Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships

Susan Shapiro Barash, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (274p) ISBN 978-0-312-38639-9

For her latest book on women's relationships, Barash (Tripping the Prom Queen ), who teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College, interviewed 200 women of assorted backgrounds and ages, and found that women's friendships are not the bed of roses that popular culture makes them out to be. While highly valued by women, friendships tend to be difficult, draining and sometimes devastating. For example, 65% stay friends with a woman who is difficult in some way, and 80% say they are competitive with their female friends. This ambivalence leads to paradoxical behavior such as clinging to a shallow “Trophy Friend,” one of 10 types of friends Barash analyzes. Others include the Leader, the Doormat, the Sacrificer and the Authentic Friend. While she can appear glib and one must wade through all the depressing—though juicy—stories to get to the “good” friends, Barash skillfully channels her interviewees' experiences and convinces that these real and raw friendships are the norm: “When it comes to the glittering prizes of life, women congregate, even if there are undercurrents of envy, jealousy, and competition in the relationships.” (Oct. 13)