Saturday, September 27, 2014

Letting Go



“Let It Go” is sung in our house a hundred times a day. We get bonus plays in Spanish and Italian due to our multicultural family blend, but in essence it’s the same song over, and over, and OVER again. I ride the wave with it, like all things children related, it’s a phase they will outgrow soon enough. Typically the outgrowing occurs when they discover their next maddening obsession.

Yet this song in particular got me thinking about life, friendships, and letting go. Specifically, it got me thinking about girlfriends and frenemies. The word frenemy is an interesting one. I was surprised to learn that it’s been around since the 1950s, and not invented recently with the surge of bad teenage movies. It’s a word our kids learn early. I remember my daughter coming home from kindergarten asking what it meant because another young girl had used it. It’s a word I despise for everything it stands for, and it’s as utterly confusing as the coining of the term “friendly fire” during wars. What is a frenemy? Is it a friend, an enemy, is it a close enemy you choose to keep close? If so, why in the world, just why?

Finding a good girlfriend at my age is the equivalent of finding a faithful boyfriend in high school, it’s almost impossible. Perhaps we discriminate more and become harder to please, perhaps we don’t have as much time to waste as our younger selves. I often feel that good girlfriends are as endangered as the Puerto Rican Nightjar (Note: No one I know has ever seen this rare bird). Needless to say I’ve found my friend list gradually decreasing, while my standards are increasing. This might be good or bad, I don’t know yet. I know that having girlfriends is as beneficial as having a community, but the old adage “It is better to be alone than in bad company” rings true when dealing with frenemies.

Out of curiosity, how many frenemies do you have in your life? Do you even know?

Sadly, as women we are socialized to compete very early on; and it happens in the most vicious way possible: via our physical traits. I say vicious because it is impossible if not dangerous to change the way we look. Unless we commit to plastic surgery we will always have our nose, our skin, our hips. And it’s a problem when little girls are taught to use these traits as ploys of superiority so that they believe there is actual value in being born “pretty”. Not to say beauty is a curse, but in many ways the emphasis we put on it is.

Competition also arises from natural comparisons and contrived praises adults put on children. I was raised in a Latin culture where girls are praised for being flirtatious, sexy, and display exhibitionist tendencies. Those are shaky values at best, and inevitably leads us to grow up as women with unhealthy obsessions and a tenuous understanding of female bonds.

It’s taken me years of thought and analysis to put this behind me, and as a mother to two young girls it is something I am very conscious of. Both my daughters are often praised for their beauty, one more than the other, and it is a conversation we have frequently in the car, at home, on our walks to and from school. I want them to know that these comments, while they seem nice enough, are not useful and can be damaging. There are so many other adjectives to use when praising children, why do we always resort to cuteness?

There are other types of competition too, such as intellectual superiority, job hierarchy, or for those who identify themselves through their partner’s professions it turns into mundane conversations centered on what our partners do for a living. Female competitiveness is embedded so thickly that it comes out in every interaction between us, as women, as co-workers, and as mothers.

None of us are perfect, but all of us deserve quality people in our lives. Whether those numbers are few or many might be contingent on luck. Sometimes it’s easier to weed out frenemies before the relationship develops, but how many years of subtle competition do you put up with before you finally decide to move on? And when do you know it’s time to move on? It might take you a long time before realizing you are dealing with a frenemy. Doubts can begin to surface or you might not immediately trust your instincts. At some point though, you have to follow your feelings and assess the friendship. Most important in your assessments is the need to have a clear understanding that people don’t change unless they 1: become aware of their limitations, and 2: They want to change. No amount of hanging out with them will do it. And that’s okay. You don’t have to change them; you don’t have force your values on them. You can, however allow them to move on with their lives and wish them the best, hopefully in some form of enlightenment. 




