in fact, you may read it without a giggle and plummet into the depths of despair. I’d characterize this book as “Friendship Lite”---a fun read for someone under 25 whose friendships are largely intact.
 

Reader Q & A: I'm stuck! I don't want to lose my BFF

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene:

I met my friend “Amanda” in high school. I was a junior and she was a freshman, so we’ve been best friends (BFFs) for 9 years. Our friendship over the years has survived a lot. The trouble I am having is deciding whether I should hold on to the friendship or not? And the reason why I am asking is because ever since a certain incident occurred, we haven’t talked. Okay, so here’s the story:

I was talking to Amanda on the phone (on June 30th) and she was telling me about her weekend and she mentioned; “I saw Steve this weekend at my mom’s house.” And I replied “Um…oh yeah and how did he get inside your mom’s house?” and Amanda said, “Oh, my mom invited him over” and I replied “What a f**king whore!!!!”

Amanda gasped and said, “Oh, my god” and I replied quickly “Oh, my god, I’m sooo sorry, I soooo didn’t mean to say those words; I just meant to say… Is your mom not thinking clearly by inviting the man over that had been verbally and emotionally abusing you for four years??!?!?!?”

Amanda answered, “I know you’re sorry but I can’t talk to you right now.” So we hung up and I thought I would give her a couple days to me mad at me and then I would contact her. Well about two weeks later, after no phone calls or e-mails, I decided I would write her and make the first step in fixing what I broke (which I don’t think I should have been doing in the first place because after 9+ years of friendship I would think she knew I didn’t mean those words literally and I didn’t think we had a line drawn in our friendship for me to even cross).

So on 07/14, I decided to write her:

Hey there, BFF, I just want you to know that I love you and will always love you. I support you and will always support you. I will always be here for you when you need me. I know I express my opinions without thinking of the consequences...but you are still my #1.

With no response back I wrote her again on July 17th:

I sent you a Gmail and was wondering if you were ready to talk yet?

Her response 2 minutes later:

Yea, I got it and to be honest I really don’t think that emails and texting is the way to go...When you are ready to call me and give me an apology, then we can talk.

My response 30 minutes later:

I do apologize for the bad choice of words that I used; there was no malicious attempt. I didn't mean what I said literally. It was just bad choice of words.

She hasn’t written back, called, texted …nothing. Soooooo what do I do I am stuck!! Thank you so much for your help!

Signed,
Stuck in Sunnyvale

ANSWER:

Dear Stuck in Sunnyvale:

I don’t think that things are as hopeless as they seem.

Think of it this way: You responded protectively because you care about Amanda and didn’t want to see her getting involved in the same abusive relationship again. Sometimes, it’s hard for women to extricate themselves from bad relationships even though they should. At times like this, having a supportive friend like you can make all the difference in the world.

By the way, I’m not sure what Amanda’s mom was thinking or whether she was involved in this scenario at all but that’s really immaterial to your dilemma.

Amanda realizes she made a mistake and disappointed you (as well as herself). But as you realize, she got caught up in your choice of words rather than hearing your message. That can happen when two people are upset, even BFFs. The fact that Amanda told you about her mistake shows how much she trusts you and counts on you. The fact that you both tried to communicate afterwards shows that you really have a strong relationship.

Anyone involved in an abusive relationship has to feel badly about herself. She is probably having a hard time and needs your support more than ever. Don’t dig your feet into the ground on this one. You are a true friend. Call her and apologize for your choice of language and tell her you really care about her and want to be there for her. You want to TALK, not text or email.

My guess is that you will become “unstuck” before you know it.

My best,

Irene

 

Friendship by the Book: An interview with Alexa Young, author of Frenemies

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Some of the most painful and unexpected girlfriend breakups occur during the roller-coaster middle-school years. Alexa Young’s engaging new teen novel, Frenemies (HarperTeen, 2008) is a book that moms will want their daughters to read in preparation for this rude awakening. The book tells the story of two eighth-graders and BFFs, Halley Brandon and Avalon Greene, who have always agreed on everything. But after spending a summer apart, they’ve changed—physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually.

Alexa graciously agreed to answer my questions about her book.

Why did you decide to focus this series on middle-school girls?

