I have wondered lately why friendships aren’t seen as complex as romantic relationships. They have the meeting phase (which is extremely difficult as an adult I might add.) Then there’s the honeymoon phase, where you realize all your common interests and spend a ton of time together. And then, when things get comfortable, things can just fall through. When you break up with a love interest, your friends encourage you that you’re better than what they put you through. You believe it, grow and move on because you know you are more valuable than that. But is that not true for friendships?
I’ve lost many friends over the years. A few particular relationships stand out as they made me question if there was something wrong with me. These were people I could see being a big part of my life for years to come. And they’re gone. I’ve walked away from some, ran from others, and some have left me behind themselves. When it happens time and time again, it makes you truly question why you always seem to be the common denominator.
Through the insecurities, though, I’ve finally learned a lesson, and maybe that’s why it’s happened so often. I needed to learn this lesson. I needed to learn to voice disagreements before they boiled over.
Looking back, even as far back as high school, I can tell you that often, the relationships where this happens were already on a shaky foundation long before the damage was bad enough to end things. Issues that I was too scared to bring up. I didn’t want to lose my friends, so I just ignored the core problems and nearly drowned in the ensuing drama. Of course, in high school, we didn’t quite have the emotional stability to address and work through those issues as much as now, in my late twenties. But the point is, I’m finally learning to pinpoint the problems early on before the proverbial house collapses.
In that sense, the problem was somewhat me. I was so afraid of losing something that was already fragile that I just ignored the red flags until it was too late. In the last decade since then, I’ve really worked internally. I’ve found my spine, and with it, my voice.
Alongside those newly strengthened traits, I’ve also found my independence. I’ve spent so long being afraid of loneliness that I allowed people to treat me less than I deserved until I broke under the pressure and finally stood up for myself. It doesn’t take me so long to catch on to that, now. And I’m not sure if that’s intimidating, but so far it hasn’t worked in my favor—strike that. As I write this, I realize it’s not that at all. It’s not working in their favor.
Something I tell my children is that they don’t have to be friends with someone who treats them unkindly. I tell them that disagreeing doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with them, but that you don’t have to put up with people who are flat out mean or are disagreeing more often than not. They are worth more than that. It’s time I start leading more by example, because I realize it’s true for me, too.
See, with each ended friendship, I’ve learned more about myself. I’ve grown, evolved. I’ve discovered that I am actually a person that I like. I’m happy with myself. I take pride in who I am. I’m not perfect, but I know I’m always learning. I have learned my worth. And I won’t stand down when others refuse to see it.
Most recently—very recently, actually—I lost someone I considered a close friend. Lost is putting it lightly, honestly. They tore themselves from my life completely. Something they did bothered me, but I didn’t bring it up. I was trying to have grace and move forward, but as I struggled, I wasn’t sure how to bring it up. I suppose my feelings were shining through our regular conversations, because I was flat out asked if something was bothering me. I was honest. Why would I lie? What would that accomplish? I explained that while I accepted the apology, I felt I wanted to address a few things specifically so that I could process and work on moving forward. So I put it out there. I’m a writer, so this was all handled how we usually talk anyways, on chat. I asked for them to take time and process what I had said, hoping to have a mature, relationship growing type of conversation, not rush through things in a heated manner and causing more wounds than necessary with high emotions on both ends. The next day, I had a goodbye message with a little error box telling me I couldn’t reply. They had blocked me. This was someone who I regularly called best friend. I had future plans with this person, like being in their wedding, going on a trip together. And now there’s just nothing.
Perhaps I could have handled things more gracefully in this most recent event. Been more willing to discuss step by step instead of relying on my strength as a writer and putting it all out there at once. Or simply addressing it sooner. I will take responsibility for my part. I believe in accountability. I’m neither perfect nor immune to making mistakes, and I will never claim to be. And I’m upset—I’m hurt, I’m angry, even, but I won’t try to force someone to see my side. I will mourn the loss, and others that have been like it, but I will not apologize for letting someone know when I’m upset. I will not apologize for not agreeing with someone all of the time. I will not apologize for knowing I’m worth more than that.
You can’t sacrifice yourself, can’t sacrifice your worth, for someone else. I can tell you, in the aftermath of a huge loss, that this stands true.
There’s this vicious cycle for women in society and to ask where it begins is likely as impossible to answer as the whole chicken and egg debate. That cycle is how women are perceived to treat one another and how women actually treat one another. If you look back in my past, I can tell you that a vast majority of my hurts were inflicted by other women. You more than likely can say the same about your own past. However, there’s also this stereotype, which is where the cycle comes in, that women can’t interact with each other on a regular basis without their being this underlying dislike, jealousy, or just general “frenemy” behavior. How awful is that? Seriously, it’s pretty terrible. Like I said, I’ve had my fair share of problems with other women in my life, but I know without a doubt that I don’t dislike my best friends and I like to think they don’t dislike me (I’m joking, I know they don’t.)
