Monday, October 1, 2012

Pretty Little Frenemies

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?



Melissa Landers said...

Preach it, sistah! I don't do frienemies, or a-holes in general. Any toxic people in my sphere get cut, just like that. My life's so much more pleasant without them in it.

Kimberly said...

Great, great, great! Thanks, Lorie. Although I think it's important to talk about great friends in our lives, I think it's even more important to talk about those pretending to be friends. Frenemies are about as destructive as they come because they are pretending to be one thing while being the opposite. I've explained this idea to my oldest daughter until I'm blue in the face, and she just doesn't get it. She wants to believe the best in her friends, and she credits them with the same loyalty and love she feels for them even when it's not at all deserved.
I have a problem with the YA movies and shows that basically tell teen girls that this is the way friendship works. The backstabbing. The hurtful comments. The sarcasm. The eye rolling and laughing at each other behind each other's backs. I have a BIG problem with that.
I really want better shows, movies and books that depict strong female friendships. They just don't seem to be as popular as the mean-girl and frenemy ones. And that's so, so, so sad.

Lorie Langdon said...

@Mel - I feel you, my friend. I've become much less tolerant in recent years.

@Kim - I agree that true friendship is usually passed over in fiction for the "more interesting" snarky friendship. I'm not sure why sarcasm and the ability to insult one another is an acceptable representation of caring--not a good message.

Diane J. Reed said...

Terrific post! I still shudder at the secret "soul destroyers" that crossed my path in teenagerhood--those girls who knew how to insert the knife and twist before you even realize what happened. For me, there was a learning curve for comprehending their tactics and gradually learning how to defend myself by spotting the red flags much earlier in the game. That's why I feel "emotional coaching" is so important for kids, and believe it or not, I had to start doing this with my boys in preschool! Why? Because they'd already encountered little girls who would invite them into their circle, play nice for a while, and then suddenly flip and say "No boys allowed--I don't want to be your friend anymore." My boys were devastated, and I ran into many preschool & kindergarten girls who'd also been wounded by this behavior. Sigh--they more attention we can bring to it & coaching for how to spot bullies ahead of time, the more it will put an end to "frenemies." Thanks for writing this : )

Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks, Diane!
Fascinating story about your boys in preschool. As parents, it's so important for us to teach a balance of tolerance and assertiveness. If that's what you mean by "emotional coaching" then I'm all for it! :D

Jennifer McAndrews said...

Lorie, thanks so much for posting this! What I can say now is that the day I needed to write my own post on this topic (which was the day before I had to post it cos I never can plan ahead) was the day a very long friendship ended. In that moment all I could do was be grateful for the friends that pulled me through, but your message here, the one that says sometimes we misjudge, sometimes the game changes, sometimes you don't see past the smile to your face to the meanness behind your back - is so, so, so important. It happens to us all, I'm afraid. And one of the toughest lessons to learn is that it's okay to bar frenemies from your life, even if you absolutely understand what makes them behave as they do doesn't mean you have to stick around and take it.
Super, super, super post! Thanks for this!

Lorie Langdon said...

Thank you so much, Jen!
I'm sorry to hear about your heartbreak. I also had to end a long term friendship recently. It was one of the hardest decisions I've made in years, but I know that it was the right one.
Thank God for those friends we can trust, who pull us through! I want to be the kind of person my friends can depend on no matter what may come. :)

Jessica Lemmon said...

How funny to see this while watching Housewives on Bravo! ;) Srsly, though, I'm with Melissa. Who has time to deal with toxic people?

Jessica Lemmon said...

How funny to see this while watching Housewives on Bravo! ;) Srsly, though, I'm with Melissa. Who has time to deal with toxic people?

Lorie Langdon said...

Lol! Jess, you crack me up. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

Micki Gibson said...

Wow! Great post and the timing of it couldn't be more relevant. For the most part, I've cut the "frenemies" out of my life, but the ones I can't...they're called in-laws. I actually lost sleep last night wondering how I'm going to deal with one of them. Say what's really on my mind and cause more agony for the hubby? Or do I play their game and act as fake friendly as them to keep the peace? (For the record, I don't do fake nice very well. I'm a horrible liar and a bad actress.) It's no wonder kids have such a tough time with this when some of us even struggle with it as adults. Hugs to everyone who has had to deal with these toxic people.

Lorie Langdon said...

Micki - Hugs to you! This sounds like a horrible situation and something I've had to deal with myself (with family!). Just know that the truth will come out, so take the high road. Don't lose yourself! Be you and move forward.
Thanks for sharing with us today. :)