Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships

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9780312649425: Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships
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A woman can always count on are her friends―right? But what if those friendships are hurtful, harmful, even toxic? Susan Shapiro Barash explores the ten types of female friends and shows you why and how women get stuck with the worst kinds, the ways to get "unstuck, and how to recognize a true friend."

For example:

· The Leader of the Pack―it's all on her terms
· The Doormat―and why you're the one paying the price
· The Misery Lover―she wants to feel your pain. Really.
· The User―and why you seldom see her coming
· The Trophy Friend―and what you gain from each other

Provocative and fascinating, Susan Shapiro Barash looks at the bonds (and bondage) of female friendships in a new light.

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About the Author:

Susan Shapiro Barash is an established writer of nonfiction women's issue books. She teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College. A well-recognized gender expert, she is frequently sought out by newspapers, televisions shows, and radio programs to comment on women's issues. She lives in New York City.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

TOXIC FRIENDS

ONE The Leader: Ruling the Pack

 - Does this friend feel more powerful to you than other friends?

 - Would you go to extremes to be in her good graces?

 - Do you depend on her plans for your social life?

 - Does she try to control you at times?

 - Have you always been attracted to friends who call the shots?

If so, your friend is a leader, and you are part of her “group.”

“I’m always in charge; I tell everyone when and where and I decide what’s in and what’s not,” began Eliza, 31, who lives in the Midwest and is a telemarketer. “It sounds easy, but it’s a lot of pressure. I don’t want anyone else to take my place, but I also find that everyone’s social life revolves around me and it’s tiring.

“I’ve been this way since grade school. I remember everyone thinking I was the prettiest and smartest girl by first grade, and everyone wanted to be my friend. It was flattering, but I remember wondering, Wow, what do I do next? I had a boyfriend by fourth grade and he gave me a bracelet. All the other girls were impressed. For years, my birthday party was the big deal in our small town; every girl wanted to be invited. I was picked to be on everyone’s team whether it was for a spelling bee in third grade or for a pep rally in high school. By then I was the girl who had a steady boyfriend; the captain of the fire twirlers. This went on in college, too. I guess I know how to be a leader and I’m sort of bossy, because I can be. I definitely make rules. If someone in my group dates a guy I think is a jerk, she starts to doubt him.”

 

What we learn from Eliza is that she not only relishes being a leader, but she also believes in an absolute monarchy—and doesn’t seem concerned with her “friends,” whom she lords over. She has been at it for so long that it doesn’t occur to her that a leader can lose her footing and be replaced. And therein lies the thought process of many a leader—it can be a lot of responsibility leading women around.

The leader is the friend we feel we must have, the one who can make or break our social lives. Being the leader renders one a “winner”—she is strong and outspoken; she understands her potency. She is the one who gets us invited to parties and makes the decisions for herself and for her friends. Women of all ages know instinctively that crossing the leader is always a bad idea. She wields influence and control; within groups of friends, she is the lynchpin. This type of friend is familiar to us by high school, as we are reminded in the feature film Mean Girls when Rachel McAdams’s character, Regina George, pushes the followers of her group, The Plastics, to do her bidding. Her latest prey is Lindsay Lohan’s character, Cady Heron, newly arrived on the suburban Chicago scene after having been raised in the African bush by her zoologist parents. Cady’s quick assimilation into the fast lane and a fight for the role of leader ensue.

The Slippery Slope

Since leadership has eluded women in our society for centuries, it makes sense that “the leader” among women friends is a title that is not easy to attain or sustain. A leader in a group of friends may have traits that reflect those of a female leader in government or in the workplace. After all, it’s a rough climb to the top, with obstacles at every turn and harsh judgments for those women who desire to lead in any arena. However, a group of friends is singular in its mission, comprised of several or more females who seek one another out for companionship and connection. A leader, more than other types of female friends, views her role as a job that she hopes is manageable, without foul play among the ranks. Women feel rewarded for belonging to a clique or a clan; this social support offers security and assuages loneliness.

As we mature, the longing to be a part of a group persists, as does the leader’s ability to assign us roles. The leader identity, minus the high school mentality of Mean Girls, is apparent in the HBO series Big Love. This drama about a seemingly righteous man who is also a polygamist with three wives (called “sister-wives”) and three sets of children features Jeanne Tripplehorn as Barb, the first (and only legal) wife, who leads the other two, Nicky, the second wife (played by Chloë Sevigny), and the third, youngest wife, Margene (played by Ginnifer Goodwin). What is so fascinating is how the two younger wives manipulate each other; they’re cloying and incisive. But these women also genuinely yearn for a connection to each other and for Tripplehorn’s character, Barb, to lead. Even when the leader annoys us or exerts too much dominion, we are drawn to her.

Inner Sanctum

You’ve worked hard to cultivate your assemblage of friends these past fifteen years since college, and you’ve been the ringleader. The dynamic has changed over time, and not everyone’s lives are parallel anymore. There are those who are married with children—some of these mothers are working and some are not—others are preoccupied with their careers, and some friends are getting divorced. In this diverse group, what holds everyone together is devotion and reliance. In fact, when articles on toxic friends and breakups among women run in women’s magazines, you thank your lucky stars this isn’t part of your life.

That is, until recently, when you invited a new “member” into the group, and it stirred up a few problems. It seemed the right thing to do, although without your reaching out to her, she wouldn’t have stood a chance. It now seems she’s become divisive and is excluding you. This woman has invited the others in the “group” to her home, and you haven’t been invited, and it’s come back to you that she’s said a few unkind things. The worst part is that you consider her a friend. And she’s so charming that no one would believe she was trying to exclude you anyway. You decide to buck up and try harder to win her over.

