Friendship Dilemmas

Published August, 17, 2018.

Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend. Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere. Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow. Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. On this week's agenda, friendship. Big Friendship, our forthcoming book; friendships where privilege gets in the way; friendships where one of you has moved on and doesn't know how to talk about it; friendships that are post-breakup; and also friendships where fat-shaming comes into play. All of these friendships and more on today's episode. [Theme Song] Aminatou: Hey Ann Friedman. Ann: Oh my god, big week. Big week. [Laughs] Aminatou: Big week happening over here. What's so big about your week? Ann: I mean it's also your week and . . . Aminatou: Tell me about it. Ann: The lead is that we are writing a book. Aminatou: Congratulations! Baby's first book deal! Ann: Which I have to say I realize through the process of telling friends that we're actually going to do this thing that for me . . . you know the way that some people are like "I've just always known I want to be a mother, like it's a thing I want to do before I die." Aminatou: [Laughs] Ann: Or like "I've just always known I want to live in another country," or that I want to, whatever, get married or whatever life milestone. I'm like writing a book is literally the only thing I've been 100% certain I want to do before I die and I'm like I'm doing it with you! Aminatou: Listen, I am super excited about this. Also I'm very proud of you. Congratulations. You're going to check one of your big milestones off of your list. That's cool. And I'm excited that we're doing it together. It's been fun so far. Ann: What is the book about? Aminatou: So the book is called Big Friendship. Ann: Yes! Aminatou: [Laughs] This has been our elevator pitch about it is that it's a memoir manifesto of a decade-long friendship with lessons learned along the way. Ann: Yeah! So it is not Call Your Girlfriend: The Book because it is not a thing that we're doing as a collab with Gina, an essential part of Call Your Girlfriend. It is not . . . Aminatou: It's not an advice book because . . . Ann: I mean because listen, we're still figuring out all of this stuff in real-time. It is mostly like oh shit, we wish we had done this differently. Aminatou: Right. This is us like calling to the . . . it's like if friendship is some sort of long-ass marathon, we've only made it to the ten-mile marker and we're definitely on our knees and we're trying to do the rest of it better. So yeah, it's not an advice book. It's not Call Your Girlfriend: The Book. It's not a coffee table book. It's not like fabulous pictures of us in a caftan. It's not a self-care book. All of those things are on the road map for later. [Laughs] (4:00) Ann: Right. And it's not also strictly a like this is how we think the world should be kind of book although we did some good dictionary reading in the course of conceptualizing this book and working on the proposal. And the word manifesto -- hang on, I'm going to find the actual definition. Aminatou: Ann, this is truly the best trick that you've brought into my life is if you're struggling with something you should just read the dictionary definition of it. Ann: Listen, thank John McPhee who I stole it from. Aminatou: Oh my god, I'm not giving credit to a man; I'm going to give credit to you who brought it into my life. So the whole thing has been nuts to me. All I'm doing is reading the dictionary now. Thank you. Ann: 100%. I love the dictionary, what else is new? You know I love words. [Laughs] Aminatou: I'm going to make you that t-shirt, I Love the Dictionary. Ann: But you know a manifesto is about sort of making certain intentions public and making certain things that maybe were implied specific and literal and I think that is part of what we're doing as well. It's not just the story of the two of us but also the story of like the cultural stew that we swim in and the messages that we have been given about friendship and how those things have affected us trying to do this thing with each other. [Laughs] Aminatou: Right, and also just taking that conversation to the next level. Like there have been so many great books about women's friendship recently. We've even talked about some of them on the show like Kayleen Schaefer's book Text Me When You Get Home. And it's cool to talk about friendship and friendship is in the atmosphere. But the thing is there are no books written from the perspective of people who are struggling in friendships or people who are trying to do the thing and there are many books written like that about what it's like to be a parent or what it's like to want to be married or romantic relationships. And for us this was an opportunity to do this with -- you know, when the book is coming from inside the house. So . . . (6:00) Ann: Right. Right, if those other books are like a drone-level view of the kind of place friendship holds in modern life ours is like you're in the house. You're under the couch cushions where it's dirty and difficult. We're in it. I think that is an important visual. Aminatou: Right! And it's also different from the podcast in that on the podcast we get to do this every week and we get to talk to each other but there's still a lot of assumptions that people make about our friendship or about us. So this is one way to tell the story differently, to be honest about it differently. And I think the goal is it will just make people talk about their own friendships. Like part of why we do these mail bag episodes or that people are constantly asking us for friendship advice is they think we have it figured out. And it's like are you kidding? [Laughter] Are you kidding? I'm secretly the one writing all of these every month. Like