My friend and I were at a party, when one of my exes showed up. Let’s call my friend Jolene—you know, from that Dolly Parton song. Her pupils dilated when my ex waved at us. “Who’s that?”
“This guy I dated…”
She left me mid-sentence, then came back with his phone number. Jolene dated my ex for a few weeks, until she got tired of him.
It wouldn’t be the last time.
For years, I’ve wondered why my friend would do something like that—just hit on whoever her friends were dating, or had dated, without even checking first. The answer is simpler than I want to admit:
She wanted to see if she could.
Jolene is more than a song.
I’m not sure why I stayed friends with her for so long. She stole everyone’s man, just like that Dolly Parton song, and even bragged about it.
I think we all wanted to be her—just a little.
We wanted to know what it was like to be so attractive, charming, and successful that you could take anyone from anyone. We needed her in our lives so bad, we let her do it.
When Jolene was your friend, you felt invincible. When she wasn’t, you’d do anything to earn her approval again.
That’s how she got away with it.
Some women are relationship kleptomaniacs.
For a long time, the stereotype’s been that women can’t get along. They’re always vying for attention. They’re always making passive-aggressive remarks about each other’s shoes.
They’re always planning something.
For some women, it’s true. They lean into a cliche.
Why do some women always go around poaching men? Some do it because they can, and it makes them feel good. For others, they can’t build their own genuine relationships. They don’t even want to try. They want yours. They’ll have what you’re having.
There’s a certain thrill in pulling off a love heist. They also do it to remind you: They’re the queen bee.
But there’s a deeper truth…
Our society promotes “winner take all.”
These days, some women think that if they can’t have everything and everyone they want, they’re losers.
They see other people’s joy as a threat to their own.
Jolene used to be a nice person. But she fell into a vat of culture magazines and couldn’t escape. Now instead of “how to please your man in bed,” she gets brainwashed by #girlboss culture into thinking her value lies in a kind of cut-throat superiority over other women.
She isn’t content to just get everything she wants. She has to get everything you want, too — even if she throws it away later.
Men do this, too.
I’ve seen some men go through life thinking they’re a modern day rake, the Casanova who turns all their friends into cuckolds. They’re the bad boys who never grow up. Call them Rick, or Alan.
For them, it’s a sport.
They like to prove they’re the alpha, or the rebel with great hair. Status matters more to them than friendship. They still view women as shiny objects to show off, even if they write poetry from a ledge.
They’ll compliment your girlfriend the same way they compliment a nice watch: “Wow, where’d you get her?”
They’ll flirt with your girlfriend as a dominance display. They’ll give her compliments that make you feel uncomfortable.
If you get upset, they’ll call you immature.
They’ll take your girlfriend out to bars to get her drunk while you’re not around. They’ll call it a kind of babysitting, as if you owe them a favor. They’ll become your girlfriend’s new best friend.
They’ll joke about being a surrogate boyfriend.
Except they’re not joking.
Why do we put up with this?
Lots of men and women have that friend they wouldn’t trust alone with their partner. We think it’s inevitable.
We seem to like the drama, even if we say we don’t.
We think if they can steal someone away from us, then they must have something we don’t. They must actually be smarter, better looking, or somehow superior to us.
We keep them around because we don’t want to look jealous or insecure. We also want to know Jolene’s secret. If we could learn how to seduce like them, then we’d never have to worry about losing someone’s love again. That’s the reason we put up with it.
And it’s a lie.
The truth is, Jolene is our friend because we constantly procure new men for her. We make her life easy. We feed her ego.
If you’re a guy, this is why you put up with your Ricks and Alans. You don’t stand up to them because you secretly want to be them. No, you wouldn’t stab your friends in the back. But you’d like knowing you could seduce anyone whenever you wanted.
Vampires are only sexy on screen.
In real life, relationship vampires are pitiful creatures. They think there’s a finite amount of love in the world.
They want yours while it’s still fresh. They drink up what they can, then move on to the next one.
They’re not capable of giving love, just consuming what’s leftover.
It’s a miserable way to live.
What we do for Jolene.
My Jolene had a habit of taking other girls “under her wing,” and grooming them in her own image. She surrounded herself with people like me —people who secretly wanted to be her.
We met Jolene at her favorite bars. We listened to her stories. We did what she wanted. We did our best to entertain her.
When she got bored, we tried harder.
We tolerated her mood swings. We saw any flinch of unhappiness in her face as a failure on our part to be witty or wise. We let her criticize us, even make fun of us to each other.
We wanted to be the one she liked most.
Jolene finally doesn’t get her way.
One day Jolene decided she didn’t like the guy I was going to marry. She tried to flirt with him, and he didn’t flirt back.
He said she wasn’t his type.
Jolene couldn’t understand.
She proceeded to try and sabotage my engagement. She unfriended him on Facebook. She ignored him when we went out. She badmouthed him when he wasn’t around. She tried to get me to stay out late, “just the two of us,” instead of spending time with him.
Jolene made me choose — him, or her.
This is what Jolene did whenever one of her friends found a truly meaningful relationship. If she couldn’t seduce the guy, she tried to kill the whole thing. If that failed, she ended the friendship.
Jolene wound up ending a lot of friendships.
Now she’s alone, a fixture in dive bars with a trail of dead careers and relationships behind her. It’s sad when someone loses their youth, but still refuses to grow up.
Some men are waiting to be seduced.
Not everything’s Jolene’s fault.
You can’t seduce someone unless they want to be. And the men who want to be have gotten in over their heads. Long term relationships turned out to be more work than they bargained for.
They’re not up for fatherhood like they thought they were.
They get tired of all the chores, and start confusing reasonable demands from their spouses with “nagging.”
They never canceled their subscription to Maxim. Part of them still thinks they’ll get to make out with Megan Fox or Mila Kunis one day — or maybe just a chick who looks a lot like her.
These are the men waiting to be seduced. They’ll throw away everything to entertain Jolene for a few weeks.
Stop rolling over for Jolene.
We’ve all probably had that friend we let get away with far too much. We let them cross all kinds of lines and boundaries, and we felt like somehow it was our fault. We let them get away with it because they embodied unhealthy traits that our culture taught us to revere.
Basically, we thought they were cool.
We thought they made us happy. The whole time, it was the opposite. We pretended to love their stories. We showered them with attention. We lived off their energy, while they fed off ours. We built up their egos, and then wondered what made them so confident.
The entire time, it was us.
Imagine giving some of that attention to yourself.
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