11 comments:

  1. great post. i have been thinking about this too... one of my friend's has 2 daughters (ages 4 and 6) and i notice everyone compliments them all the time, "you're so cute.. your dress is so cute.. your shoes are cute..." and its constant to the point that now the girls seek those compliments. "do you think my dress is cute today?" i struggle with how to respond to them without hurting them or their parents feelings. (although i have bluntly told them, 'God doesn't look on the outside he looks at the heart so it doesn't matter if your dress is cute or not.') they pretty much ignored me when i replied with that answer. -_-...

    and yes.. 'Let it Go" has somehow infiltrated every aspect of our lives. whenever i say the words let it go, the students i work with always belt out the rest of the song.

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    1. Those are really good points you make, and I love your approach in making more constructive compliments. Sometimes kids will ignore but the seed you planted will stay. Thank you.

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  2. I have one person not related to me that I truly consider to be a friend. When life is busy we might go weeks without seeing or talking to each other and then pick up right where we left off. I can tell her anything and never feel judged.

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    1. All we need is one good friend and that is enough. Thank you for your comment.

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  3. Sometimes I wonder how my daughter deals with all of the frenemy stuff because it would make me crazy. It is not like it doesn't happen with boys/men but it is very different. I don't completely understand it, but I see it, rough stuff.

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    1. I have no idea of how boys work in this realm but it's always good as parent to remain as guides when navigating sticky relationships. Thank you.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your “Letting Go” piece this week, Patricia. Surely food for thought, as I continue to navigate my daughter in her transitional kindergarten environment, filled with sharing is caring and play nice with all your classmates daily mantras.

    I am reminded of a piece from an unknown author, “Reason, Season, Lifetime,” on friendships. “...It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.” This poem reminds me of those who come into my life and if you are so fortunate to know who your genuine friends are, they stay and travel the journey with you. Identifying an acquaintance, friend, frenemy or enemy is like determining whether you cherish, love, like, dislike, hate or loathe a person. In my opinion, a genuine friendship does not throw off the emotional pendulum from one end to the other. I have two very best friends, one I have known since first grade and the other, we met when we were in the fifth grade. We have gone through our ups and downs over the years, and my relationship with both of them have been solid, never threading close to dislike or hate on the scale. Women are social creatures; we love to socialize, gab and gossip. However, a true friend sticks with you during the thick and thin, especially during the thickest, hardest and most challenges moments in your life.

    So, as for my daughter, I want to bestow upon her words of wisdom on friendship that I have gained over the span of 30 plus years with my best friends. It’s not easy, especially when many of her classmates (“friends”) are from the same class last year. The girls that she played with last year are not the same girls she is playing with, thus far, this year. “Do you play with Sophia?” (No, Mommy. Sophia plays with Lauren.) So, I advise her, “That’s okay. It’s okay to take a break from Sophia and play with Abigail and Samantha and... It’s a very big class and you have a lot of friends, so take turns playing with each other.” Easy words to say, I know, but her innocence (their innocence) has not been tainted, yet. Letting go will get harder, we know, and being comfortable and happy in your own skin MUST prevail. And in the end, I know my daughter will know who her real friends are. I appreciate what you have shared and the inspiration others can provide.

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    1. I am thrilled to hear I am not the only parent who wants to be involved in her children's social circles (as well as everything else) I tend to be more cutthroat about friendships, which I know I shouldn't be but it is yet another goal I am working on. Thank you for your insightful comment.

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  5. These are all good values to focus on. Sounds like you've got the whole "mom" thing down cold. Or sideways warm? Idioms are hard.

    For the record, I have no clue what "frenemy" is supposed to even mean. So guess I don't have any. Also, can't really say I have any enemies, either. I tend to just cut out people I don't want to have around. (And then murder them). Uh, no I don't murder them. (Yes you do!) No I don't, shut up. (You shut up!)

    Glad we've had this conversation.

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    1. That sounds like a good strategy for dealing with frenemies! Thank you.

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  6. Life is too short to waste energy on anyone other than people with whom you choose to spend time. It's just too soul-sucking.
    I love your point about the socialization of women to become natural enemies, and I think it's very unnatural. Men don't compete in the same below-the-belt criticism based solely on looks. Those insults cut to the core of who someone believes herself to be, and it's way too personal. And a shame. You're right - it starts very young.

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