no. Ann: Wow, this explains so much. Aminatou: It explains so much. "What do I do when my friend is so beautiful and successful?" The truth is yeah, a lot of people think that we have it figured out. I clearly do not have it figured out and what would help me figure it out is if everybody was having a more honest conversation, especially women, about what it's like to be in a relationship together. For as much as we value it in that you're supposed to collect women in your life nobody talks about how messy it is. So we're going to go there. I'm super excited about this. Ann: Yeah, 100%. And I think your point earlier about we do something on the podcast that I think is intimate, like we share of ourselves. We are in conversation with each other. There are things you can learn about our dynamic as two humans from listening. But then there's like a lot of other stuff that is not appropriate for the week in, week out of this podcast and that I think is where the real work of friendship -- like our friendship and friendship in general -- gets done. And so I think of this less as like oh, here's how we solved all these problems we had and more like here's how we started talking in honest ways about all the problems we have. [Laughs] (8:10) Aminatou: Totally. And also if you think about the things that you learn from the most, nobody is going like "Hey, please listen to episode 92 of this podcast." [Laughs] Like all of your friends. Ann: Right. Aminatou: You know, and saying this is the thing . . . like book writing is a different exercise. God, we already sound annoying. Like people -- people who write books who talk about their book all the time drive me nuts and I realize that I'm fully going to become one of those people. I get it now. But, you know, it's . . . Ann: I've already told you that this is basically my baby so get ready. Aminatou: It's true. It is your -- you know, I still need to process that. I don't think I ever thought I would ever write a book before. And you know me, I'm a notorious post-processor. Like I'll probably cry about this in two years, about what an incredible accomplishment it was. So . . . Ann: Just in time for it to come out in paperback, crying. Aminatou: Inshallah, paperback. So if you are just like thirsty to know more about what's going on in our lives this book is for you. If you're somebody who wants to learn more about women's friendship and the intimacy between women this book is for you. If you are somebody who also wants to read about how women's intimacy is being weaponized and really alienates a lot of people this book is also for you. So if you want to find out more you can go to bigfriendship.com, sign up for some alerts. The book does not come out forever but we will be doing regular updates on the podcast. Ann: Yeah, and if we seem a little frazzled/unexpectedly deep at random moments and also really exhausted at others it's probably because we have this book-writing process going on in the background. Aminatou: Let me tell you, book-writing's the worst scam because you have to do the work. I don't like this. (9:55) Ann: So we thought it would be good to do this episode with a nod to the question -- some of the questions that you all have sent in related to friendship as a kick-off for our book process in general. So yeah, do you want to read some questions? Aminatou: Sure, let's do it. The first question, "I would like to get your perspectives on how to support a friend in his career transition/job search. My friend has been on the job market for three years now. For the first year or two he was focused on trying to find an academic position in a tiny niche within the social sciences. In the past six months he's been earnestly looking for non-profit and private sector research positions. My concern is that he does not have experience for the positions he wants. I have a contact at an organization he plans to apply to but I am inclined to tell him he is not ready for a research directorship at a non-profit. I'm wondering if this would be a shitty move on my part. I think he would have better luck looking for a more junior position and trying to work his way up to where he wants. A little context: we met eleven years ago when we were in graduate school. I completed an MA and worked in the non-profit sector for ten years. He completed his PhD three years ago. He has done some adjunct teaching but other than that has not held a paid position or done any contract work since before grad school." My eyes are rolling. "There is definitely also a privilege story here that I buy into. I'm a queer woman of color and we had vastly different upbringings. His parents are highly-paid professionals with multiple degrees. Mine are working-class immigrants who went bankrupt two months after I started uni. I worked through school and only recently accepted financial support from family to pay off the last of my student debt. He has always received significant financial support from family. So back to the question: am I right to want to tell my friend to lower his expectations at this stage in his career? I'm used to doing the opposite, trying to encourage black and brown women and trans folks to reach higher than they believe they can and work my resources to help them do it. Should I set him up with my contact? Have a heart-to-heart with him about expectations? Or both?" Girl! (12:00) Ann: So much to unpack here as they say. As they say. Yeah. Aminatou: Whew. Ann: So there are a couple of different layers here. I mean I feel like there is the privilege layer for sure. There is the mixing friendship and professional stuff layer. And then there's also this layer that is about like when should you not just relentlessly cheerlead your friends? When does it actually hurt them to continually be like "You've got this. You've got this. You've got this. Go