Auntie SparkNotes: Cliquity Clique
One great thing about being an adult: you don't have to see your enemies every single day. It gets better, Sparkler! —Sparkitors
Dear Auntie Sparknotes,
I have a group of friends who have been acting more like frenemies to EVERYBODY. It started this year when a new girl came to the school. She was nice and became really close, really fast to my friends. I didn't have a problem with it, we were all friends. Then they started sitting at their own little table sometimes WAY away from everybody else, which at my school takes some work. They have their own little inside jokes and parties and excluded everybody else. I used to be best friends with them, but now they barely acknowledge my existence, and sometimes are flat-out rude to me and anyone else who tries to talk to them.
I don't understand why they are doing this. I haven't changed at all and I still have things in common with them, they just refuse to talk to me, or anybody outside their little group. We used to have sleepovers and go to movies and actually talk. I've tried to talk to the girl in the group I was closest to, but last time I was walking with her in the hall she told me to basically piss off because I wasn't allowed to hear what she was saying to the others.
Recently, a couple other people have come up and asked me what's going on with them, but I have no answer. They were my best friends last year and I have no answer. I feel horrible for even thinking this, but sometimes I wish they would either stop pretending to be nice when they are really being jerks or they would just go away. But above everything else, I want my best friends back. What should I do? Should I grin and bear it and keep trying? Am I a wuss for wanting to give up on them?
I'm sorry you're going through this, Sparkler. Being shut out by a group of friends is distressing no matter what age you're at, but it's especially bad in high school—when not only is it happening on a daily basis, but it's happening in front of hundreds of curious bystanders.
But let's get this out there: what you're experiencing is bullying, plain and simple—and unfortunately, all too commonly. Cliques, like the one that your friends have formed, get their power from exclusivity. By alienating and driving one person out of the group, they reinforce the idea that they're superior, popular, and share a special connection. Some people bond over their mutual membership on the soccer team, or their mutual love of fried chicken, or their mutual agreement that Iron Man is both the ass-kickingest and most lustworthy superhero in the entire Marvel Comics canon. Your former friends, on the other hand, have bonded over insulting and ostracizing you.
Which, of course, doesn't make this whole thing suck any less.
The important thing, now, is to realize that this isn't about you, who you are, or anything you did. You're a random target. This isn't your fault. But that also means that continuing to chase after a group of people who take every opportunity to reject you (not to mention that they seem to be enjoying it, the sadists) is just going to make you more miserable.
And worse, it'll only feed back into their attempts to prove, to you and each other, that you're Not One of Them.
So instead, face up to what's in front of you... and yes, give up. Distancing yourself from people who treat you badly doesn't make you a wuss; it makes you not a masochist. Unless you want to keep being bullied and excluded, why would you stick around? And even if they magically stopped treating you so badly, would you still want to be friends with this group, knowing what you do about how they operate? And why are you feeling so bad about calling this situation, and their behavior, exactly what it is? Because hey, they aren't nice. They are jerks. And much as it hurts, you have all the evidence you need to officially conclude that a) these people aren't your friends, and b) given their behavior, that's probably for the best.
So give yourself permission to say, "I don't deserve to be treated like this"—and if someone asks what's up with them, to just shrug and say, "I've been wondering the same thing." And then, find a better way to spend the time you've been wasting on your former group... for instance, by cultivating your relationships with people who don't suck.
Have you ever been dumped by your friends? Tell us about it! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.