IP:180.* * *
Friend in the middle
You introduce two of your good friends to each other in hopes that they, too, can become good friends. But when they start to bond in an unexpected way and hang out without you, might you regret introducing them to each other in the first place?
Andrea Lavinthal, co-writer of the best-selling book Friend or Frenemy?: A Guide to the Friends You Need and the Ones You Don’t, told The New York Times in a recent interview: “Most girls won’t admit this, but they’d rather you hit on their significant other than their best friend.” Another writer of the book is Jessica Rozler.
Lavinthal said she once introduced two friends to each other over brunch. A few weeks later, she stumbled onto the two women having dinner together in a restaurant, and learned they’d been spending quite a bit of time together.
“There they were in the restaurant, loving each other, probably talking about how I’m not funny enough or smart enough,” she said. “What do you say? Are you going to insist that whenever they hang out, you be there? That’s weird. Are you going to bring it up and be bereft? That’s an interaction so hard for girls.”
What Americans call “friend stealing” is “leapfrogging” in Britain. But perhaps there’s no need for us to make a fuss about being leapfrogged. Ronald Sharp is a professor of English at Vassar College, US, who co-edited The Norton Book of Friendship with Eudora Welty. Sharp said: “The anxiety about social poaching stems from an inappropriate or distorted view of what friendship is. It views friendship as a zero-sum game, or as an attempt to maximize your resources. It converts the natural generosity of friendship into a kind of investment.”
Sharp added, “If you can’t trust your friend to have a relationship with another person you consider a friend, it’s a clear symptom of a problem in your friendships.”
So how do you deal with being leapfrogged? Sharp said: “Part of the burden is on the friendmaker to assure the insecure friend that everything is OK. But part of the burden should also be on the original friend not to be anxious about it.”
Take it easy and be patient. In Lavinthal’s case, patience paid off. She said of the two women whom she had introduced to each other: “They became better and better friends. It was weird for a while. But then somehow, organically, I got brought back into the fold. Their friendship cooled off a little bit, and we all found our way back.”
She added: “I feel like I’m the hot item again. They need me now. They need me to get back to the root of why they’re friends.”