Because my editors made me (!)—but with very good reason. After all, middle school is arguably the time when female friendships can really start to unravel, largely because girls go through so many life-altering changes during those years. Obviously, there are all the puberty-related physical and emotional changes, as well as all sorts of new social and academic pressures. It’s also the time when most girls really start to break away from the familiar voices of authority in their lives, to develop a more independent outlook and pursue new friendships, romantic interests, ideas about what they want their future to look like. All of these things can cause huge shifts and upsets with the people we’re closest to—and that’s what the FRENEMIES series is all about: Growing up and changing and drifting apart (and then lashing out at the people closest to you in really inappropriate ways!). Obviously, these issues don’t stop once you make it through middle school, but the tween years are typically when it all starts and when every tiny event in your life can feel like the biggest deal EVER. If your friend doesn’t invite you to spend the night, your crush doesn’t notice you, you don’t get the must-have outfit or get to go to the biggest party of the year…YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO BE OVER! It really does feel that way. I know it did to me.

Why are female friendships so turbulent during this period?

Again, I think it has a lot to do with all the changes we go through and how much that can feed our insecurities as well as spark a lot of envy and jealousy. Some girls may be developing more quickly or slowly than others, some may be getting involved in romantic relationships, some may be exploring new ways of expressing themselves—whether in the way they choose to dress or by making new friends or joining new clubs and pursuing sports or other extra-curricular activities. Some may be taking their academics more seriously than they ever have in the past. All of these things fuel a lot of excitement as well as confusion, self-doubt and—potentially—a whole host of awfully dramatic mean-girl maneuvers between supposed “friends.” Speaking from personal experience, I was horribly self-conscious about the fact that most of my friends went through puberty in middle school while I was still waiting for all those “developments,” and that they were all starting to “go out” with guys while I was pretty nervous and awkward around the opposite sex. I was a real late bloomer, and seeing all my friends advancing in physical and social ways sparked plenty of self-doubt. On the other hand, I began to flourish academically and in extra-curriculars, which helped to balance me out but definitely took me in new directions as far as my friendships were concerned.

How can a pre-teen or teen tell a frenemy when she meets one?

I think the red flags are there no matter what your age. There are the obvious acts of betrayal, like talking behind your back or stealing your boyfriend—but I don’t think those are nearly as common as some of the more subtle ways a frenemy shows her true colors. That might include talking about herself but never taking the time to listen to you; only coming to you when she needs or wants something; not supporting your interests or goals; becoming threatened, jealous or envious—rather than excited for you—when things are going your way; constantly trying to one-up you; disappearing whenever you need her (e.g., when she gets a “better” offer to do something with someone else). Most important, it’s a feeling you get when you’re around her: You don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t like who you are, you don’t feel confident being yourself around her, you feel drained rather than energized after spending time with her.

What are the lessons you try to teach in this book?

I’m actually not trying to teach any lessons at all. I think the moment you make a conscious effort to convey a particular message—at least in a work of fiction—it winds up backfiring because it’s only going to come across as preachy and moralistic. As my editors say, “You’re not writing an after-school special!” Particularly when you’re writing for teens, they’re going to see right through that kind of thing and run screaming for something less obvious. So all I’m really trying to do is tell the story with humor and heart. That’s not to say there aren’t deeper messages in there, though, because I think there definitely are—they just weren’t messages I consciously tried to deliver. Some of the takeaways that I think (hope!) shine through: That insecurities can drive us to do absurd things to the people we care about the most in our lives—and that that can be awfully unproductive; that it’s okay to pursue new interests and express yourself in new ways, and that people who’ve truly got your back will support you; that if you’re feeling threatened or uncomfortable or hurt around your friend, you need to explore those emotions—possibly with her—rather than lashing out and making the problem worse. I think the book illustrates what not to do a lot more than what to do, though! I guess that’s why, ultimately, it comes across as fairly light and humorous with subtle messages woven in, when all is said and done.

Can frenemies ever really turn into besties at the end?

It really depends on the nature of the relationship and what’s causing the tension. If one friend betrays or hurts another in an unforgivable way, then I think it’s going to be awfully hard to get past that. However, if it’s a matter of two people drifting apart and pursuing different paths, I firmly believe they can be best friends again—if and when their paths and interests and lives converge again. It may take years, even decades, for them to find that common ground…but I absolutely think it’s possible.

How can moms help their daughters learn to navigate female friendships?

