Monday, August 11 at 1 p.m. ET

Making and Maintaining Relationships at School

Andrea Lavinthal (left) is an editor at Cosmopolitan and Jessica Rozler (right) works in book publishing.  The two have also co-authored,
Andrea Lavinthal (left) is an editor at Cosmopolitan and Jessica Rozler (right) works in book publishing. The two have also co-authored, "The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up." (Erin Fitzsimmons)

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Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler
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Monday, August 11, 2008; 1:00 PM

"In this era of e-mating and relating, of instant communication, gratification, and getification, the rules of conduct -- especially when it comes to friendship -- are changing," write Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler in their newly-released book, "Friend or Frenemy: A Guide to the Friends you Need and the Ones you Don't."

Rozler and Lavinthal were online Monday, August 11 at 1 p.m. ET to talk about making and maintaining friends at school. From college roommates to schoolyard cliques, they offered advice and insight into these important and often fragile relationships.

A transcript follows.

Back-to-school week is here with a series of live discussions to get you ready for the new school year. Check out our schedule for more details.

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Andrea Lavinthal: Andrea Lavinthal is an editor at Cosmopolitan. Jessica Rozler works in book publishing. They are the authors of "The Hookup Handbook: A Single Girl's Guide to Living It Up." Both live in New York City.

About the Book: How do you finally break free from a fair-weather bud who flees the scene as soon as a new guy comes around? How do you know which friends make it into your framily? With tips for making and breaking, maintaining and sustaining your friendships, plus stories from real women, "Friend or Frenemy" explores how great friends get us through hard times and dishes out advice about dumping the users, losers, and abusers. In this era of instant communication, relationships are not necessarily easier. "Friend or Frenemy" also looks at how texting, MySpacing, and other modes of instant communication are oh-so-convenient but sometimes make it harder to make meaningful connections.

With tons of wit and loads of charm, Lavinthal and Rozler are sure to get you thinking about friendship as if for the first time -- reminding us why our BFFs are often the most important people in our lives.

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Washington, D.C.: What can someone learn from your book that they can't learn from parents, older siblings, and friends?

Andrea Lavinthal: For starters you can gain a sense of normalcy and validation. It's easy to assume that you're the only person who has ever had to dump a friend or has been dumped by a friend, but our book reassures readers that at some point everyone will have to deal with these scenarios.

Also, it's a modern guide to friendships in the digital age which is something that hasn't been written about before. We cover email, text messaging, IM, and social networking.

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Anonymous: Any thoughts on how introverts can make new friends? I didn't have many friends in high school, but would like to make a fresh start now that I'm in a new locale. Thanks.

Jessica Rozler: I know how you feel! I'm definitely more introverted than extroverted, so striking up conversations (let alone possible friendships) with strangers can be a bit intimidating. As hard as it sounds, in order to meet new people, you definitely need to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. (However, you don't have to pretend that you're somebody that you're not. For example, I know that I'm more comfortable talking to new people one on one, rather trying to "work a room" or being the life of the party.) I think that participating in some sort of activity in your new locale is a great way to meet new people and build up your confidence. The activity could be volunteering, joining a community sports team, taking an art class . . . basically anything that sounds interesting to you and is a way for you to interact with other people. Good luck and keep in mind that there are many people just like you who are also looking to expand their social horizons!

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Lyme, Conn.: What are your thoughts on what has been written about "mean girls" and how there seems to be a growing number of psychologically abusive groups of young women who prey on girls they don't like?

Jessica Rozler: Celebrity culture and the Internet have pushed "mean girls" into the spotlight. Sadly, there has always been that element of mean behavior with girls (and boys, too), but now with these negative role models and access to cell phones, email, IM, etc., it can be so much harder for kids. I just hope that we can continue to teach our girls to value themselves and each other. I also hope that we can use the recent celebrity spotlight famous mean girls as a way of teaching girls how NOT to act.

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Charlotte, N.C.: My daughter's boyfriend and best friend will be going off to college this weekend and she is staying behind to attend community college. How do I help her cope with basically the loss of both her friends?

