Payton Howard

Ever since high school, my friends and I have had our own little roles to play within our group. Elise is the stylish one, Jen is the smart one, Yasmin is the party animal, and me? Well, my gal pals can always count on me for tough love, candid advice, my fiercely protective nature, and the cruel, calculated manipulation tactics I use to keep them all in check.

Yup, I guess you could say I’m the emotionally abusive mom of my group of friends!

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Every group has one: that nurturing, maternal presence who offers a shoulder to cry on, is quick with a backhanded compliment, and, when necessary, doesn’t hesitate to tell a friend she’s a completely worthless person and always will be. While Elise keeps us up-to-date on spring fashion trends, and Yasmin has the scoop on the hottest new bars, I’m the one who repeatedly humiliates my friends in public after first lulling them into a false sense of security with excessive generosity and attention.

When they’re feeling down, I’m the only one they trust with their worries, because I’ve convinced them no one else will ever care. My girls tell me things they won’t even tell each other, thanks to my ongoing campaign of lies pitting one against the other. They know they can confide in me and that I’ll use their secrets to crush them if they ever cross me. On the other hand, I never sugarcoat things. If I think one of them needs to be told she’s a tedious fucking bitch with bad skin, I’ll tell her straight to her face.

Day or night, I’m the one they can always turn to, whether for an offhand belittling remark, or an all-out unexplained silent treatment that lasts for days. I guess that’s just my abusive maternal instinct!

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Like every group of friends, we fight sometimes. But even when we have our differences, my girls understand I’ll always be ready to burst into tears and demand to know why they would make me suffer like this after everything I’ve done for them. Later on, after we’ve cooled down and I’ve let them stew in their self-resentment for a while, we’re right back to being besties again.

Sure, there are times when I’d rather have a carefree night on the town without worrying about whether my friends are squarely under my thumb. Sometimes when we’re out at a club, I’m not in the mood to tell them they’re embarrassing themselves, bark “Let’s go!” and then forcibly pull them off the dance floor, making a scene in front of everyone. But I still do it, and you know why? That’s just what unstable, borderline-psychotic moms do!

Hey, if it weren’t for me, who would bring Yasmin way too many tequila shots just so she’ll appreciate how important I am to her a few hours later when I’m holding back her hair as she pukes?

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Though I play the motherly role, that doesn’t mean our friendships aren’t a two-way street. For every time I’ve reduced them to tears in the middle of a Victoria’s Secret, there’s been an occasion on which I’ve stormed out of a birthday party sobbing after getting only a tepid response to the gift I gave them—a reaction that leaves them feeling guilty, ashamed, and desperate to get back into my good graces. Just last week, when Jen was finally opening up about her painful childhood, I turned right back around and tearfully accused her of taking advantage of our friendship by saddling me with her emotional baggage.

At the end of the day, I really just love taking care of my girls, whether that means loudly rebuffing every man who approaches them, giving them unsolicited dieting tips, or buying the next round of mimosas at brunch and then—if she doesn’t return the favor—asking Elise why she’s such a goddamn selfish cunt. Even when times are tough, what matters most to me is that my girls know I have their backs and will never abandon them. Unless, of course, they let me down in some small way, in which case I may just lose it and start smacking the shit out of them.

Being the abusive mom might not seem like the most fun role to play in a group of friends, but for me, it’s the most rewarding.

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Our friendship will last forever because my girls realize if they ever try to leave, I will make them regret it for the rest of their fucking lives.