Wow. Great question. As a fairly new mom myself, I think the biggest thing all parents can do—no matter how old their children are—is to lead by example. A mother who has loving, supportive female friendships in her life is probably going to do a great job of raising a daughter with the same. Beyond that, I think moms can encourage their daughters to pay attention to how they feel when they’re around their friends, and to honor those feelings and instincts. As I mentioned before, if your daughter feels insecure or unhappy or unable to be herself in the presence of her friends, that’s a major problem and something that needs to be addressed—most likely, she needs to make some new friends. Another really important message Moms can reinforce: Don’t view differences between yourself and other girls as a sign that any of you are doing anything wrong. All relationships are about the right fit—so if you don’t connect or click with a particular person, that’s doesn’t have to mean one of you is any better than the other…it just means you’re not meant to be friends. Emphasize that everybody is different—not better or worse.

About the author: Alexa Young spent the first several years of her professional life working in the music industry and subsequently worked as an editor for the now-defunct teen magazine JUMP, as well as for SHAPE magazine. As a freelance writer, she’s contributed to a number of national consumer magazines, including Marie Claire, O: The Oprah Magazine and Family Circle. She holds a bachelor's degree in Literature/Writing from the University of California, San Diego, and lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, son and dog. FRENEMIES is her first novel. The second book in the series, FAKETASTIC, is scheduled for a January 2009 release.
 

Sex: The Ultimate GNO is Coming to Your Neighborhood

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What will you be doing when Sex and The City (SATC) hits the theatres on Friday, May 30th? If you are female and haven’t thought about getting together with friends, you must be living in a cave. The trailers and marketing blitz have reached a feverish pitch.

On that evening (and the weeks and months that follow), single, divorced, widowed and married women will be making a beeline to local theatres in their Manolos---sort of like voting with their feet. They are seizing a girl’s night out (GNO)---away from husbands, boyfriends, jerks, work, housekeeping, caregiving, cooking and kids to enjoy and support one another.

The larger-than-life friends we all wish we had---Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda---are making it to the Silver Screen, providing the rest of us the kick in the butt we need to take time off to kindle our own friendships. A small sampling of what’s happening:

BOSTON

After the movie, 20-something Kristin Albano and friends will be heading to a favorite Italian place in the North End for Cosmos and dinner. Women never have enough time for friends: “Since we’ve all graduated from college, it’s hard to keep up friendships,” she says. “We work and have boyfriends, families and many other things that need our attention.”

MIAMI

Sarah Socarros and three others (Is this group of four a mere coincidence?) will shop, dine, and catch the flick at the Dolphin Mall followed by cocktails. “This is the perfect excuse because guys aren’t really that into the phenomenon. We can be more candid - a la SATC if ya catch my drift,” she says.

HOLLYWOOD

Carol Stevenson and friends (suburban mommies with young kids) will dine at The Bowery and go to The ArcLite Theatre and order Cosmos. Designer duds don’t always cut it when your days are spent changing diapers and cleaning up spills so this group is looking for fashion and fun. “My friend Sylvia is a great planner of adult-only functions,” she says. “Who needs a better excuse than a chick flick? Women love the fantasy of the lives the women on SATC lead. Most of us have never been able to be that carefree, even before we got married and had kids!”

Another group from Sherman Oaks has chosen The ArcLite where Monica Sagaser will be one of ten 30- and 40-somethings celebrating friendship. “The truth of the writing and the characters is compelling and addictive,” she says. “The girls of SATC are imperfect and make lots of complex, humorous and entirely identifiable mistakes. Also, the complexities of friendship are integral to every episode. We all dream of having that special BFF---but the world is too busy.”

FORT WORTH

Sarah McClellan-Brandt and three others will be sipping Cosmos at a local (only in Texas) “movie tavern.” “It’s a great excuse for a GNO because SATC is something guys understand but don’t want any part of,” she says. “There are so many women who will let their female friendships wither once they are in a serious relationship but SATC shows how important it is NOT to do that.”

MEMPHIS

It’s never too late. On May 30, Dominique Pryor-Anderson will purchase tickets online to watch the movie with 19 other friends on May 31 at the Paradiso Theater, followed by sushi and drinks. “All women have or want to have camaraderie like the girls had on the show,” she says.

NEW YORK

“As a woman living in NYC, I feel it necessary to pay homage to a show that embodies the essence of women across our great city,” says Denise Espinal. “It always feels good when you see yourself in someone else and I believe each one of the SATC characters is relatable. She had intended to share the special night with five of her closest friends until “word spread” and now there are thirty. “The impact that the show has had on my life is worth spending a night out in the city, wearing brand new stilettos and getting all dressed up to sit in a movie theatre. In a city full of stress and mayhem, busy schedules and deadlines, it’s good to find an escape.”

