Dear Wendy: “I’m So Envious Of My BFF”

My roommate is awesome and one of my best friends. Whenever I need to talk to someone I go to her and vice versa. The only problem is, and I feel like a petty bitch for admitting this, all the guys want her. I can’t blame them because I love hanging out with her and she’s gorgeous. I know I’m not ugly and I make friends easily, but I can’t compete with her when it comes to guys. Whenever I am interested in a guy, he’s interested in her. She would never pursue anyone she thought I was into, but what’s the point if they are just into her anyways? The self-hatred becomes even stronger because of how jealous and resentful I get when it’s not even her fault. I am so afraid that one day I will just blow up at her and end up hating her. I tried talking to her about it once, but it just made her feel bad and then mad at me because she thinks I’m too hard on myself. I guess I am asking you how do I stop feeling jealous and resentful? How do I become OK with knowing that every time we go out the guys will want to talk to her and not me? I just want to hang out with my best friend and be happy. — Cute, But Note Cute Enough

Way, way back, when I was 17 and sitting in last-minute college orientation a week before classes were to start, I met a beautiful girl named Cathy. Cathy sat right next to me at orientation and I immediately didn’t like her. She was everything I felt I wasn’t: effortlessly attractive with olive skin, high cheekbones, long, wavy brown hair, and big green eyes any guy would love to get lost in. She was almost 5’10” and model thin, and looked like she stepped out of the pages of a teen magazine. Meanwhile, I was a geeky redhead with chunky thighs and terrible fashion sense. I felt invisible.

Cathy and I didn’t talk to each other that day, but at one point she did offer me a smile — a sympathetic smile, I figured. I was relieved when orientation was over and I could go back to pretending girls like her didn’t exist. Imagine my horror, then, when later in the week on move-in day, I learned that Cathy would be living directly across the hall from me. It turned out, though, that Cathy was so sweet and friendly we became fast friends. We were both theater students and ended up in a play together that first semester. We’d walk to rehearsals together and go to the dining hall together, and soon, we were driving all over town together in her brand-new black sports car — a graduation gift from her parents. And everywhere we went, guys followed. But they weren’t interested in me. Not dorky, self-conscious me. They all wanted to talk to Cathy. Beautiful, exotic, half-Peruvian Cathy. I would have hated her if I didn’t like her so much.

The truth is, that whole first year was a little sad. I hung out in Cathy’s shadow, simultaneously wishing I could just disappear and also soak up enough of her radiance to be attractive to someone … anyone. Sound pathetic? It was. Luckily, something happened to me over the summer before our sophomore year. I decided to stop focusing on how great Cathy was, and start focusing on myself. I wasn’t happy with my appearance, so I started doing something about it. I began working out and watching my diet. Soon, I dropped the 15 pounds I’d gained freshman year. But I didn’t stop there. Over the next few months, I dropped another 25 pounds of baby fat I’d been carrying around. I felt great! More confident than ever. I bought cute clothes and stopped hiding behind all those baggy shirts and mom jeans. Other people noticed the change, too. It was the first year of my life I really got attention from guys.

Meanwhile, my friendship with Cathy was changing. Not in a bad way. We were becoming more like … equals. We roomed together that second year of college, and I was introduced to a side of her I hadn’t been aware of the year before. Life wasn’t perfect for her. She had her own demons and baggage she was dealing with. It seems obvious to me now — a mature adult — but back when I was 18-19, I didn’t realize things could be hard for beautiful people, too. They can suffer disappointments and be rejected and have their hearts broken, too. And I guess finally humanizing Cathy — seeing her as a real person with real issues and not some character in a YA novel whom the protagonist wishes she could be — made it much easier to build a true friendship with her.

It’s now 16 years since I met Cathy for the first time and she and I are still close friends. She was there to celebrate with me at my wedding last year. I mourned with her when her marriage ended a few years earlier. And we both do our best to stay connected across the miles (she lives in Chicago now and I live in NYC). She’s still beautiful and looks about 10 years younger than 34. I’m still a little envious of her flawless complexion and gorgeous eyes. But a lot has changed. I’m totally happy with who I am and the choices I’ve made. I’m very confident and I get loads more attention now than I did in those first couple years of college. It took me awhile to learn my strengths and play them up. It took awhile to develop sex appeal. It took awhile to truly love myself.

But you know what helped? Not being that young woman guys always flocked to — not being someone like Cathy. I was more appreciative of the attention I got and more eager to develop friendships with guys before jumping into relationships. Because guys weren’t so intimidated by me, they let their guards down. I got to know to know them in ways maybe someone like Cathy didn’t. They trusted me. And that trust and comfort helped me let my guard down, and before long, all those warm fuzzies translated into real, physical attraction. And believe me, by the end of college, I was not wanting for male attention. And any “competition” I felt toward Cathy dissipated long before graduation. She eventually fell in love and had a great relationship through the last couple years of school, effectively taking her off the market. It was only a little bit ironic to me that the guy she fell in love with actually pursued me first before turning his attention to her.

So, my advice to you is to focus on yourself. If there are things you don’t like about yourself that you can change, work on changing those things. If you can’t change them, work on accepting them — even loving them. Think about what makes you unique. Play up your strengths. Think of your “weaknesses” as endearing. Develop friendships with guys. Get to know them as real people and you’ll learn more about what turns them on and makes them tick than you ever would if you were just the girl they lusted after. Quit seeing your best friend as other-worldly and see her instead as the full person she is — complete with flaws and faults and issues and challenges. The transformation won’t happen overnight. But slowly, you’ll start noticing a change. Guys will begin noticing you in ways they haven’t before. But it all starts with your attitude. It always does.

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