for it. Go for it. Go for it." Like at what point do you walk back your unilateral support if ever? Like I think, I don't know, am I missing anything else? So many things. Aminatou: I mean yeah, I think those are . . . I think those are all the things. But, you know, some of them too are just about expectations right? The first thing that I hear here is I have a contact at an organization he plans to apply to. But is he asking you to endorse him or are you assuming? That's a thing that's not clear to me from this email, right? Ann: Right, if he's explicitly like "Will you intro me?" Aminatou: Right, it's like "Will you intro me?" which is a very different question from "Ugh, my friend is applying at a thing where I know people and he's going to embarrass me with his PhD." So those are wildly different questions. [Laughs] The theme that runs through all of this for me though is it's actually not about this job search; it's about the kind of communication you have with your friend. I feel this deeply, like always being the cheerleader of especially my black and brown women friends and my LGBT friends and getting them to go for it and reach higher and whatever, but I do that because 1) they're all fucking accomplished and 2) the world usually tells them that they don't deserve the things they're going for, right? So being somebody who is able to use your resources to help your friends -- you know, your friends that look like you or your friends from communities that are more marginalized than you -- to help them reach their dreams, that to me is a fundamentally different question from do I do that for my white friends? (14:00) And I've done it differently across the years. I think that in the last two years I've been more conscious of can they get to this end goal without me? And if the answer is yes I don't -- it's like the idea of pouring all of my resources into helping most of my more privileged friends is something that has become harder and harder for me to do and I've had to have really uncomfortable conversations about it. But they're also necessary conversations because a lot of times you realize that you're both making assumptions, right? Like if you're saying "Well this person always had help from their family and I didn't," if that's kind of the first time they know how you feel about that, I'm not saying it's a red flag but it's definitely something you should spend more time unpacking with them. Ann: Yeah, and I think that that is something I think about when I hear this question too, right? What about your friend's job search is making you feel shitty about your friendship with him, right? So if it is you're not sort of expressing "Hey, guess what? I worked for ten years and I built these contacts through my own sweat equity and it is hurtful to me and disrespectful of the work I've put in in my own career when you ask for those contacts without acknowledging that you haven't put in similar work." You know, some of it can be about just acknowledgment as well like how would this look different if it were like "Listen, I know it is a priority for you to help people from underrepresented communities. I am not such a person, but . . ." Aminatou: Totally. Ann: You know, I don't think that means that you have to do it if the person acknowledge the role these types of privilege play but I do think it can open the door for the kind of conversation that clearly needs to happen here. Like if you're both acknowledging that it is not just like "Hey pal, can I get that email?" Like there's a lot of other things going on. Aminatou: Right. It's more than that, right? And I think too that like I have been -- and I know you probably have too, Ann -- in the position of somebody that you truly love is applying to . . . forget the gender/race lens or whatever. Somebody that you truly love is applying to a job that you do not think they are ready for and having to have the honest conversation of "Listen, I can 100% pass on your resume but I cannot give you a full-throated endorsement because I do not think that you're ready for it." (16:25) Ann: Have you said that to people before? Aminatou: Yes, and it's really uncomfortable! It's wildly uncomfortable. And it's because for a long time I was an avoider, right? Where I was like ugh, when the email shows up of "Will you help me do this?" and I'm just like "Hmm, you're not ready." Or "Sure, I'll do it," and then either not do it or do it in a way where I just forward the resume and I'm like "Hi, I know this person but I don't think they're ready for the job." Basically you push it on to the other person's -- into somebody else's court. The truth was I realized oh, I just need to be more comfortable having these conversations where I say "I love you. I can certainly pass on your resume because that costs me nothing. But I cannot give you the endorsement you want." And it's like professional reputation takes a really long time to build up and again when you come from a marginalized community you feel that so much more closely. And for somebody to just very cavalierly be like "I'm expecting you to help me" without a larger conversation about what that means in your friendship is usually very telling about a lot of other kinds of dynamics. Ann: Yeah. I mean often what I will do is I will just say to someone that I will be honest about how I know you. So I'll say "Look," in the case of this question-asker, I would maybe say "You can have the email address" because most of the time professional email addresses are publicly available. "But if I do forward along your resume it will say this person is a personal friend of mine who I have never worked with." Aminatou: Yeah, exactly. (18:00) Ann: It will be I will be categorizing you according to -- or "This is a person I met once at a networking thing whose day-to-day work experience I