Since its International Women’s Day, I thought it would be a good idea to take stock of the ebbs and flows of my female relationships and reflect on a more difficult aspect of friendship. I am very fortunate to have a strong group of females in my life. Some recently acquainted, others I’ve known for decades but all wonderful in their own ways. Badass chicks that I can laugh with and cry with and take too much Benadryl with (Vegas is a high allergy zone, please note this before you go drinking and Benadryl-ing) Friend. It’s a loaded word. Not one I toss around easily. A younger friend of mine, let’s call her K, recently received some great news regarding a career change. She spent several years in one profession, not unhappily, but she was ready for something different. Shifting gears after years in the same field was scary but necessary for her. She was restless. Upon embarking on her new journey and communicating it to her world with glee, one of our mutual so-called friends was irritatingly negative and not supportive. Asked K some odd, judgy questions. Told K she was basically out of her mind for thinking about it. Even took to texting me about it, asking snarkily, “who does K think she is”. Um, a person that wants to change? Is that illegal?
Oddly enough, this so-called friend, reacted in a similar fashion when I had great news a few months ago. It took me aback, after a few years of us hanging out and confessing our deepest and darkest thoughts to each other. The death of my husband several years ago left a gaping hole in my life, one that I hoped I could fill someday with a healthy relationship with a good dude but I was SO scared to be vulnerable with someone again. So-called friend listened to me as I went through the dating scene with one awful experience after another - it seemed like she understood, like she GOT it. The entirety of my singledom we were simpatico (she was single too) but the moment I found a compatible man she lost interest in our friendship and found a myriad of petty reasons to pull her support. She laughed when I gave her a few details about the guy I started dating. Full on laughing! Criticized his job! Made a funny snort noise when she saw what he looked like! What the heck is that all about? So curious and so downright mean. It confused me, I felt I had been a true friend to her over the years, listened to her when she needed a shoulder to cry on, refrained from judging her, made time for her, celebrated her successes. All that jazz. I mean, she specialized in married men! Literally the head on collision of relationships. I actually ran into the guy she was fucking (her boss) with his wife at Neiman Marcus. It was the most awkward shoe department exchange I've ever experienced. But I got through! I didn't judge her! I didn't say she ruined my summer! (that's something else but as equally ridiculous) Relationships are difficult no matter if they are familial, friendly, or romantic in nature. They take time and energy and a certain level of delicacy, reciprocity isn’t inherent or guaranteed either. You would think someone would have your back after you've had their side chick back for years, but nah.
As an overprotected introvert I didn’t have many friends growing up and I wasn’t encouraged to do so by my parents, either. Socially naive, I made friends where I could in high school and college. My own super dysfunctional family dynamics played into my friendships, resulting in some severely one-sided situations. As an adult, work and graduate school ate up a lot of time, and my friendships suffered and dwindled in number during those years. The friends that understood the situation didn’t take it personally and the few that didn’t understand chose to be passive-aggressive, negative, and petty. (I knew a woman that would keep track of our phone calls. “I called you two weeks ago, it’s your turn!” It was disconcerting - I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast yesterday let alone keep track of who called who what when where, ugh!) (She only complained about her feet and went through her schedule with me like I was her social secretary - what is that about? I want to hear ideas, things you've read, restaurants you've eaten at, not that your crap shit orthotics are giving you foot pain 87 weeks in a row. PULEASE)
To be fair, the majority of my friendships are in a good state. I am at a place in life where the wheat has separated from the chaff. The energy I devote to the women I love are pure and well-intentioned and I try my best. I refrain from gossip, and when confronted with it, tell the gossiper (actually, a new neighbor, why do they always want to dish dirt?) “I’m not comfortable talking about someone that isn’t here/that I don’t know/fill in the blank/etc.” I apologize when I’m wrong, which is often enough to realize I still have a long way to go. I don’t burn bridges like my hands are on fire anymore but I’m not afraid to wish someone well and let them go. Sometimes harmony is achieved by absence of communication (there are a few peeps I wish well but cannot have in my life). Perhaps giving the so-called friend slack and a continued benefit of the doubt is to my detriment? Perhaps I'm not so easy to love myself?
Maybe that’s the issue, I see my friendships through my own filters, my own experiences. The last few years I’ve been telling myself to stop holding others up to my own expectations of what a friend should be and just let them be the friend they’re capable of being. Especially on a day like today when we celebrate each other. A few weeks ago, a post on goop.com said the same. Frenemies are nothing new, but perhaps everyone has a different purpose in our lives. One person can’t be everything a friend should be. Perhaps this is what I should do with the unsupportive friend? Accept her for the positive attributes she has? But is that even friendship when someone can’t bring themselves to be supportive despite your own personal excitement? How do you handle situations like that? Do you let this friend float off or try to maintain a one-sided relationship? Do you tell them any important personal information? Do you spend the precious time of your life with someone that doesn’t really have your back? Do you do it in the name of sisterhood? How does one person stay the path of positivity and love and light when its not reciprocated?
(K is doing well in her new career, by the way. She’s taking the world by the balls, one city at a time)