For whatever reason, society pits us against each other. You have to strive for the best body, the best clothes, the best hair. You’re so shallow because you love to dress “cute” and wear make up every day. You’re “frumpy” for no makeup, messy hair and yoga pants. You have to be married (“to a man”*) to find happiness. But you have to a strong independent woman who doesn’t need anyone. You have to rock a career or be a mom. You don’t want kids? What does your husband think? You do want kids? How archaic? If you’re a working mom, what a pity your baby will be raised by a stranger? If you stay at home, what do you even do with your day? It’s so pitiful that you have no aspirations in life but to pop out babies and sit at home with them. But, also, while you’re staying home, you better do daily crafts, have the most angelic behaving children and a spotless house. We’re even judged in how we raise our children—something that is really just the business of the parents and children involved! You’re awful if you don’t breast feed. You’re disgusting if you do. Seriously, women just cannot catch a break with this stuff! It’s everywhere, coming at us from all directions. It’s so easy to just get swept away in it, tired of fighting against the current to prove, “No, not me.” And when we get swept away, we lose sight of why we fought to begin with, and we can turn against each other.
You know, there’s a verse in the bible that says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that is praise worthy. How amazing is that? That God can create us so perfectly, flaws and all. (And please, hear me out if you aren’t a believer, because I believe this is fitting for everyone!) You are amazing. You are beautiful, inside and out. You are perfect in every way, flaws and all, because that’s how you were created. But, you may have noticed, it doesn’t mention that the only ones who are wonderfully made are in one column and anyone not fitting those confinements aren’t. God created us all to be wonderful. He created us all exactly the way that we are on purpose. Don’t you think that’s amazing? Even if you don’t believe, think of how complex humans are. How we are all the same base, but completely original at the same time? That’s awesome! You can’t deny that, no matter your religious beliefs.
Taking that a step further, if you are fearfully and wonderfully made, so is every other woman (and all humans, but I’m specifically talking women today) you come across. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like someone’s hair, or how they do their makeup if they do any at all, or how they spend their free time. It doesn’t matter, because they are not you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means perfect in this area. There are times I see someone I don’t like, or maybe don’t even know, and think something nasty for just a moment before catching myself. “Those shoes with that outfit? That looks awful.” But no! It’s not awful! Because if that is the outfit that she felt amazing in today, then it’s a great outfit. It’s none of my business how any other woman is living her life as long as she’s not hurting me or anyone else (or herself, but that’s a topic for another day) just as it’s no one else’s business what I’m doing.
So what do we do about this? In the broad spectrum, I feel like a lot of women in society are already fighting back, but it’s not enough. We as women have to band together. Show the world that we aren’t all hormonal animals ready to fight each other for the last top in our size at the mall.
There’s a bible verse that has just really bee resonating with me and it’s the proverb “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Be that iron that sharpens the iron around you. Don’t be jealous of someone’s accomplishments, instead cheer them on! Even if you’re in the same business, it’s not a competition! Someone being successful doesn’t mean you can’t be successful yourself! We deal with so much crap in the day to day from stressful jobs, misbehaving kids, and everything in between. We don’t need that coming from the people we should be happy to be around. My best friendships are the ones where we’re constantly cheering for the other’s success, even in times where we are trying so hard to no avail yet. Be a good, supportive friend!
I feel like there’s this misconception between what a happy, supportive friend looks like, though. It’s not smiling widely and cheering on every move they make, even the bad moves (which you then judge in private). It’s being able to kindly tell them the truth of how you see things when they ask. It’s challenging them to think differently. Friendship isn’t all or nothing—no relationship is. There’s a balance. You can give your honest opinion when you’re asked, while still allowing them to know that you’ll be there for them if things go awry. You can set boundaries within the friendship and it still be a good friendship. Iron sharpening iron is to help each other grow and evolve into a better version of you than you were before.
So, in short, rise up, women, and empower each other. Embrace your differences alongside the things you have in common. Love each other. Lift your women friends up in a world that’s trying to tear us all down. Let’s shatter this cycle once and for all.
*NOTE: This is NOT my belief, not even CLOSE. I’m just showing the extreme pressures from society, and this is one of them. I am all for marriage equality and all equality.
As I watched the hour pass by, waiting for someone to show up to my house for a planned visit, I found myself growing more and more frustrated. This person, who I will keep anonymous since I’m not trying to put anyone on blast here, asked if this day and this time frame worked for me. I didn’t come up with the plan, they did! Yet, here I was and here they weren’t. I tried to keep it cool, give them the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t a set in stone time, it’s fine. But when it had finally been an hour past the scheduled time, I gave in and sent a text. I needed to make dinner very soon, given that we’re now on a much stricter schedule since my oldest has started Kindergarten.