cannot vouch for." That is usually what I do is I say "Look, I will forward but I will be honest." And I think that's not really what this question is about. I mean the question is 100% about work capital and personal relationships but really I feel like this question is about feeling put upon in the friendship and this friend does not understand her position, you know? In the world, in the profession, all of that. Aminatou: Totally. And part of why they don't understand -- the friend doesn't understand your position, or their position -- is because it's not something that you've discussed. And I think that, you know, it's interesting especially when you're the friend who is the cheerleader all the time, it is really interesting how some people expect to help versus some people are -- they think you move the world if you do the smallest thing in the world for them, like i.e. give them an email that is publicly available. And it's not surprising to me what racial and gender categories those two people tend to fall into right? And so I think that one of the things -- one of the points about being in interracial friendships is you need to be able to talk about this stuff honestly and say "Hi, I worked really hard to get to where I'm at, and to feel I can ask for help in a professional setting is something that does not come easily for me. And when I see you do it so easily it makes me think about XYZ and it makes me think . . ." It's like this person is your friend. Clearly you love them. You should be able to talk to them about this. It is hard, but if you want to be friends with them for a long time you're going to have to. (19:52) Ann: Right. This person is saying "Do I send the contact? Do I have a heart-to-heart?" I say the answer is have a heart-to-heart before, during, and after all of this. [Laughs] Aminatou: Right. Don't do anything for a friend that you will end up resenting them for later if you haven't had a real talk about it because then it is not fair to resent them for it. Ann: And I feel like the deeper expectations question, like if you kind of try to separate that out from the questions of privilege that we were talking about of just like how do you tell a friend to lower their expectations, I feel like that is something that is a lot easier to do if you have a fully-expressed and honest exchange about a lot of this other stuff frankly. Aminatou: Totally. Totally, totally, totally. Wow, who knew? This work question, so deep. [Laughs] Ann: Oh my god. Ugh. [Music and Ads] (24:15) Ann: Next question. Aminatou: Go for it. Ann: Okay. "I just got back from my first year of college and while I don't feel I changed too much I must have because suddenly I feel very different about one of my childhood BFFs. We've been close since five years old, living in the same neighborhood and going to the same schools. That's a 14-year friendship." Big friendship. Aminatou: I love it. Ann: "But now -- but now I notice how down I feel after spending time with her and how little connection I feel. Our conversations consistently revolve around the same uninspiring and unstimulating topics of 'boys'" -- in quotes -- "and gossip of personal issues of our fellow classmates. Moreover there's an odd, omnipresent sense of prizing hetero-normative sexuality and considering it a race to have as many sexual experiences as fast as possible along with drug and alcohol experiences. Meanwhile I'm focused on my Roxane Gay and Zora Neale Hurston repertoire." Aminatou: Hey! [Laughs] Ann: "I could not have more different values. I have tried to make this clear in the past but the message has yet to be received. She also seems to imply a power imbalance that makes me feel uncomfortable as she compares our experiences and skills. As a lifelong friend the feeling that she only seems to recognize me on the surface is pretty tough to reconcile. My question to you two is how to approach this conversation I clearly need to have with her. I'm naturally passive and find confrontation very difficult but this is killing me and I respect her too much not to talk to. I've never had to break up with a friend before or confront them about feeling unsatisfactorily served in our relationship but this is literally keeping me awake at night, weighing down my heart and mind." Oof. Aminatou: Aww! First of all congratulations on one year of college. That's huge. I think you change more that year than you do the rest of college honestly. (25:55) Ann: Really? I mean I guess I would have to go back to the receipts, i.e. the journals, to figure out if that's true for me but . . . Aminatou: Ann, I was like . . . I was like plate tectonics changing that first year because you think that nothing has happened and then this thing precisely happens. For me it was like Thanksgiving. Like you go home and you see people. You see people that you used to know and you're like "I don't feel different!" Then they say the same thing they used to say to you six months ago and now you're like "This is not okay." Ann: Then you're like "I have grown." Aminatou: [Laughs] You're like personal growth, check it out. Ann: Ugh, shout-out to Roxane gay and Zora Neale Hurston. Aminatou: I know! This thing is like . . . man, I feel this. A 14-year friendship is so big, you know? Let's be real. And I think . . . Ann: Family-level. Aminatou: Yeah, it's family-level. And I think that there is also a thing where, you know, people will tend not to respect these types of long friendships if there's somebody you've known since you were very young and you're basically in your 20s now. But the truth is this is a large part of your life, especially for where you're at. And it's also not an uncommon thing at all. Like part of the reason you're friends with this person is you were in the same boat as I like to say so these are the people that kind of life gives