Now that everyone I know is in their twenties (and in some cases, like my own, are in their mid-twenties) I still naively hope that the pettiness that ruled female friendships in elementary, middle, and high school will end. I shouldn’t hold my breath. It seems that there is an unwritten pettiness contract that women enter into when becoming friends the terms of which include ousted a member on whim. More often than not ousted is over a man.
I thankfully did not experience much in-fighting over boys during high school because I went to an all-girls school. Senior year, though, I found myself with an end of the year arch-enemy over a boy. This situation didn’t make sense to me because the boy in question was the best friend and first cousin of her boyfriend. I thought, she can’t have them both (and it would offend bro code if she did) but that turned out not to be the case. The situation reached its peak that summer when he was playing us both and insulted me by acting as if I didn’t know. I’m proud that I called him out on it (you know how there’s passive-aggressive behavior? Mine was often passive-passive). She proceeded to make my life miserable over this and went as far as to when I transferred to the college she was already going to (and was unfortunately put in housing on her floor) spread rumors that I was weird and creepy. I think doing that two years after a high school fight is weird and creepy. It didn’t end there, however. An additional two years later, she sent a message to my new boyfriend, who she had briefly been involved with freshman year about which I had no idea, that I he should get himself to a doctor because of all the diseases I had. I sent her an email asking her to cease and desist, I get it, it’s been four years, you don’t like me, I don’t need any more reminders.
My worst experience with this did involve being ousted. The summer before college I spent a lot of time (when they weren’t already leaving me out or better, making me feel bad about my anxiety-induced thinness as if it were a personal affront to their own physiques) with a group of four other girls. One was my good friend from high school, another was a friend/neighbor I’d known since childhood who was two years older, her best friend from high school, and a girl who was between the two sets of us at the before mentioned all girls’ school.
The winter break of my freshman year, our group resumed hanging out and it was then they found out that I had lost my virginity to a guy none of them approved of. I hadn’t told them when it happened because of this reason and I hadn’t actually told them this time but my faced turned red when the question/person was posed and that gave me away. I was ousted over being a slut even though others in the group were also sexually active, but it was with boyfriends, so that was ok. This pain was particularly hard to deal with the next summer, when I returned home, having experienced a sexual assault in the last week of school. The friendships had been somewhat repaired and I made them aware. This did not prevent them from hanging out without me, which I could literally hear from my bedroom because one was a neighbor. The friendships with the two I had been closest with before have been repaired but I can’t forget the pain I felt going through that.
I’ve lost entire friendships over men. There is a woman I know, who, now nearly eight years after the fact, still despises me because I became involved with someone she briefly dated and had the audacity to remain friends with him to this very day. I hadn’t purposefully gone after him, and after all, they dated for a week, and she and I were not particularly close. He’s also still friends with her, so again, I am puzzled. She defriended me on Facebook, which as we all know is a slap in the face, especially when she left friends of mine she had met freshmen year of college and of course didn’t speak to, on her friends list. She also moved to the area where I had already moved to and I’ve seen her twice now and both times I’ve been treated with a death glare. I also lost a friend due to an accidental and brief transgression with her boyfriend in an unfortunately public forum.
Now, I do bear responsibility for this, but it wasn’t premeditated on my end and I was extremely intoxicated to the point that I was hardly aware it was happening and if he hadn’t stopped there, would be grounds for assault. She hasn’t spoken to me since (it’s been a year) and yet forgave the boyfriend and carried on a terse relationship with him for at least another six months. This happens so often where a woman is blamed for something that a man also should be blamed for. I understand that it’s easier to let go of a friendship than a long-term relationship, but how can you forgive one party but not the other?
I suppose my current situation as a graduate student in a writing program may not be the best place to look for mature well-adjusted individuals. There is still passive aggressive pettiness among women and being the passive-passive person I am, I’m not always sure what to do about it. How do you confront someone who hasn’t actually voiced a problem with you, but has excluded you?
The strangest aspect of female friendships is the fact that they can work well. As an especially introverted and shy child, which I’ve grown out of to some extent, I’ve long been used to the idea that having a few close friends is all one could hope for. I sometimes think my personality is at fault, I am reserved early on in relationships and can be somewhat aloof. It’s certainly easier to like women who have more bubbly and friendly personalities. I do, however, know women who appreciate my personality, so it’s not an impossible barrier. I have a true best friend, who I’ve been friends with for nearly eight years now (despite having gone to school together since I was in second grade and she was in first).
When I went to graduate school, I moved away from our home state, and even though her life is now markedly different from mine as a wife and new mother, she’s still the most supportive friend I have. I also have another friend who in our fourteen years of friendship, I’ve never worried that pettiness would break our bond. I’m lucky to have a younger sister who is a genuine friend and a mother, who while not a Gilmore girls level friend, is another woman I can turn to. Female friendship is beautiful and necessary but has also caused me more heartbreak than any relationship with a man.