“Were you still planning on coming, or….?” I texted, trailing off to hopefully seem laid back.
Ten minutes passed. Then, finally, “Got called in to work sorry.”
Life happens. This, I understand. I’ve had to back out of plenty of plans for various reasons. What bothered me, though, was the inconsideration in not even telling me the plans were canceled, not even an hour after the scheduled time. I put off cooking dinner for my and my children’s hungry selves for this person. Beyond that, even, I was frustrated because I had told my kids. This person happens to be a family member and the visit wasn’t for me to have some grown up conversation, it was for them to see my children, who they haven’t seen in several months. My kids were excited and then I had to pop the bubble that this family member wasn’t coming and didn’t tell me. Thankfully, they were fine, but, I mean, to be honest, they’re somewhat used to this.
I found myself not just frustrated, but downright angry. Not violent rage angry or anything, but angry enough to want to say something. I sent another text calmly explaining that I should have been told, especially when the time was confirmed the night before. Surely, this person had 30 seconds to send me a brief message canceling. But they didn’t. They apologized and admitted they should have called. The response isn’t why I’m writing this, though.
After I sent my “rant” sounding message, I felt almost guilty. I felt as though everyone probably thought I was so crazy for being bent out of shape over someone not showing up to see my kids. This isn’t the first time I’ve been upset about someone not following through, even if I hadn’t always said something. Surely, I was just overthinking this all. Surely, I was just being crazy.
The more I thought, and still think, about it, though, I’m not crazy. My time is valuable. My children’s time is valuable. My children’s feelings are valuable. We are worth something. We are worth seeing, we are worth being told if plans are canceled. It’s not crazy to know your worth.
I’ve been sitting here feeling like I was in the wrong simply for wanting to be treated with respect. For wanting to be told within a reasonable time that plans weren’t happening. Why is it that we think we have to just sit back and accept whatever is thrown at us, lest we appear “crazy?”
I’m not one to promote lingering on negativity, so I know I should let this go to an extent. I will. I’m not going to be angry forever over canceled plans. However, I do think it’s so important to know that you’re allowed to stand up for your time. Your allowed to tell someone they didn’t treat you with the respect you deserve, even in small situations. It’s not crazy. It’s knowing your worth, and you are worth something. But you know what is crazy? Thinking it’s okay to not show someone simple respect such as letting someone know you can’t make it.
A few years ago, my place of work was robbed at gunpoint. My story is a lucky one where the robbers left with nothing and we were all safe. In the routine questioning, the police asked us how the robbers got in, as this took place hours after our usual closing time. We explained that we had extended hours that weekend, so the robbers were able to walk in right during working hours. Would you like to know what happened then? The cops took what we said as fact and moved on with their questions. They didn’t repeatedly ask us why the doors were unlocked, trying to change the words to confuse our stories. They didn’t tell us we shouldn’t have had extended hours for our busy time of the year. They in no way blamed us, the victims of a traumatic situation.
So why do we insist on doing this to rape victims?
Why do we ask what were they wearing? Why do we ask if they have a history of promiscuity? Why is everyone and every past situation more to blame than the person who actually did the raping? It’s well beyond past time to stop blaming the victim and blaming the rapist, the same way we blame the drunk driver, the child abuser, the murderer, the robber.
Unfortunately, periodically, a big case hits the media where people are mourning the ruined future of a rapist for being caught in their actions, making sure to use nice pictures of the attacker and explain all of their successes to further prove how wonderful they really were.
This disgusting excuse for media portrayal is damaging enough to the victims in all of these cases, but it goes so far beyond that. This is detrimental to all victims.
Recently, a friend of mine found out that her worst nightmare had happened while visiting an old friend. He had sexually assaulted her, a fact she didn’t even remember until it came back in a flashback a night later.
If the fact that she was betrayed by a friend isn’t enough to make your blood boil, what makes it worse is that I can tell her all day every day that it was in no way her fault, and a majority of herself will agree with that, but thanks to the way our society is, she still feels like she is partially to blame. She drank (the doctor told her it was likely she had been slipped something, given how sick she got). She admitted she found him attractive (and while I hope no one reading this needs to be told, in case you don’t know, thinking someone is pretty/handsome/whatever, it’s not consent for things going beyond that.) These things do not in any way, shape, or form, justify what happened to her. What happens to too many.
And it makes me even more upset that I can’t tell her with confidence that a court system would agree with me. I can’t tell her that her situation wouldn’t turn out just like the Stanford case right now. Because it just takes one judge to think the rapist’s future is more important, more worthy of protecting, than hers.
This has to stop. Now. It should have stopped long before. I saw a hashtag today from an organization, which prompted me to right this, and I stand by it. #itsonus to stop blaming victims, and start blaming rapists. Stop mourning the broken futures of someone who knows the difference in right and wrong and still chooses to rape. And mostly importantly, support the victims. Don’t put them on a trial for the actions of someone else, that affected them. Support them. Get justice for them.
