We teach our daughters to set and protect their boundaries when it comes to men. You don’t go some place secluded with a man you’ve just met. No means no. Your boss shouldn’t pat your ass or comment on your cleavage during a board meeting. If a man ogles you from a moving vehicle, give him the finger as he passes by.
Yet we don’t teach them to protect themselves from the women out there. How to set a boundary and fiercely protect it from the females of the species. We’re women. We’re supposed to be nice and understanding with our friends and give them the benefit of the doubt. You can tell any man to go to hell but your friend can manipulate the shit out of you and you’ll justify her actions every time. She’s your friend. She’s going through a rough time. Yada, yada, yada.
I think it starts in middle school. That’s when girls learn that it’s okay to turn on one another. When they stab each other in the back for a boy or pass notes about each other in study hall or suddenly announce “We’re not friends anymore” on a monthly basis.
I saw it first hand this week. My daughter, Paige, and her friends were watching their younger siblings at a talent show at our elementary school. All these middle school big shots, back at their little grade school, were feeling pretty grown up while enjoying the show when out of nowhere one of the “popular girls” that dropped them like a hot potato when they entered junior high, sat down beside them. Now this girl has flat out ignored my daughter and her friends for 9 straight months but damn, you should have seen their faces when Miss Popularity graced them with their presence. They went from shocked to surprised to “sure you can sit with us” in about 5 seconds. They swarmed around her like a rock star, stopping short of asking for her autograph or a lock of her hair to sell on eBay.
I remember that feeling of not wanting to care, yet wanting to be accepted and cool as well, but the mom in me, wanted to grab this little twit by the back of her neck and ask, “Where the fuck have you been since September? Ladies, anyone want to ask Miss Congeniality here why she’s been treating you like shit all year? Anyone want to make her accountable for her actions?” Aw hell they wouldn’t have heard me anyway. They were too busy complimenting her on her choice of flip flops and lip gloss shade.
It might seem like I’m over reacting, but once you allow the line to be crossed it never stops. The girl that calls you up in middle school telling you that you can’t like Ricky because she liked Ricky last year, is the same girl that’ll get pissed at you in high school because you went to the movies with your friends from the lacrosse team and didn’t include her. In college she will obsess over her latest roommate issue when you’re 3 hours away and 1000 words short from your final paper due at 8:00 am. If you get married before her, she feel threatened by that. She will call you at midnight drunk telling you all about the sex she just had in the bar bathroom when you’re 9 months pregnant. She’ll spend 20 minutes talking about and flexing her well-defined bicep muscles when you’re 30 pounds overweight and waiting for your episiotomy to heal. She’ll claim that when she’s a married mom of little ones, she’s never going to let herself go, no offense, she’ll quickly add. And if you’re lucky when you’ve been married for about a decade, she be the friend that constantly asks you how you can trust your husband when he travels for his job. Mind you, she doesn’t really think he’s cheating on you, but she’ll just so happen to have a copy of “The Wife Is Always The Last To Know” and strongly suggest that you read it. The creme de le creme of course will be when she corrects you regarding your parenting skills. This friend with no stretch marks, and no functional knowledge of parenthood, knows exactly what you’re doing wrong.
These little bullshit instances on their own aren’t damning enough to end the friendship, but the cumulative effect of these negative interactions will kill your spirit. The energy that you do have left you’ll expend bitching to your normal friends about this person. She will slowly suck the life right out of you and yet you will still feel guilty excising this friendship from your life.
Why? Because no one give girls permission to protect their boundaries from other girls. You’re taught to be kind, to be a good listener, to give good advice, to help your friends solve their problems, to be codependent and base your happiness on their happiness. This of course is a bunch of bullshit. Men don’t do that and maybe that’s why so many of them are in charge. They don’t waste brain cells on this crap or get distracted by the drama of the boundary crossing friend. Joey doesn’t care that he’s the short-stop and his best friend is sitting the bench. Mike will feel bad that Danny is getting a divorce, but they won’t spend a hell of a lot time talking about it, but Danny’s ex and her friend – they’ll be discussing it for years. We women like drama and men, that avoid it like the plague, simply have more energy to put toward other things.
Eventually women age and care less, but by 40 you’ll have so many shitty friends to get rid of you’ll feel like a mob boss or a terrorist. It’s so much easier to learn these skills young and not allow your boundaries to be crossed in the first place.
So that’s my new mission life – My number one goal as a parent. I want my daughters to surround themselves with friends that inspire them to be better, challenge them to think, support them when they succeed and pick them up when they fail. I want my daughters to be that type of friend to others. But I want them to be accountable when the screw up and expect their friends to do the same. I want them to know all about boundaries. How to create them, how to protect them and how to recognize when they are crossing those of another.