BIRMINGHAM

Lauren Burke sent out e-vites to 25 co-workers and friends in Birmingham. (She even sent me one, on the condition that I wouldn’t come). “I will be having ladies over to my apartment for a premiere party. “ They’ll play SATC Trivia, with Season 6 of the show playing in the background.” Lauren’s asked everyone to wear an element of pink, or to rock a big Carrie flower, or to come with some Samantha bling. But for her too, it’s the friendships that count: “Women love to talk about their lives and relationships. When you have a bad date, at least you have a story to rehash with your friends!”

SCOTTSDALE

“All my girlfriends, their sisters, and their sister’s friends are planning a big night out,” says Natasha Nelson. “We all grew up together and since many of us have started families and companies, we don’t get a chance to hang the ways we used to. Most women I know have girlfriends but the SATC girls really spend a lot of time together and seem to be each other’s true support.”

MINNEAPOLIS

Three weeks ago, Dani Gibbs relocated to Minneapolis be with her fiancée. She had planned to attend a GNO with old friends in LA (at the ArcLite too, coincidentally). Suddenly, she was in a new place without any old friends. It didn’t stop her. “I used MinneapolisLinkUp.com to host a quickie event to meet some people and then inquired about doing a GNO for SATC and--TA-DA! Yep, chicks in Minneapolis were interested too. It’s a good excuse because it’s a girlie movie and common ground for a lot of different women/personalities,” she says.

PORTLAND

GNOs are an every-other-week-thing for Julie Ma and her friends, most of who just graduated from college. There is always an excuse to “catch up with life, talk about whom we’re dating, how work is going, what our goals are, and to meet people and network,” she says. “We live in a fast-paced world and you have to have girlfriends to catch you when you fall, rescue you from the creepy guy on the dance floor, toast your successes and back you up on challenges.” After cocktails and hors d’ouevres, Julie’s group will see a midnight show.

ATLANTA

Skirt! Magazine has invited lucky Kristin Harmel to attend a premiere in Atlanta on Tuesday. Kristin, who fancies herself as a real-life Carrie of sorts, is making an evening of it with fashion designer friend, Amy Tangerine. “We plan to get our hair blown out and wear our Carrie Bradshaw best. Then we’ll head out for dinner and drinks,” she says. “I'm a big believer in looking inside ourselves for happiness and establishing strong female friendships instead of looking for men to ‘complete us’ -although I think it's wonderful to find a man to compliment the lives we've already built for ourselves.” Kristin already has plans to see SATC a second time as part of a foursome in Pittsburgh with friends Kristen, Megan and Amber.

PITTSBURGH

Mary Ann Miller and three friends are attending a Pittsburgh preview on Friday evening. “They were avid followers of the TV program and while I wasn’t as committed to watching, they always kept me up to speed,” she says. The local women’s center and shelter is sponsoring a cocktail party followed by the screening. The group has been meeting monthly for dinner for almost a decade and has silver Tiffany bracelets with a GNO charm.

WASHINGTON, DC

After Cosmos and appetizers at a friend’s apartment, Megan Erhardt and 20 friends will be hailing cabs to Georgetown to watch the movie. For her group, the movie will bring back lots of memories. ”Many of our best college memories include watching the show or referencing scenes, fashion, relationship issues.” Her pal, Mariel Poole, will be there too. “Girlfriends become your extended family,” she says.

VIRGINIA

On a grand scale, an organization call Success in the City, whose goal is “uniting women of achievement” will host a day-long SATC festival with a pre-party the night before. “The event is called, BIG, REALLY BIG, BIGGER THAN MR. BIG!” says CEO Cynthia de Lorenzi. An after-party is planned at Saks Fifth Avenue in Tysons Galleria Mall, aptly called “Saks in the City”---with Cosmos, shopping discounts, and networking opportunities. Guests will receive a SWAG bag and an opportunity to enter a drawing for an Eiffel Tower Purse like the one that Carrie carries in the movie.

SAN FRANCISCO

Suzanne Agasi is planning the ultimate SATC GNO. Her 150th clothing swap, Swap in the City, will be celebrated on Friday May 30th at the Intercontinental Hotel. Each participant will get a ticket for the Century 9 theatre a few blocks away. Four hundred SATC aficionados are expected to de-clutter their closets and exchange clothes at the swap that benefits three local shelters.

It’s not surprising that female friendships trump Sex. Friends help define who we are and who we want to become. The movie release provides proof positive of our need for close friendships and offers one convenient avenue to nurture them. Women need to find more ways.

 

 
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