Andrea Lavinthal: It's great that you recognize how difficult it will be when your daughter's boyfriend and best friend leave for college. Most likely she'll be lonely and sad for the next few weeks, but without a doubt she'll meet a ton of great new friends at community college. It might not happen right away, but assure her that she isn't the only one staying close to home and soon enough she'll be surrounded by other people in the same scenario.

Andrea Lavinthal: Also, your daughter will be able to stay in constant contact with her boyfriend and friends via email and the like so she won't feel so far away from them.

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Reston, Va.: To the introvert: I'm an introvert as well. I've learned throughout high school and the three years that I've been in college that meeting new people is sometimes a matter of mind over matter, too. I realized that being an introvert didn't necessarily mean that I was bad at talking with people and socializing. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth! The best way it was put to me was that, while extroverts like to "recharge" by socializing with friends, introverts tend to "recharge" by themselves (reading a book, listening to music). In either case, you can definitely be an introvert, but know that you have the same charming personality as anyone out there. If you approach it with this attitude, you should be able to meet plenty of new people.

Jessica Rozler: You bring up an excellent point, and I couldn't agree with you more. Introverts do socialize in a different way than extroverts, and different doesn't mean better or worse -- it's just different! Mind over matter definitely works!

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Arlington, Va.: Any advice about how to stay in touch with friends from home while away at school? How do you stay close to old friends when you're both living in different 'worlds'? Is growing apart inevitable?

Andrea Lavinthal: That's such a great question. When I was leaving for my freshman year of college I was worried about the same thing. At first I talked to my friends on the phone weekly (this was before everyone had a cell or email) but after a few months it became harder and harder to connect with each other and once we did, there was way too much to catch up on that it felt overwhelming. At times it felt like we were growing apart but in the end, they are still among my closest friends.

So yes, I think that growing apart is inevitable in some ways but a lot of times, friends find their way back to each other.

You are also fortunate to have email and Facebook which make it really easy to stay in touch. It might also be a good idea to make "phone dates" with your close friends. That way you won't get her voicemail every time you call and vice versa. Maybe once a week or once every other week you set aside 30 minutes or so to just gossip or whatever.

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Virginia: As a man, one thing I was told that "geeks, nerds and dorks" will be successful. This is true as I worked in the real world outside of colleges. Many of the pretty girls are with jocks who will be injured and have nothing to fall back on. My point is that higher standards (in relationships) will get you nowhere.

Jessica Rozler: You're so right that the geeks shall inherit the Earth-they really do. As a geeky person myself, I like it that way! Seriously, when we say that we should strive for higher standards for our relationships, we're not talking about status, looks, or popularity. It's all about having friends in our lives that are a positive influence and, likewise, it's about us being a positive influence on those friends. It sounds simple enough, be I feel like we need to get back to the friendship basics.

And, on another note, luckily, the older we get, the less relevant those high school labels-jocks, freaks, and geeks become.

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Atlanta: Would you speak to texting, Facebook, etc. in the role of today's relationships. I am not of a fan of these things as primary forms of communication. I feel that people use them to avoid looking another person in the eye. Do I just need to get on board with the times?

Jessica Rozler: Great question. New technologies like Facebook and text messaging are convenient ways to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances. The problem is when people try to use them to replace face-to-face interaction. I agree with you: they shouldn't act as primary forms of communication. There's something to be said about sending a good old-fashioned letter, meeting a friend for coffee, or just picking up the phone.

My coauthor and I joke that Facebook and MySpace friends are the "low-fat, low-calorie" version of friends. There's room for them in our diets, but when it comes down to is, they are a good substitute for the real thing. They just don't have the substance-or the deliciousness.

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Recovering Introvert: I, too, am someone who often struggles to meet new people. I found that in college, if you're living in a dorm, things can be much easier. For instance, in those first days, pop some popcorn, have your door open, and see if the smell attracts your hall mates. By meeting some of them, you might be able to start up a movie night or board game night, or even just have meal buddies. After all, they're probably looking to meet someone new, too!

And, if you're lucky, some of your new acquaintances will be more outgoing people and will be able to help you get to know others, too.

Jessica Rozler: These are all great suggestions!

