Have you ever watched Pretty Little Liars and wanted to yell at the screen as Aria, Emily, Spencer, or Hanna take another backhanded insult from their “Bestie” Alison DiLaurentis? Or cringed as Alison uses her “best friends,” once again, to get what she wanted? Have you wondered why they were ever friends with her in the first place? Or, like me, do you recognize a bit of yourself in these characters?
As you may have guessed, dear reader, today I’m breaking the trend of happy friendship stories. *Shrug* Someone had to do it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have some amazing friends. Friends who lift me up when I fall, friends who will listen to me cry and then tug me out of my self-pity with a loving virtual slap. Friends I’d run into a burning building for. But I’m not talking about them today.
I’m talking about girls who take you under their wing, tell you how pretty and talented you are, and then put you down at every opportunity. I’m talking about the girl you think is your friend until she decides she likes your boyfriend better than you. The one who smiles to your face and lies behind your back. The friend who says she likes your outfit, but tells everyone it would look better on her. The one who leaves you behind when you refused to follow her down a path of self-destructive behavior.
Anybody been there?
Unfortunately, I’m not speaking theoretically here. These are all instances of girls I once considered friends. Why did I let these piranhas into my life, you ask? Because I tend to see the best in others—at times to the point of blindness. Some might call me naive, but I’ve always had strong opinions and non-negotiable morals = I’m no push-over.
In third grade, a girl bullied me on the playground every day for weeks. The teachers refused to step in, and one day I’d had enough. So I left the playground, marched to the principal’s office and told on her. When they called her to the office, she cried hysterically and screamed, begging them not to call her mother. Even as a nine-year-old kid, it was clear to me that she’d learned how to bully by being bullied herself—by her own parent. That realization sparked a lifelong empathy in me for those who lash out because they are hurting.
Heck, despite my raging crush on Tony Stark, I couldn’t help rooting for Loki in THE AVENGERS. Not that he would win and destroy the planet, but that he would get over his daddy issues and leave the dark side. Yep, eternal optimist, that’s me.
But even though I believe there are legitimate reasons why good people do bad things, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to continue taking their abuse. Like the girls on Pretty Little Liars, who look back on Alison’s life and see all the ways she had manipulated them, I can see times in my past when I gave too much power to those I thought were friends. These days I have little tolerance for people who don’t respect my opinions or value me as an individual.
In short, beloved readers, empathy is a good quality, but it doesn’t mean you let the Alison’s of the world walk all over you.
Life is too short for frenemies.
YOUR TURN: Have you ever been blindsided by a frenemy? What did you do?