Friends come and go. It always hurts to some degree—even when the culling was for the best. It’s funny how the memory of these relationships can just randomly pop into you head. Just this morning I thought of an old friend. I’m not sure why.
I’ve known her since we were kids. I probably know her better than any of the friends she has now in her adult life.
She wasn’t an easy person to get to know as she grew up. She put up walls and over-compensated for the perceived short-comings that chipped away at her self-esteem over the years. The kind, creative, brilliant friend I knew as a child became a narcissistic one-upper, obsessed with success and all the material things. But she was never like that with me. I saw the real her, hidden underneath the layers of hurt and self-doubt. I understood her history. After all, I was beside her when it was being made.
We had sleep-overs and did handstands on her front lawn. We made mixed tapes from the radio and stayed up late to watch Saturday Night Live and scary movies.
We were friends. Now we’re not.
Somewhere along the way she put up a wall that even I couldn’t break down. She made life choices that were different from mine. I honestly didn’t care—but she seemed to need to prove that her choices were right or maybe even superior.
She skipped my wedding shower because she didn’t like my friend and her fellow bridesmaid who was graciously hosting it. She claimed she had to work.
She didn’t come to either of my baby showers for the same reason.
When it became clear that my daughter would require extensive care, instead of offering to help or just listen, she pulled away even more. She told me one night on the phone that she was frustrated that I was too busy with family life. “I understand,” she said. “It’s just…you used to be fun.”
That was the straw that broke our friendship’s back.
I may understand her difficult history and can empathize—I know why she became this person, but at some point it’s time to let go.
I chose to have a family. She chose a career. She didn’t want children. She never did. I respect that. She knew her children would be raised by a nanny. She also knew she would always put her career first. “It’s not fair to them,” she admitted.
I felt regret that she would never know the joy of having a child, but knew she was right. Having a family is all-consuming. If you’re not all in, then choosing not to be a parent is a brave and responsible choice.
She doesn’t have kids, but she has fur babies. I know that term bugs a lot of people. But I say back-off and let people love and dote on the species of their choice.
A few years ago I reached out one final time. I thought I missed her. Clearly it was the old her who I missed. The adult version of my childhood buddy was so far gone, as hard as I looked, I couldn’t see even a trace of the girl who I made crepe paper poms poms with or acted along side in our school play.
She agreed to meet me for coffee at an upscale mall. I arranged for child-care so that I could have an adult afternoon with my old friend in hopes of re-connecting.
Instead of a heart-felt conversation, she dragged me around from boutique to boutique. She bought this purse and those shoes and earrings that would look amazing with the dress she bought for an event.
She rattled on about which colour scarf complimented her skin tone best and listed the perfumes her life partner liked on her the most. Life partner, not husband. Marriage wasn’t for her. “Why would anyone get married?” she questioned me once, shortly after my wedding.
After a few hours, she told me she had to go. She was meeting the contractor at the new house she and her partner were building. “It’s very stressful.” she informed me. “Today we have to decide on appliances.”
Life is hard.
We said goodbye in the parking lot. “This was fun!” she said. “Let’s get together again soon.” But what she didn’t know is that I was saying good-bye for keeps.
We never spoke again after that, though I felt I owed her a proper goodbye. I did it in an email.
She responded within minutes. She said she was disappointed and what a shame and “when I sort myself out she would be here waiting….”
It hurts when a friendship ends. Especially one that span decades and major life milestones.
I wonder if she’s still waiting?