When I saw the text message from my best friend showing a patch of hair cut out of her elementary school-aged daughter (who we will call J), I originally thought she had done what many kids do once they know how to use scissors. But the truth of what happened horrified me. A classmate, her “best friend,” had walked over, informed J that she was going to cut her hair and, despite protests, lifted up the top layer of hair and cut around her ear. Once my best friend finally got the truth out of her for what happened, she asked why she didn’t tell the teacher, or at least her what had happened? Of course, J was afraid she’d get in trouble with her teacher, but the other reason? Because she didn’t want her friend to be mad at her.
If that wasn’t heart breaking enough, it only got worse. When J finally confided in her teacher what happened, the little girl denied it (as to be expected). After a conference with the principal, she broke down and confessed and apologized. All was better, right? Well, if only it was that easy. That afternoon, some of J’s classmates approached her and said that her “friend” was going around calling her a liar and urging the classmates to not be friends with J. So let me get this straight. The little girl had the scissors. The little girl walked up to J and told her she was going to cut her hair. J told her no. She did it anyway and then lied to the teacher and, up until her breakdown and confession, to the principal. But J is the liar who shouldn’t have friends?
I have one word to describe that behavior: Bullying. Well, what I like to call Unconventional Bullying.
When you hear the word bullying, you automatically think of the big kid on the playground picking on the younger kids. Threatening all sorts of things if you didn’t bring them your lunch money or your toys. Shoving you in the locker. In recent years, you may even think about anonymous messages sent on social media or spreading rumors about the “different” kid in school who doesn’t fit in. But what happens when the mean words, threats or negative actions come from someone you consider close? Unconventional Bullying.
I’ve personally witnessed Unconventional Bullying in just about all age groups. In fact, I’ve even been the “victim” of it myself through the years (though I definitely don’t consider myself a victim in any sense of the word). It isn’t just elementary school kids cutting their friends hair.
It’s my four-year-old daughter running to me, sobbing, because her best friend called her a baby for the twelfth time in the past two hours, and it’s not a new trend.
It’s the middle school me being met with laughter and rolling eyes because “you really want to talk about that weird band again?”
It’s the high school me feeling isolated from her old friends because her “better” ones would rather eat somewhere else. But then those same “better” friends sit her down after school to ask what’s wrong, blind to the fact that it’s the mean notes and generally how they treat her that’s wrong.
It’s being an adult that’s suddenly back in high school because you somehow got sucked into drama that isn’t even yours. Being asked to lie, never knowing what words from your friend are the truth, and dozens of little comments that leave you feeling insecure around them.
It’s all of these, and still thinking that person is your best friend. And you put up with it because you have this notion that best friends stick together through thick and thin. I’m here to tell you that that’s not the truth. Will the occasional drama happen? Well, sure, maybe, especially in the teen years. But where does that line from normal to Unconventional Bullying get crossed?
Don’t confuse Unconventional Bullying with Bullying. It’s different, which is why I call it Unconventional. Unconventional Bullying doesn’t mean that there was a big mean bully seeking out a weak victim for their joy, it means a friend treating you how you shouldn’t be treated, but expecting you to stick around. You don’t have to stick around.
If you’re coming home after spending time with your best friend and you’re questioning if your interests are okay or weird, it’s not friendship. If you come home and you’re crying for the fifth time this week because you were once again passed a nasty note, it’s not friendship. If you come home and have to ask another friend if they would have taken these words negatively, because you can’t get them off your mind and they hurt your soul, it’s not friendship. It’s all just different versions of that little girl implying to J, “Let me do this to you, or we won’t be friends anymore.”
But guess what? You don’t deserve that friend. You don’t need the friend that comes with self-compromising conditions. That’s not a friend! You deserve the friend who you can laugh with for hours and feel like minutes have gone by. You deserve the friend who can stand the test of time and distance. You deserve the friend where the biggest fight is over if a movie was good or not. You deserve who accepts you for everything you are and is your biggest cheerleader in all aspects of your life, even if it’s different from their own.
I have spent so much of my life being unconventionally bullied, even now when I’m half way through my twenties, but not anymore. I have two very best friends, and a number of other close friends, who are amazing. I am unapologetically me and they stand by my side and applaud that, and I for them. They are real friends. Go find the friends you deserve.
Today, as I was getting ready for my weekly small group at church, I thought to myself "I feel like I should skip the mascara today." I don't know what it was that made me think that, but I just shrugged it off and applied as usual. Boy, I really should have skipped it.
Hello! I'm Lindsey. I'm a writer with a ton of random thoughts bouncing around in my head. So I share them here in hopes that they reach others with these thoughts.