I'd known my Molly almost my whole life. We'd grown up together and shared the same faith so naturally, we hung out a lot. She was smart, pretty, had tons of friends, and all the guys wanted her. I struggled with my weight, at the time, outside of English my grades were just OK, and I'd been with the same guy forever. In that friendship, I found someone I could laugh with, share good news, and feel affirmed, but that came at a cost. Often, at what felt like the strangest times, she would throw subtle jabs that showed me how she really felt about me.
She'd find ways to insult me with bringing up embarrassing moments and downplay our friendship in front of other people but never enough for me to question her motive. My mother never liked or trusted her, and she'd always ask, "Why do you always invite her places, but she never invites you out with her friends?" But I ignored her like most naive teenagers do because there were still many beautiful moments that occurred in our friendship. We often look at relationships being complicated but so are friendships, especially with childhood friends - it's difficult to love and loathe the character traits of a person simultaneously.
And as a culture I feel like we all but stone each other for giving up on childhood friendships, and we wear longevity like a badge of honor, whether toxicity exists or not.
As we got older, there were several instances where an argument would bring our differences to the surface, so we'd fall out and stop speaking. Every time, she'd find a way to apologize to me and secure her place back in my life but after college, I'd had enough. As I started to playback our friendship, I began to ask myself if it was worth it.
Worth It Questioning GIF by Megan Batoon Giphy
For my twenty-fifth birthday, I wanted to plan a girls trip, but as most Black people will tell you, planning a group trip with us is an extreme sport (and to be fair, the lot of my friends had just graduated and quite frankly, didn't have it). I was all set to cancel the whole thing but "Molly" said, "No, let's go together." On some level, I was apprehensive because I'd already seen our friendship unraveling. After my last relationship ended, I changed in the best way, and boundaries became my new best friend. Those voices that once told me I wasn't enough, it was as if I never heard them again and I started to build a whole new life for myself - that included a career change, weight loss, and a new set of friends and things with "Molly" just became different.
She tried to support me, but there were times where I'd buy a new outfit and she'd laugh and say, "Where you going in that?" or I'd assert myself to someone who treated me unfairly, and her response would be, "Oh you been hanging around me too long I see" as if I didn't have the capability of standing up for myself. By the time we left for our trip, I won't lie, I was lowkey over her backhanded compliments but I still loved her, and wanted to keep our friendship intact.
We went to Europe and saw three countries in seven days, everything about it was beautiful - except our time together.
From the moment we got on the flight, it was clear that the small things that were apparent in the breakdown of our friendship were going to be magnified, and they were. Everything we did, she wanted to micromanage, and I started to feel like I was her child, and not her friend, but after small fights, we moved past things for the sake of the trip and our space because we shared the same room. My birthday came, and it was our last night abroad. We'd been out all day and I started to feel sick, so I wanted to sleep before we went to dinner. She was pissed, and I told her she was selfish, so she snapped. Like past run-ins, the insults came but this time it was worse - she told me she was the only friend I had, that I was broke, and all but said that I needed her. It was as if she said everything to me that she ever wanted to and when I cried, she laughed like hurting me was her mission.
issa rae comedy GIF by Insecure on HBO Giphy
I spent my twenty-fifth birthday in our beautiful hotel alone, wondering why I had even gotten on that plane to begin with. The next morning I checked out at sunrise, and when I left the airport, I told myself I was leaving our friendship behind too. That was two years ago. All those years of friendship - good memories and bad and just like that, it was over, but surprisingly, I've never missed her. Ever. I've learned what healthy friendships look like, and what it means to have friends who support you and hold space for your struggles, and progression. Last year, I ran into her cousin and because our families don't have anything to do with it, I spoke. He told me that it was her birthday (which I already knew) and even though I wanted to respond "fuck her", I said "Tell her I said happy birthday."
Days later, "Molly" texted asking if I'd be willing to grab coffee, but I never responded.
My life is beautiful now, and it doesn't include people who project their insecurities on me.
It took me all these years to realize that I'm "Issa", the girl that doubted her potential, gave her all to the wrong man, and is now evolving into a woman deep down she always knew she could be. That has to be difficult for the Mollys of the world, seeing us start businesses, new friendships, and overall just level tf up. But we don't exist to make Mollys comfortable, we exist to hold space for all the other awkward Black girls out there.
If you're reading this and any of these examples of toxic friendship are triggering for you, it's not too late - consider these steps if you still have a "Molly" in your circle.
Own your part.Giphy
Victimhood is such a comfortable place to reside in, but I've found that accountability is a much better address. In order to forgive "Molly", I had to forgive myself for every relationship that I ever cultivated when I had no boundaries. As we mature, we don't know how to accept the fact that, as Gabrielle Union once said, "Some of your day ones have been hating since day one."
Owning the choices I made and the person she'd been from the start gave me the freedom to wish her well, and still, remove myself from the friendship as well as cut ties with other toxic childhood friends.
Know that your Molly is just as damaged as you are.
To really love someone is to understand the dark parts of their lives and how those experiences have shaped them. In hindsight, it makes sense why she belittled me because on some level, she envied me. While I was always in a long-term relationship, she had never had a boyfriend until college. I never noticed that it bothered her because she always had suitors. But one day she asked me what made men commit to me, and I was left speechless. That conversation made it clear to me that she had voids within herself that our friendship possibly helped fill because I thought the world of her.
Accept the fact that your friendship might be changing, because you're changing.
After I started working out and going to therapy, my mother told me that I needed to be prepared to lose people. I didn't understand how becoming a better me would impact my friendships but it did, and not just with my Molly. Several friends were comfortable with me not having confidence, and staying in the little box they thought I fit in too. Much like with Insecure, Molly was cool as long as Issa doubted herself with no job and no place to stay. Now that she's securing sponsors and actually has a man that supports her (cuz TSA bae done showed up for Issa more than any other man she has been with), she wants to belittle her accomplishments and call it accountability. Any friend that can't accept the fullness of you (your wins and losses) shouldn't have the privilege of remaining in your life at all.
Let them go, but take the lessons with you.
Walking away from a toxic friendship is just the first step, you need to assess the relationship in its entirety before you move forward, and make room for new friends. I didn't talk to anyone for over a week after that trip. It was imperative that I have time to ask myself why I thought our friendship was unhealthy, and what I'd do differently moving forward.
Embrace the adult friendships coming your way.
The beauty of being friends with adults who want to see you win, is the room it provides for us to be all of who we are. We're able to show up for each other when we win, be a shoulder when we lose, and remind one another that we're capable of achieving every goal we ever dreamed, and the ones that we dream along the way.
To all the Mollys out there, I wish you healing.To all the Issas out there, set boundaries, don't be afraid to walk away, and forgive yourself because, in case you hadn't heard, the season of our lives and Insecure is gonna be lit.
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Featured image via HBO/Insecure