The Politics of Group Friendships

Dear Robin:

I have been a member of a group of about 20 female friends for over ten years.  We bonded working for a really crappy employer, and while most of us have moved on, we still meet for drinks once per quarter to catch up and just act goofy for a night.  About a year ago, one of the gals in the group who still works at the old company (“Debbie”) brought two new women she works with, and they have been at every get-together since.

I don’t like these women.  They’re about ten years younger than the rest of us, and they are loud and obnoxious.  They just don’t fit it.  Many of the other women in the group feel the same way I do, so how do we tell our friend Debbie that she can’t bring these women to our functions anymore without hurting her feelings?

-“Gail”

Dear Gail:

I feel for ya.  After all, as Jean-Paul Sartre once wisely observed:

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(“hell is other people”)

It must be really difficult for to you to enjoy yourself with these two women present.  After all, they make up roughly 10% of the attendees at your parties, so I imagine their impact is substantial.  Also, being around new and different people is hard.  It involves stepping outside your own comfort zone and being interested in someone who may not share your values, tastes and personality characteristics, not to mention age demographic.

If you didn’t recognize that as sarcasm, you do not have the reading comprehension skills to fully appreciate my advice blog…please seek help from the Ask Amy chick at http://www.denverpost.com/askamy

Gail, I want to answer your question first, then throw a couple questions your way for you to ponder:

How do you tell Debbie she can’t bring these women without hurting her feelings?  I don’t know that you can avoid hurting her feelings, but you certainly can ask her not to bring them.  You said “many” of the women in the group feel the same way you do – if I were you I’d take a poll before you talk to Debbie or you might end up looking like a controlling, manipulative bitch.

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One way to lessen the impact on Debbie’s feelings is to give her the “it’s not you, it’s them” speech, in which you laud her with praise while simultaneously hinting that her choice in friends, except you, is shit.  By all means, get a group consensus and toss out these two new younger (and I suspect attractive) women.  Your group certainly has the right to determine its membership.  Does that answer your question?  I do hope so.

Here are some things I’d like you to to consider as you embark on your blackball mission:

1. My impression is that you all formed this group to support each other while you were working for a difficult employer.  Debbie is still dealing with that, as are the two women she has added to the mix.  Wouldn’t it be nice for you to embrace the new girls and do your best to mentor and advise them on how to deal with a shitty work environment?

2. Is it possible that you are jealous of and/or threatened by these women?  You mentioned that they are younger by a decade and I know from personal experience that women of a certain age, meaning my age, can experience feelings of envy and competition with younger women.  Let’s face it: their bodies are tighter, their skin doesn’t need plumping via hypodermic needles and their lives are comparatively bountiful with options and opportunities that us older gals may think are beyond our reach.

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3. Take a look at your life and your group of friends and ask yourself, “is this as diverse as I want to go?”  Be honest and reflect upon how welcoming you have been to these two women.  Did you ask them about their lives and goals?  Did you consider that maybe they are “loud and obnoxious” because they are intimidated by your group and just trying to fit in?  Or were you so busy uncorking the wine and throwing epic shade at these women that you never even gave them a chance?

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Gail, I answered your question but here comes the advice: try again.  Go to your group function with an open mind and a willingness to get to know these women.  Share your experiences with them and see if you can find common ground.  I’m not a member of your group (thanks, bitch) so I’m not privy to exactly what type of behavior you are dealing with.  Maybe they are irremediable and toxic and in that case, I’d either tell Debbie they aren’t welcome or quit the group.  However, I estimate you’ve spent very little time with them and that your own preconceived notions may be clouding your judgment.  Let me give you an example from my own life, because as we all know by now,

allabout me

I recently went to a very small  concert that followed a charity golf tournament headed by Tommy Thayer of KISS.  Yeah, I’m cool.  There was a young female former professional golf player at the event who I prejudged and rejected based solely upon her looks and age.  Much to my dismay, it became clear that she was going to be seated not only at my table, but right next to me.  OK, I know you are all dying to know what she looked like.  Here you go:

perryI

I mean, come on!  Don’t you just want to hate her guts?  Not only can she play golf WAY better than me, but she is younger, hotter and I assume has more money because really rich dudes marry girls who look like that, and her ring was stunning.

Guess what?  She was smart, funny, irreverent, accessible and interested in me and what I do.  She is actually one of the people who encouraged me to write this blog, and gave me some advice about how to increase readership.  Unfortunately, I had me some wine that night and I forgot all her tips.  Damn.

My point is this: it’s pretty easy to make a decision about someone new if you don’t put a lot of effort into it.  I suggest you adjust your paradigm, give it another go and see if you can’t make a new friend or two.  Even if you don’t like these women after really trying to get to know them, you might consider the karmic downside to getting them kicked out of the group when your interaction with them is minimal and sporadic.  Does it really impact your life so much that you can’t just let it go and focus on the friends you do like at these events?

If you can’t, I’d say you’ve got some issues that are far beyond my ability to help you with a simple blog post.  Perhaps you would like to enroll in my new self-help program?  It’s called WWDD™ (What Would DesCamp Do?) and the basic premise of the 6-week intensive program is to teach people to think and act exactly as I do.*

betterworld

-Robin

Please consult with your physician, spiritual counselor and financial advisor before joining the WWDD seminar.

Readers: please visit Oregonlive.com after 2 p.m. today to read my op-ed, which will also appear in tomorrow’s newspaper.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. John DesCamp

    Love what you write! You’re sort of an amalgam of Ann Landers and Chelsea Handler…..talk about having to hold two opposing ideas in mind at one time!

  2. Jamie

    Robin – I am a long-time friend of that beautiful, young, blonde woman that you sat next to at the small concert following the charity golf tournament. I met her when she was younger and just as beautiful. I prejudged her…she was dating my husband’s college roommate after all. Then I got to know her, and I am amazed at her depth, wit, talent, humor, intelligence, and, yes, beauty. I was at the photo shoot where the picture you posted was taken. I actually held the reflective umbrella shady thing that makes her look even more beautiful, younger and blonder…if that’s possible. I watched as people walked by and prejudged her and wanted to stop them and shake them and scream, “Jealous much? She’s not just beautiful, she’s smart and funny too!” Thanks for your post. I am a follower now!

  3. Pingback: Monday Re-Run | Ask DesCamp

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