In the game of life, at some point nearly everyone suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous friendship. We all have a tale of a boyfriend-stealer or ne’er-do-well, that friend you thought had your back, but instead plunged a knife in it. There are the backhanded compliment friends, the to-your-face insult friends, the shock value friends, the ones with selective memories, and the creepy single-white-female friends.
In my life, it seems that most of my relationships with women—even in business—are doomed. I can’t tell you how many female “friends” have cycled in and out for one reason or another. In a few instances, there were very obvious reasons for the breakup; I am not perplexed by these lost friendships. When someone kicks you when you’re down, abuses your time, or lies to your face, you never feel quite the same about them.
This year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my friendships, past and present. In my first months as an expat, all I had was time since I wasn’t working and knew no one other than my husband. I spent many hours alone and this much I discovered: when you move across the world, it becomes very obvious who really cares about you and who doesn’t.
In pondering my relationships and friendships, I have realized that it doesn’t necessarily take an incident or an insult to piss people off. Excellence of any sort is often more detrimental to a friendship than any quip, lie, remark, or deed. Especially with women. When there is a tangible infraction, there is a source and a reason for loathing and acrimony. But when women are jealous or insecure, simply being you is enough to provoke an altercation. My mother always disliked my platonic male friendships but I understand now why they were so good for me then, and why they have endured to this day: there is no competition. My guy friends don’t compete with me, don’t compare the size of their ass to mine, don’t hate me for what I have or what I’ve achieved. I’m not a competitive friend or spouse—I don’t punish or insult those who have done well for themselves. Friendship is love. If you aren’t loving the fact that your friend is amazing and doing well for herself, you are not a true friend.
That said, if you really want to lose friends and alienate people, you don’t have to be an asshole. Most of the time, you only have to be confident, hard-working, honest, and have standards for people to loathe you. If you’re a woman actively practicing any of the following, beware. There is probably a green-eyed monster lurking in the shadows that looks remarkably like one of your friends, and she’s liable to strike at any time…
- March to the beat of your own drum. When you don’t fully subscribe to the conventions and expectations of society, and you actually have the courage to make choices others don’t make, and take risks, it really gets to people.
- Be confident. Stand up straight and tall and believe in yourself and your ideas. People hate that.
- Have great style. Sometimes just being able to put an outfit together, or having the confidence it takes to wear what no one else can or will is just too much. Why should you be able to pull it off and they can’t?
- Have a moral compass. Do believe that sleeping with a married man is wrong and don’t do it. Do have integrity and learn from your mistakes. But know that your goodness just makes others feel worse about their badness.
- Be smart. Intelligence can be lethal to friendships as well. See, no one really takes an airhead seriously, so anything an airhead does is excused or dismissed. God help you if you have half a brain. Cause then you’re stylish and confident and beautiful and honest and cunning. And in plain English, you’re screwed.
- Be childless by choice. The ultimate friendship killer. All of a sudden your friends’ social calendars consist of playdates and the PTA. Obviously, the dynamic is going to shift, and radically. But the other part of this…to be a woman of child-bearing age and not want to bear a child…oh no. What is wrong with you? How dare you be able to go to the gym whenever you want, take an hour-long bath, sleep in? You’re so selfish. You’re so vain. You’re so free. You’re so…enviable.