It came as quite a shock to me when I recently noticed my female relationships in flux. Sure, I have kids ranging in ages from 6 through 16, so I've seen the precarious dance of friendship - knowing full well that a B.F.F. today can quickly morph into a taunting mean girl tomorrow. But as a grown woman, I hardly expected my girlfriends to move from beloved and trusted confidants to women I had to - needed to -find a way to exorcise from my life.
So one resolution I vow to make this year -- and more importantly vow to keep -- is that my girlfriends who are catty, unsupportive or just plain mean and spiteful no longer have a place in my life and have to go. But how exactly to do this?
If these said women had committed really serious transgressions - of the "you betrayed my confidence or slept with my husband" variety, the solution would be an easy one... an awkward and painful confrontation and a break-up that would no doubt haunt me and leave me fearful of chance encounters at the market or worse a children's birthday party for years to come. I've had a few of these really uncomfortable friendship-enders (although no one has slept with my husband to my knowledge...) so I know the drill.
But lately, there have been a number of my friendships that have atrophied, yet still linger in an odd and uncomfortable limbo. History or circumstance that threw us together no longer offer enough emotional glue to keep us connected and so, perhaps naturally, we've drifted apart. But it doesn't feel natural. First comes the guilt, with both parties thinking, "I should call, I really should call." But this is then followed by righteous indignation," You know, the phone works both ways...she could call me!" And then of course the cycle continues with more guilt as so much time passes you can't believe the woman whose baby shower party favors you painstakingly made by hand now has a teenage daughter you wouldn't recognize in a line up.
And then there are the friends who are a bit more worrisome - the ones who sit - even if from a distance - simmering with judgment and disdain. The one's who just can't help but make you feel bad for the choices you've made (or haven't made) or silly for feeling the way you feel. ,or actually have the nerve to dis the new friends in your life ("you like them???"). With these girls you are on a slippery, slippery slope; they are not worthy of a break up, but certainly no longer deserving of a speed dial spot on your cell phone.
My friend Louann, a neuropsychiatrist (it's good to have at least one good neuropsychiatrist friend..) and author of the bestselling book, The Female Brain, finally offered up a solution. From a purely scientific point of view, she broke down my situation perfectly: She explained (as she does in her book in much more diplomatic terms) that thanks to the cocktail of hormones surging through my 40-something year old brain, I was in my "Get the Fuck out of my way" stage of life. And she couldn't have pegged me more accurately: my youngest had just started Kindergarten, my oldest had gone off to boarding school, I'd been off the career track for years, but had just recently, THANK GOD, found my way back to meaningful work and figured out what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. So yes, I was clearly in the "Get the fuck out of my way" stage - in a fierce way.
She then explained something to me what should have been obvious but at the time was not at all apparent -- that during this time of your life - or rather any time when you are jostling the status quo - there are those people in your "front row " who watch your every move staring up at you on your proverbial "stage" as you either strut or stumble, or most likely do a little bit of both. And of these people sitting comfortably in the choice house seats, some are your greatest fans, your lifelong cheerleaders giving you that "you go girl" support and mirroring all that is good and graceful and confident. And then of course there are the naysayers, the ones echoing your deepest, darkest fears and insecurities - you know the ones who say, "you really shouldn't have tried that" or "you're not still wearing that old suit are you?"
Louann's suggestion was a simple one: You don't need to be dramatic; you don't have to endure an elaborate girlfriend break up. Instead, you simply, quietly and methodically move these women out of your front row. ...and into the balcony. You don't have to escort them out of the building (i.e. out of your life). You just have to get them out of your direct line of vision.
So this year, my dear supportive girlfriends will not only have the good seats, hell, I'll engrave brass plaques so they'll know that these seats are theirs for life. But for the rest of the women, despite years of history, weddings, babies, heartaches and heartbreaks, and all those hazy chardonnay-filled evenings sharing secrets, it's time for a new seating arrangement. And by the way ladies, the stairs to the balcony are to your left. Hope you enjoy the show from there.