Friends or Frenemies

Ainsley’s 3rd grade friendship troubles around bragging and I’m guessing, vying for the position of “queen bee,” possibly taking the wrong tone with people, gave us another opportunity to discuss friendship – what it means and how to get it.

At first, I admit, I was completely and totally without advice for her. Remember when a young Matthew Broderick played Tic Tac Toe with the computer (back when the invention of a computer inspired awe and amazement in us) in War Games? Joshua, the computer, learned “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” It’s unwinnable. That’s how I feel about girl drama and frenemies.

What was your earliest heartbreak? Was your first experience of emotional devastation caused by a guy? Unlikely. If you are a woman, chances are your first experience of emotional treachery was at the hands of another girl.

Naomi Wolf says in her Bazaar article, Black Swan and Female Rivalry, which looks at the various terrible ways we sometimes treat each other, vying for position, sometimes vying for the same man, sometimes just out of pure spite, envy and boredom.

As a woman, it took me a good 30-something years to really understand what I wanted and needed out of friendship and figure out how to get it, and how to avoid the wrong people (drama-makers, takers and emotional-vampires). I’ve had bad friends, bad crowds, frenemies, been way too forgiving and loyal to people who weren’t deserving. I’ve also, at times, been a bad friend and screwed up in some major ways.

Like every parent, I’m hoping and praying that my daughter will learn from my mistakes and let me teach her how to both choose good friends and be one. I, personally, adore having friends. I think it’s so fun and intimate. I feel blessed by my current friendships: online and in-person, on the other side of the world and right next door, those from my early years and those I met yesterday.

Tips for Attracting Only the RIGHT Friends

The trick, in my experience, is avoid deciding WHO you want your friends to be. We get fixated on certain people and then hope they are what we want or expect. We might decide that Ivy, the cool, popular girl, is the one that should be our friend. That, we think, will make us happy. But, if Ivy is a gossip, a bully, a mean girl, is jealous or spiteful and always tries to steal your boyfriends, make the other girls side against you, or informs you that your clothes are ugly – well, obviously this is not a person who will make you happy.

Far more effective, is to decide what QUALITIES you want in a friend and how you want to FEEL in a friendship.

This will give you a sort of check-list to refer to when you meet someone. You might have “honest” and “loyal” on your list of qualities, meet someone and realize after you’ve hung out a few times that they lie and gossip about their other friends. The fact that “honest” and “loyal” is on your list will make the lies and gossip stand out like “red flags” and you are less likely to ignore such a warning. Maybe this person isn’t meant to be your BFF.

Writing down the feelings you want to feel when you’re with your friends gives another sort of check list. Say, you’ve had a few girls-night-outs. Ask yourself, “how do I feel when I’m around this person?” Is it really fun? Do I feel excited? Does time fly and I wish it weren’t over when it’s time to go home? Do I feel understood? Do we talk about things that I find interesting or exciting? If so, this is a fantastic friendship to pursue and will probably bring blessings to your life.

But, if there are other feelings . . . maybe an anxiety tickle in the pit of your stomach, maybe an urge to get up and leave several times, maybe your inner-self whispers “be careful” or “don’t cross her,” such feelings are likely NOT on your list of feelings you wish to have in a friendship and one should run, not walk, away from that person.

Learn it and Teach It

Writing this down, or putting it on your Dream Board, has magical qualities that cannot be intellectually explained. It’s a form of spiritual power. It’s a form of prayer. Is there a bigger power than the personal power of being able to create your own life? Need help creating your dream/vision board?  Let’s talk.

You can’t teach this to your daughter unless you learn it first. If there are drama-makers, gossips, liars, emotional-vampires, “dementors,” joy-stealers or other intolerable people in your life, ask yourself, “what they are doing there?”

The list or Dream Board has another useful magic power, it can make people, who don’t possess the qualities you’re looking for, get suddenly busy or move.

At first, you might think you’ll be sad about this, then you’ll notice how much lighter, happier and more joyful you feel now that someone’s not sucking the joy out of your life with their incessant complaining, gossiping or back-biting. You might feel pity for your “friend,” but let me assure you there are plenty of other complainers, gossips and back-biters who will fill the void of “friendship” for them. Whatever you do, Dear God, please resist the urge to “fix” or “help” them.

Girl Culture and friendship can be rough and emotionally scarring, especially for girls, where it’s a form of currency or capital. The stakes (your heart and your daughters’) are high and that makes friendship a crucial discussion point with girls.

Sit down with your daughter and talk about your past friendships – the mistakes you made, how it made you feel, what you would have done differently. She can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t share them.

Sit down with her and make the list of qualities and feelings you want from your friendships, put them on a dream board, pray for them, wish on a star, throw a penny in a fountain. When she meets someone new ask her how she feels when she’s around that person (which is not the same as asking how she feels about that person).

Then sit back and trust that great friendships are coming your way.

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