(This article first appeared on the Daily Life website www.dailylife.com.au)
As women, we’re often bombarded with music, literature and movies about break-ups with lovers. But when it comes to being dumped by a friend, we often struggle to find a way to articulate how devastated we feel and how to go about reconciling this loss in our lives. I know all too well the pain that comes with losing a friend, for I myself am a veteran of the friendship wars.
A few weeks ago as I left the bathroom at a local pub I ran into a woman who up until 12 months earlier, I would have considered one of my closest friends. I say ‘until’, because now all we could manage to say to each other was ‘Oh. Hi.’
We had never formally discussed our break-up, but the lack of returned phone calls, and the ongoing rain checks had led me to think something was awry. Thanks to Facebook, this suspicion was confirmed when I was treated to a swag of photos from her birthday party – a party that I appeared to be the only person in the world not to have received an invite too.
At 32, I’d been dumped by a friend.
But it’s not the first time this has happened. As I said, I’m a veteran. And like any incurable romantic, I remember my first time keenly. Picture it. Primary school, 1987. I’m enjoying a Le Snack when my best friend casually walks up to me and tells me in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.
In a telling portent of all future relationship breakdowns, I reasoned with myself that it was probably that she loved me too much. That in fact, she was frightened of the intensity of her friendship feelings towards me, and needed to insert a suitable distance so as not to make things ‘weird’. This sort of borderline unhinged optimism continued until a week later when she tried to throw a brick at my head.
I decided it might be best to move on.
For the next few years I lived a ‘best friend-free’ lifestyle, making friends with whom I wanted when I wanted, giving very little regard to the type of friend I was attracting. I went from short-term friendship to short-term friendship, like a used lollipop constantly being returned to its wrapper. I’d been burnt by the hot plate of friendship once before and I wasn’t going to be making that mistake again.
Then I met Ryan.
Picture it. High school drama, 1993. Me, slightly overweight, drenched in the smell of cortisone and acne creams and he, sexually ambivalent and with a TV in his bedroom. It was a friendship we both found rewarding until one day, sitting on his bed watching theX-Files, he pressed pause on the VHS and turned to me.
‘Wanna make out?’ he asked.
I burst out laughing and popped another Caramel Crown.
‘Why are you laughing?’ he asked. ‘Is it because you think I’m gay?’
His tone dictated that this conversation was about to take a stroll towards serious town. Sometimes, you can just tell.
‘Um, no I don’t think that…but, are you?’
He jumped off the bed and began to pace around.
‘No, I’m not gay. Why does everyone think I am?’
‘I don’t know’ I mumbled, wanting to help him but mostly wanting another biscuit.
‘Then why don’t you want to make out with me?’ he implored.
I looked at him and said what seemed to be the most sensitive thing for a girl to say to a boy struggling with his sexual identity and looking to score a quick pash ‘just to make sure’.
‘You don’t have any chest hair. I’m just really all about chest hair at the moment.’
The next day upon arriving at school I found a note taped to my locker. It thanked me for my year of friendship services but regretted to inform me they would no longer be required. Honesty, it seems, is not always the best policy when dealing with a friend.
I thought of Ryan as I stood there, outside that pub bathroom, struggling to think of what unspoken offence I might have caused that would result in my literally being struck from the Facebook invite list. Nothing immediately presented itself. Perhaps I was imagining things? Had she just been busy? Was I being too needy?
But maybe the problem isn’t me. After all, five years after friend-dumping me for not adequately addressing the heinous accusations being leveled at his sexuality, Ryan came out as a homosexual male with a particular fondness for chest hair.
Sometimes, you just have to stop pretending.