you and also you're learning more about yourself and you're moving on. If this is keeping you awake at night then you 100% have to talk to your friend about it. You have to talk to them for your own sake and for their own sake because there's no reason to be this miserable at all. The thing that probably is making you very anxious is that you think that having this talk will destroy the friendship but the truth is the friendship is already very precarious. Whether you have the talk or not something is going to destroy it. So . . . Ann: Right. She said in the first three sentences about feeling awful after she spends time. She feels down after she hangs out with this friend. Aminatou: Yeah, that's not a . . . that's a no from me, dawg. So we can't live that way. And so I think that 1) confronting that your friendship has already changed, it is probably not great, and I would also wager to you that for however you feel about this other person it's also probably not great for them. But you can't control how everybody feels; you can only control how you feel. And the only way that it will get better is if either you undo the personal growth that you had, this one year of college. [Laughs] Ann: Not an option. Aminatou: Right? I'm like is that an option? Ann: You're like eh, not an option. (28:20) Aminatou: It's like unless you undo that or you both decide together that you are going to change and grow together. This is a very common problem, like people who have known each other for a long time and are not growing at the same velocity rate. You've got to talk to them and you have to be prepared that you will lose this friend. And I think it is in how you talk to them, right? So instead of -- I would focus more on how you feel than what you think they are doing. So saying like . . . so any kind of accusatory like "You only talk about boys!" even if it's true and "You only gossip about our dumb high school classmates," even if it's true, or you're like "You only talk about small things," even if it's true will have less impact than if you said "Here is how I feel when I hear you talk about hetero-normative sexuality. Here is how I feel when I hear you talk about these topics," and saying "These are not important things in my life anymore and I feel like we are being competitive with each other and it's not fair to either of us. 1) Am I the only person who feels that way? What do you think?" And also if she is not willing to budge then it's sad but also you don't have to stay friends with somebody forever because you've known them forever. Ann: Yeah. I also think that acknowledging that two people are in a friendship. You might hate the fact that when you're with this person you find yourself talking about gossipy things that don't matter to you or who you got drunk and hooked up with which doesn't fundamentally matter to you. But you find yourself doing it because this is something this other person brings out in you. And being able to say "I feel shitty after we talk about all this stuff for a long time" acknowledges that you're probably participating. I mean I think about myself and people I have been in friendships with where I'm like huh, I actually don't care about the things that we've spent all this time talking about but if you were to film it with a camera I'm talking as much as this other person is. I just feel that whatever it is about our dynamic is pulling that direction. It's not like this other person is talking and talking and talking and I'm just sitting there. Frequently there is a level of participation. And so being able to kind of own that too and be like "Look, I've sort of realized that the friendships that are feeding me a lot, like the friendships that I feel really good about, we are talking about things like X, Y and Z. That's not happening with you and me. Why is that?" You know, instead of coming in from a place of "You don't understand what hetero-normativity means." Or like, you know, "You're not reading the same shit that I'm reading," which is probably true but not necessarily worth saying. (31:00) And then the other thing that I would say is knowing that for you is this someone who really has moved over to that category of family where you're like I want to have some kind of connection to this person for a long time, even if it doesn't look like the friendship we've had for 14 years? Or is this something that I would actually feel better about making a clean break from and not having her in my life at all? Like trying to answer some questions like that I think can inform how you raise these issues and have the conversation. Because I think one of the wonderful things about friendship is it can change in response to different phases of your life. She could become kind of like a beloved acquaintance who you're just like "You know what? She's going through something at college right now and I'm not going to be able to go through that with her. But who knows? Maybe in five years we both come up for air and this sort of light tether we've maintained can be strengthened again into a friendship." And so those are the kinds of questions to be asking. (31:58) Aminatou: And it only works if you're on the same page about it. Ann: Yeah, you can't unilaterally be like "Okay, let's downgrade to acquaintance and not really hang out too much" on your own without her feeling like you've ghosted her or something like that if you don't talk about it. Aminatou: Good luck. Ann: Yeah, this is a real life-long one though. I mean I feel like this is . . . if you can figure out how to navigate this, this is life skills. People change. People change, especially once every 14 years. Like I would hope so, and you're going to have to do this again, you know? It's not . . . Aminatou: Oh yeah, you're going to have to do this at every decade of your life. This is not confined