Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel's new column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you're not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email email@example.com.
My best friend always brings her boyfriend along when we make plans. Their relationship is so dysfunctional his presence is unbearable. Individually, they're both great people, but when they're together, she nags him constantly and he ignores her, or they fight and then look to others to take sides. They've been dating for a very long time and years ago, their fighting felt like shtick — it was their "thing" — but in the past 3-4 years it's moved into incredibly unpleasant territory.
First, I want to compliment you for not taking sides in their fraught relationship. It is so easy to sympathize with one party and vilify the other – I know I've done it. Unless one of the individuals involved is abusing the other, I think it generally takes two to tango when it comes to relationship shenanigans.
You can't fix their relationship. I think you know that. As an aside, I absolutely hate those couples who fight as a funny ha-ha way of working out their twisted issues in front of other people. It is the lamest of all shtick.
What you can do is let her know how much their fighting bothers you. Preface it with your statement that individually, they're both great people.
Example: "Tina, I love you, and I think Tony is an amazing person. I like you both so much. But I have to be honest and tell you that your fighting really bothers me. It seems like it's been on the rise for the past three or four years, and it makes me uncomfortable to hang out with you two together. Like, remember that time we were at that concert where Dave Matthews opened for Wiz Khalifa, and you guys argued over which guy was handsomer? And then Tony set your purse on fire while you threw cat poop at him? That was really awkward, and not just because it made me realize you carry cat poop around in your pocket. I'm not blaming you and I'm not blaming him. I've just observed that for the past three or four years you guys seem to have a conflict every time I see you." Regardless of her reaction, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you've done a good thing by serving as a mirror for her behavior (and his).
I am in my late 20s and have recently begun interacting with a collective of like-minded feminists. They are all very bright and beautiful and I am extremely intimidated by them, although it's clear that we do have some common ground. I do tend to listen rather than chat; it's more important to me to let others speak, and I'm better able to process my own thoughts that way. I'm also a dork in many ways (I don't wear makeup, I have a dorky job, I mostly wear t-shirts and cardigans, etc.) Is there room for me there? How do I overcome this obnoxious self-esteem issue?
Oh my gosh, I feel like you are such a cool person and you just don't realize it. First of all, t-shirts and cardigans are delightful — I believe the cardigan represents the highest evolution of the sweater. Second, don't you dare dog on yourself for not wearing makeup. I find women often love it when other gals don't wear makeup. It gives us all permission to literally show our true faces. Don't get me wrong; makeup is a delight. But there is nothing wrong with having the confidence to go paint-free sometimes!
The third thing that makes me think you are really cool is the sweet way in which you describe these other women. You admire them for their intelligence and beauty, and you enjoy being around them. The trouble is that you don't put yourself on their level! Like attracts like, and I bet you are just as hot and smart as these other betties. So maybe you aren't that Gloria Steinem kind of feminist who wears fabulous designer clothes and fierce eyeliner. That is A-okay! After all, isn't feminism about women being able to express themselves in ways that may challenge established societal norms? Whether you're a conventionally beautiful and fashionable gal who marches in pro-choice protests, or a more low-maintenance, bare-faced lady who rocks t-shirts and jeans while writing haiku celebrating the beauty of the vagina, or any of the other unlimited iterations of cool feminist chicks, you are still a feminist and your voice matters.
This is completely cheesy, but I recommend you do some mirror work. Before you go, "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" lemmee finish! I want you to look in the mirror every single day and say to yourself, "I am fucking awesome exactly the way I am." Then take a deep breath, square your shoulders, and set out into the world. I really think affirmations like this one work. You can tack on this bit as an addendum: "And anyone who doesn't like me just the way I am is fucking bonkers." It's not exactly positive and spiritual, but it's the truth.
I love making friends and usually make friends very easily. My trouble is that I don't know how to hold on to a friend. I'll have a couple nights out or party invites then my friendships just kind of dry up. Oh, ALSO, I'm a new mother now, sooo that's complicated the matter even more. I miss having friends. How do I keep friendships going?
I've been pondering this question myself lately (minus the mommy part), as I recently moved to Los Angeles and had a flurry of new friend dates. My conclusion — and perhaps it'll be yours — is to always follow up with a thank-you note afterwards explaining that I would love to hang out again. Then I wait about a week before inviting the gal to do something else. If she's into it, cool. If not, that's fine — the ball is in her court for inviting me to do something. If I really dig her I may send her two invitations before I cede date-making responsibility to her.
Isolation can plague the new mom, so I think it's great that you are already on the ball about not allowing this to happen. If you are an at-home mom, you may want to check out International MOMS Club, which helps moms in similar situations find each other. If you're a mom who works outside of the home, you may want to organize a monthly get-together with moms you encounter on the job (and their friends, and their friends' friends, and so forth.) Call it a Motherhood Survival Club or the I'm Still A Person, Goddammit! Association. If you are partnered, make that monthly date a sacred event for which it is understood he/she shall babysit. This is your happiness and well-being we're talking about here.
As for individual friendships with folks who don't have kids, well, some of these relationships are going to change. It's just what happens when you aren't as available as you once were and have reached a stage of life that is not part of their experience. Make sure to take the first step to send an email or make a phone call inviting them over. Again, the partner-as-babysitter (or someone-else-as-babysitter) can be a great asset in this case, even if it's just for two hours while you go to yoga with your friend. I wish you the best of luck, and remember to be patient with your friends and with yourself. This is probably new territory for all of you.