Narcissistic Tendencies

The above example shows us how a woman who has worked hard to be the leader is exposed to a withering of command. This has been reflected in television shows, quite often as of late. In the reality television series The Girls Next Door, Hugh Hefner and his three girlfriends show us something identifiable and titillating about women befriending one another in a select group and competing at once. Holly is the leader, representing Hefner’s “wife” of the three. Despite Holly’s rank, she’s still willing to scheme and undermine the others. This proves that one’s role as leader is frequently precarious and always highly touted. In the 2007/2008 season of Desperate Housewives, actresses Marcia Cross and Dana Delaney (new to the 2007 season) had “their claws out for each other,” as reported in Star magazine. Apparently, Cross and Delaney bickered “on-screen” and off, and in true form for those with a leader mentality, over which actress has more screen time.

The Crowd Pleaser

When we consider the leader’s desire for recognition, to be the outstanding one in the crowd, we have to ask if her influence over her friends is pure. In a culture in which the individual is recognized for her talents and thoughts, groups of friends are, nonetheless, often formed based on shared attitudes and belief systems. Even if the leader stands apart from the group by definition, she represents a collective point of view. If a group of young women decides to boycott the prom, the leader is at the head of the opposition. If someone is going to be singled out, the leader determines who she is and how she will be treated; when a new “member” is allowed in, the leader orchestrates this change in the ranks. If this all sounds sophomoric and callow, consider Janine, 37, who lives in Santa Fe, where she is a chef and the self-proclaimed leader of her social circle. She described her leverage and how if she alters her behavior, her friends will do the same.

Anything that’s social for me is about my being ahead of my friends and having a kind of attitude. I don’t want just one friend; I want at least four or five women, who have to be at any event after me. These are my closest friends and I want them to think they’re missing out on something if we don’t do things together. At times I’ve encouraged these friends to be unfriendly to other women, and no one can bring a new friend in. It works best this way. Since I’m a chef, we’ll meet at the restaurant where I work and we’ll decide what happens that season; if we’re going to go to every party in town, if we’re going to buy theater tickets . . . If someone seems to have a lot of ideas, I’m wary. We also have to tell one another what’s going on, offer support if someone is going through a tough time or getting divorced or breaking up with a boyfriend.

 

In Janine’s experience we see a very deliberate manner regarding her place as leader. This identity is a large part of her life, and needing friends appears to be about enhancing her position. Little is mentioned about how her friends mold her perspective, but much concern is expressed for her status.

Part of the Herd

When leaders describe the benefits of their stance, many times they omit the essentials of friendship: concern, caring, and intimacy. These qualities are not always at the forefront of the leader’s commitment to her friends—she is too busy keeping her position intact and leading the herd. As Dr. Claire Owen, psychology profes...

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Book Description Griffin Publishing, United States, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. A woman can always count on her friends - right? But what if those friendships are hurtful, harmful, even toxic? Susan Shapiro Barash explores the various types of female friends and shows you why and how women get stuck with the worst kinds, the ways to get unstuck, and how to recognize a true friend. For example: The Leader of the Pack - it's all on her terms; The Doormat - and why you're the one paying the price; The Misery Lover - she wants to feel your pain; The User - and why you seldom see her coming; The Frenemy - and the things she's really after; The Trophy Friend - and what you gain from each other; and, The Authentic Friend - the Real Deal, and how to keep her. Provocative and fascinating, Susan Shapiro Barash looks at the bonds (and bondage) of female friendships in a new and intimate light. Seller Inventory # AAV9780312649425

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Book Description Griffin Publishing, United States, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. A woman can always count on her friends - right? But what if those friendships are hurtful, harmful, even toxic? Susan Shapiro Barash explores the various types of female friends and shows you why and how women get stuck with the worst kinds, the ways to get unstuck, and how to recognize a true friend. For example: The Leader of the Pack - it's all on her terms; The Doormat - and why you're the one paying the price; The Misery Lover - she wants to feel your pain; The User - and why you seldom see her coming; The Frenemy - and the things she's really after; The Trophy Friend - and what you gain from each other; and, The Authentic Friend - the Real Deal, and how to keep her. Provocative and fascinating, Susan Shapiro Barash looks at the bonds (and bondage) of female friendships in a new and intimate light. Seller Inventory # AAV9780312649425

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Book Description Griffin Publishing, United States, 2010. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. A woman can always count on her friends - right? But what if those friendships are hurtful, harmful, even toxic? Susan Shapiro Barash explores the various types of female friends and shows you why and how women get stuck with the worst kinds, the ways to get unstuck, and how to recognize a true friend. For example: The Leader of the Pack - it's all on her terms; The Doormat - and why you're the one paying the price; The Misery Lover - she wants to feel your pain; The User - and why you seldom see her coming; The Frenemy - and the things she's really after; The Trophy Friend - and what you gain from each other; and, The Authentic Friend - the Real Deal, and how to keep her. Provocative and fascinating, Susan Shapiro Barash looks at the bonds (and bondage) of female friendships in a new and intimate light. Seller Inventory # BZE9780312649425

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Book Description St. Martin's Griffin. Paperback. Condition: New. 288 pages. Dimensions: 8.0in. x 5.4in. x 0.9in.A woman can always count on are her friendsright But what if those friendships are hurtful, harmful, even toxic Susan Shapiro Barash explores the ten types of female friends and shows you why and how women get stuck with the worst kinds, the ways to get unstuck, and how to recognize a true friend. For example: The Leader of the Packits all on her terms The Doormatand why youre the one paying the price The Misery Lovershe wants to feel your pain. Really. The Userand why you seldom see her coming The Trophy Friendand what you gain from each other Provocative and fascinating, Susan Shapiro Barash looks at the bonds (and bondage) of female friendships in a new light. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780312649425

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