to like "I've gone to college and my friends are different." This literally can happen with your friends from now. It's nuts. Whew, Amina and Ann with terrible friendship advice question three. [Laughs] Ann: Oh my god. Aminatou: Question number three, "Two years ago I had a friend breakup with one of my long-distance besties because she decided to befriend my rapist, move in with him, and lie to me about it." Ann: Wow. Aminatou: Mm-hmm. "I worked really hard to salvage our relationship but when I pushed back on her choice she had no interest in continuing to speak to me. I've gone to therapy to work through a lot of the hurt, anger, and sadness I felt about the breakup and my personal healing has led me to want to be on amicable terms with her. However on top of diminishing my sexual assault experience my rapist was a groomsman in her wedding and her husband is a man who considers himself to be part of the alt-right." Ann: Oh my god. Aminatou: "Clearly she is not a good person but I still love and care about her. I can't reconcile the person she is today with the sweet, loving friend who was by my side through a lot of difficult parts of my life. What do you do when you realize the people you love are bad people? How can I finally convince myself to stop caring about someone who isn't worth my affection?" Ann: Whoa. (33:45) Aminatou: Listener, I want to say I am very sorry that this has happened to you. It is deeply unfair and it is eternally shitty and I am so sorry that you are dealing with any part of it. Ann: I know, my heart goes out to this person. Aminatou: I know! And also I'm so proud of this person for going to therapy and working it all out and still having honestly like a very . . . still wanting to love this person who has so clearly hurt them. That is not an easy feat. This is so hard for me to answer because I recognize how deeply personal these kinds of choices can be but at the same time I will say this, that you need to put yourself first like in all of these situations. Like your friend has clearly chosen herself. She has chosen her own happiness and her own rationalization for her life and so she cares about herself and you care about her but who is caring about you? And you need to really think of yourself as just as worthy and just as important of having a full life. And part of being a happy, healthy person is not being around people who make you feel shitty and being around people who diminish really awful things that have happened to you. And I hear you. I think some people do really bad things and some people even sometimes are bad people but that's not the full story about them. It's just like realizing in this moment they're not equipped to love you the way you are supposed to be loved. And so putting some distance between them both emotionally and actually physically is one way that you can move on because you are the one doing all of the investing. What is this person doing? Nothing. And if they can't . . . you can love somebody and still have a lot of affection for them but you don't enable their bad behavior. And putting that distance between you and them is one of the ways to do that. Like they don't get full access to your life because they are doing things that hurt you. (35:45) Ann: Yeah. I just keep thinking about Virgie Tovar in the very first episode of this year saying you have the right to thrive. The fact that this is past-tense, like it is -- she's saying this person is not a part of my life and I feel sad about it, but the fact is this person is not a part of my life. I'm like, you know, it's a lie to say that the hard part is just the breakup or the decision. What I love about the honesty of this letter is that. It is not -- much like in any other kind of breakup you have to figure out what it means that this person who is no longer in your life was once such a big part of it. That is a process that regardless of what you want to choose to do relating to that person in the future you have to go through for you too. And the dissonance of the story of "Hey, this person was really good to me in some ways too," and trying to reconcile that with all of this truly, truly horrible behavior is hard. And I don't have like a this is how you do it but I think she's clearly -- she's clearly doing the work by even asking this question and kind of saying like "This is hard to hold both of these truths." Aminatou: Right. And also the answer to this is one of the same as we gave earlier, like it takes two people to be in a friendship. You cannot want to force amicable terms on someone who has shown you by their behavior exactly how they feel about you. The only part that you can control is how you feel about them. So if you want to be amicable with her it means that. It means amicable. It doesn't mean like best friends. It doesn't mean, you know, somebody who has a serious intimacy in your life anymore. It just means that you do not hate them and you wish them the best and also your heart is open to hearing from them when they're ready to be back in your life. But at the same time you have to love yourself as much as you love this person and clearly you care about this woman so much but I would say what happens if you transfer even 10% of the energy back onto yourself and say here is what it takes to make me a happy and healthy person? Because a lot of this too is just that sometimes hanging on to people from your past is how you feel that your life has not changed and the truth is your life has changed drastically. (38:10) Ann: It's true, and it truly doesn't undo the fact that this person writes this friend was by my side through a lot of difficult parts of your life. You can still be grateful for that and that can be true while simultaneously being like yeah, circumstances have changed and that's just not the case anymore, you know? Like both