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Rockville, Md.: Do either of you have actual frenemies? And would either of you admit to being a frenemy to someone else? In either case, why continue to be close to someone who can't be trusted or who you don't really like?

Andrea Lavinthal: I will admit to having frenemies! I'm sure I've also been a frenemy at times (although not in a malicious way).

As for why we keep them around, I think that in some cases it's just easier than to actually go through the drama of breaking up with them. And sometimes you don't want to ditch them entirely, you just need to keep them at arm's length. I have a few frenemies who do have redeeming qualities but are best in small doses.

Sometimes a frenemy is in the workplace so it's not that you're close with them, it's more that you are forced to interact with them.

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Alexandria, Va.: Isn't "frenemy" just another word for "underminer"? Seems like kids are pretty smart these days -- why are they still drawn to so-called friends who want to see them fail?

Jessica Rozler: An underminer is definitely one type of frenemy. (And, I agree that kids are pretty smart these days, but adults can also have problems with underminers and frenemies.) that being said, I think that one reason why both kids and adults alike might keep people around who aren't healthy friends is because it can be SO hard to actually confront a friend. Obviously, breakups with romantic relationships happen all of the time, but no one expects to break up with a friend (even a so-called friend).

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High School hell: Do mean girls ever change? I am tired of always feeling judged for no good reason. There's a clique of rich girls who make my high school a really uncomfortable place to be -- basically if you aren't in with them (and I'm not, because I'm not rich and am only ordinary looking), you are iced out of a social life completely. It's so depressing.

Andrea Lavinthal: Every high school has a clique of mean girls who are so insecure that they have to make other people feel bad in order to make themselves feel good. Here's the thing: some mean girls do change (usually it's after they get a taste of their own medicine) but most stay that way for years. The good news is that everyone else around them becomes more mature and eventually stops caring what these girls think.

Chances are if you don't like these girls than other people in your high school feel the same. Why not focus on the people who make you feel good about yourself and that you have fun with? These girls are not worth your time.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm heading into my junior year in high school. All of my friends can drive, but so far I don't have my license. I find myself getting left behind a lot because I can't ever offer to drive and it's starting to kill my social life. Help!

Andrea Lavinthal: I totally feel your pain! I was the last one to get my license and it was the worst. I constantly had to ask my friends for rides and also felt like I got left out a lot. Hopefully you have one good friend who will help you out and offer to give you a lift places. Offer to fill up her gas tank once in awhile or buy her coffee to say thank you. If your friends know that you appreciate them driving you around, they'll be more likely to include you in their plans.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you give us some examples of how a "frenemy" would behave? Wondering if I have a few of my own.

Jessica Rozler: Sure. As one of our chatters mentioned earlier, a frenemy can be an underminer, someone who doesn't want to see you you succeed. The word "schadenfreude" comes to mind. There is also the frenemy who is a constant negative presence in your life. This person drains your energy. Our word for that is the "black hole." (Just a note: We're not talking about a friend who is merely going through some tough times.)

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Is there any graceful way to dump a friend? I think I've outgrown a couple of mine and want to sort of end things but I have no idea how to break up with someone who is just a plain old platonic friend without it feeling super awkward. Help!

Andrea Lavinthal: There are two ways that you can dump a friend: be direct and tell them that you feel like you've outgrown each other or do it the easy way and gradually downgrade them to acquaintance. You can accomplish this by limiting your contact to online instead of the phone and using the, "things are really right now" excuse. Hopefully your friends will get the point without having to confront them.

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Washington, D.C.: As a college student, I find that I have moved on from the people I went to high school with and now find them to be childish and immature. Is there any way to politely decline their offers to hang out and go party without sounding snobbish and arrogant?

Andrea Lavinthal: This happens a lot so don't feel like you're being snobbish or arrogant. If you politely decline their offers ("I wish I could but I already have plans" or "Thank you for inviting me, but I'm busy this weekend") a few times, chances are they will get the hint and stop asking. It's not the most direct way to go about it, but it's the least confrontational.

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washingtonpost.com: Thanks for joining us. Please check in tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET for a chat with HGTV's Design Star, Jennifer Bertrand about finding cheap ways to decorate your dorm room.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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