of those things can be true and you don't have to disavow the good parts of your friendship in order to make a healthy choice and not continue to be in it in the future. Aminatou: Right. So thank you so much for writing. We hope you are feeling a little better about yourself and that you will allow yourself to thrive. Ann: Do you want to do one last one here? Aminatou: One last question. "I'm almost 30 and I still have bitter, petty feelings towards my high school frienemy. During our high school year she was taller and thinner than me so she tended to act like she was better than me. She would make passive-aggressive comments to me and would hit on my high school boyfriends then date them once we broke up." High school boyfriends, plural. Wow, what a world. [Laughs] Ann: Wow, from two late bloomers we are shocked. [Laughs] Aminatou: What? There's only four years of high school. What? "She was a pretty shitty person. Fast-forward we're both eleven years past high school graduation. She has gained a significant amount of weight and I have discovered weightlifting which has given me significantly more confidence while also losing some weight. I try to be a good feminist but when I see where we both are now I have a hard time not mocking her weight gain in my head. It's bad, it's fat shaming, and not healthy. It doesn't help that she's trans-phobic and supports Ivanka's dad." The trifecta. Ann: Wow, the other shoe. (39:50) Aminatou: I know, the other shoe always drops. "I write all of this to say that I don't like silently mocking her in my head for gaining weight since high school. All of us have done it. I've struggled with my weight. How can I focus on the fact that she's just a shitty person and not happy that she gained weight?" Yeah, you have some really fucked-up feelings about fat people. That's fine to admit. And focusing -- like actually working through that instead of using the "Oh, this woman that was mean to me gained weight so that's why maybe it's a little okay to think that she's shitty . . ." That doesn't work for me. You both clearly have fat people shaming problems so that's one thing. Ann: And I was going to say too when I hear her saying all of these horrible things about her high school frienemy in her head I'm like who's listening to that? You are. You are running a toxic tape for yourself. Yeah. Aminatou: Right. And you're still stuck in high school too. So the thing that is magical about all of this is that unless they literally live in your house you don't have to keep up with your high school friends. If you follow this woman on any kind of social media platform you should unfollow her because you don't need access to her life or to remember all this stuff. And this isn't to diminish the kind of pain she put you through in high school. That was awful. It was really awful that she did that. But hanging on to these high school people, if all it does is trigger these memories, is probably the sign that you can let go of them right? And I think that also if you have access to it being in therapy and being honest about this stuff is probably very useful because it is normal for our -- everybody has this, like your past shapes you so much. But if it makes you feel this shitty and is not in line with the kind of life you want to have then you should actually find a way to work through it and what is it about that time of your life that was so hard that you cannot let it go eleven years later? And also surrounding yourself with people who are radically different from this world is probably going to be very beneficial. (42:05) Ann: Yeah. I mean I just keep thinking about how you're sort of telling yourself this is . . . these are things you're saying about your high school frienemy and in fact this is just a way you are, I don't know how consciously, but working out some deeper beliefs about the world. Which as you say Amina is fucked up shit that happens to us in high school. It has staying power. That is a super vulnerable period of life. But I can't imagine that if this woman disappeared tomorrow, if the frienemy disappeared tomorrow, that all of these feelings would go away. I really believe they would transfer to someone else or there would be some other way that that script keeps running in this letter writer's head. So yeah, unfollowing is such a good suggestion. I mean I also think about I have a good friend who always says "Ignore to destroy." Aminatou: [Laughs] I love that. Ann: Like if you're really still feeling angry and bitter at her the place to get to is like who? You know, to really work through those feelings enough that they're not attached to a human being and who you are not fixated on. Because attention, the most valuable currency you've got. So don't give it to a person who doesn't deserve it. Don't toxically turn it against yourself. Definitely don't let it go unchecked that you are having these feelings towards, let's be real, an overall body type. Not just one specific person in your past. And I do appreciate the honesty of this letter. Aminatou: 100%. Ann: Just being like this is something that is happening in the back of my head that I know is bad and yet I can't let go, you know? (43:50) Aminatou: That's real. So yeah, find other things to focus on. Talk to a therapist about it and completely unfollow this person. The unfollow advice honestly goes for everything. If you are scrolling through anything on social media and it makes you angry you should just unfollow. Ann: I mean also there's that new mute feature which is a goddess send for people who you for some social reason cannot fully unfollow. Mute, mute, mute. Aminatou: Right. You don't need bad juju in your social media feeds. Ann: It's true. And we did talk a couple episodes back about some of the accounts we love that feature lots of different types of humans and bodies looking amazing and living great lives that we like to follow so maybe check that out too. Aminatou: Good luck listener. Ann: Ugh. Oh my god. Aminatou: Man, friendships. So messy. Can't wait to write a big book about it. Ann: Oh my god, yes. I know. It's like -- you know, I've got to say it is a topic, like when we talk about questions like this I realize how few resources there are in kind of one place for considering some of this stuff, you know? I'm just like oh yeah, there isn't . . . we're not like "Oh yes, get a friendship therapist." [Laughs] You know what I mean? "Oh yeah, at your annual discuss the relationship with this old friend just bring it up." Like there just do not exist the mechanisms. Aminatou: No, it's just like eat as much Tums as you can until your stomach lining is destroyed by anxiety. Ann: Okay, before we go . . . Aminatou: There is a new member of Team CYG that we are so excited to have. Ann: Shout-out to Destry Maria Sibley who is our new associate producer and here's a little introductory interview between her and Gina. [Interview Starts] Destry: So I'm Destry Maria Sibley and I'm an audio producer, mostly media producer and writer, based in New York City. Gina: Destry, we're so stoked to have you working on CYG. Destry: I'm so excited. Such a dream. Gina: Tell us about yourself. What have you been working on lately? (45:55) Destry: Yeah, so lately I've been working on my own podcast series. I just got back from Mexico where I was on a nine month fellowship with Fulbright and National Geographic and I was recording oral history interviews with a group of now really elderly people who were child refugees of the Spanish civil war. And so I'm now working on creating a podcast series out of their stories. It's going to be in English and Spanish, so it's coming at some point. Gina: That's amazing. And was there personal significance for you? What drew you to that project? Destry: Yes. [Laughs] I always bury this lead but my grandmother was one of these kids. She was the youngest as far as I understand. She was three when she fled the Spanish civil war and most of the kids never went back to Spain so she ended up growing up in Mexico. My mom was born there too. Gina: That's incredible. And does -- well, many more questions about that. [Laughs] Destry: The series is coming. Gina: Listen to Destry's podcast when it comes out and you'll hear all about that. What made you interested in working on CYG and what's something that you're excited to pursue? Destry: Ugh, so excited. Well I've been listening since really early days, really, really early days. So, you know, there are the podcasts out there that when you work in media you're like "Oh, I'd really like to work on that show someday." So when I saw the opening I completely jumped. But I have a real soft spot in my heart for working on women-only podcast teams so that's a huge plus. And I just am fangirling all the time about all the guests that come on the show. In my past life I was a community organizer so love the political slant. I'm entering a PhD program this fall in English Lit so I love all the authors that get interviewed. I want to read all their books. So mostly I'm just going to be behind the scenes being a fan girl. Gina: What else have you been listening to or what would you recommend to CYG fans that they check out? (47:50) Destry: Yeah, lately all of my friends and I have been binge-listening to Esther Perel's podcast Where Should We Begin? It's very raw. It's very intimate for people who don't know. It's recorded therapy sessions -- couple therapy sessions -- with Esther Perel who's this incredible relationships counselor. She's got great TED talks, great books. But yeah, it's incredibly raw. It's incredibly intimate but it's such an education. Anyone should listen to it, anyone who's in therapy, not in therapy, in a relationship, not in a relationship. Big fan. Gina: Do you and your friends then dissect it? What's popular in the group chat about it? Destry: Things come up in our lives and then all the time we're like "Oh, well there's an Esther Perel episode about that." Gina: [Laughs] Destry: So, you know, a friend who's like "I don't know what to do because my other friend is having this really intense affair and lying to everyone in her life," we're like oh, there's a Where Should We Begin? episode about that. Yeah. Gina: Yeah. Destry: Yeah. Just like Esther knows what to do. Gina: Budget therapy. Good for those in and out of therapy. Destry: Exactly, for those who can't afford it which is many of us, you know? Go to Esther. Gina: Yeah, it's real out here. If people want to follow you, stalk your socials, where should they go? Destry: Yeah, I'm DestrySibley on Twitter and Instagram. Website's destrysibley.com. And if anyone wants to hear this podcast that's coming out it's coming. Gina: And it's L-E-Y Sibley, right? Destry: Yes. Destry like Destroy without the O and Sibley S-I-B like boy-L-E-Y. Gina: We're so excited to be working with you and can't wait to hear all of the magic you bring on and off the mic to future CYG episodes. Destry: Ugh, thank you. Very excited. [Interview Ends] Aminatou: If you want to read more about Destry's favorite snacks and all the things she's up to you should subscribe to The Bleed, our monthly newsletter, at callyourgirlfriend.com/thebleed and you'll find out so much more about her. You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, you can download the show anywhere you listen to your favs, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us at callyrgf@gmail.com. We're on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn, original music is composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, our logos are by Kenesha Sneed, our associate producer is Destry Maria Sibley. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.