Category Archives: Best Friends

How I Lost My Best Friend, by Lynn Lauber

get-attachment copy 2My best friend P and I are standing on the corner of Rice Avenue and Allentown Road on this day in 1967, discussing despair and possible suicide—two of our common topics.  A car careens around the corner, filled with the blonde heads of high-school boys who are the cause of our malaise in the first place – thick necked, feckless, their pink and white mouths always open with jeers, catcalls, and absolute power.  We ignore their taunts and deftly sidestep their car’s path as we continue our conversation.  For all our talk, dying isn’t really in our plans. It’s part of our song and dance routine; it’s a feature of our being best friends.

If I’d signaled otherwise, P might have followed me out into the road and to our doom.  I’m the dominant one, not that we speak of such things.  But I definitely run the show, this dance between us–so unlike the real ones we’d never be caught dead attending—the proms and homecomings and other sanctioned events.

Instead, that night we’re at the Rodeway Motor Lodge off Route 61, in bed with young men who my grandmother would call “dusky” after she got  up from her faint on the floor.

I’ve talked P into coming here because my current boyfriend, the tyrannical Miles, said his friend was in town and needed a girl.

So P is with a long lanky youth named Langdon who she’s never met before and will surely never see again.  We both have worn our maxi skirts, knee high boots and vinyl coats for this outing – we could be walk-ons in a budget version of Superfly if someone nearby were filming, if 1972 still weren’t still in the future.  We think we look grand.

As I lie there staring at the ceiling, I hear a faint thump on the other side of the plywood wall, which must be P’s head against the bedframe –a kind of desperate communication.

What is she trying to convey with this rhythmic pounding?  I close my eyes at the thought and slip back into the shallow center of myself.   

I use P; we both know this–especially for her Pontiac Tempest, commodious as a sofa, which I need for illicit visits with Miles.  I need her for fake slumber party locations, counterfeit mother’s signatures, to make calls for me in the middle of the night.

In turn, she is my apprentice in deception, pancake makeup, crash diets.

She is pink and petite with owl -like glasses that frequently fog.   Each winter we drive to Florida long enough to burn our skins a deep maroon, then speed back in order to glean attention for our remarkable, temporary bronzeness. (This is my idea, as are all others.)

We are 16, 17, then 18; finally we can escape our hometown.  P follows me to Columbus where I attend college, though she can’t afford classes herself.

We live together in a brick turn-of –the- century apartment, where roaches dance around the gas ring and fall from the ceiling into our hair.

I read Sartre, while P works in a Fotomat—a bathroomless booth in the middle of a parking lot.  She brings home photos of other people’s vacations that we laugh over at night.

We visit Planned Parenthood and carry pink disks of birth control pills in our macramé bags.  We can officially sleep with anyone now.  After so many years, we are free.

A student who lives in an apartment above us finally snags my heart; he’s unlike any type we’ve known before. He skis and drives a sports car; there are country clubs in his background.  He likes P, too, and we all go out together for fried pork tenderloin sandwiches and Marx Brothers’ double features.  We are a threesome, though they each are separately mine

The wind shifts; we are 19.  I learn about continental plates and how to spell Moliere; P works at Budget Meats and brings home half-priced liver.

One holiday weekend, I have to go home alone; leaving P and the boyfriend to their own devices.

When I walk into the apartment after my return, I know what happened; P runs water in the sink and won’t meet my eye.

I expect the boyfriend to deny it, but that P does is the clincher.

“You can’t lie to me,” I scream at her.  “I’m the one who taught you how!”

This is how I lose my best friend.

I could say it was because of a man, but I can’t make myself believe it.

It was me, it was me. It was me, all along.

 

Lynn Lauber’s most recent book is Listen to Me, Writing Life into Meaning (WW Norton); her essay, “When One of Me Became Three,” was published in the NYT’s Modern Love.

 

 

 

A Shared History, by Lisa Lewis

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 When my best friend and I met in 10th grade, we had a lot in common: we were both smart, sheltered suburban girls, slightly goofy, just emerging from our awkward phases. We were also young enough that a shared naïve sensibility and similar class schedule were enough for us to form a bond. We giggled a lot; we learned dance routines together in our flame-red drill-team polyester skirts and sweater vests. We were 14 and not prone to introspection.

We didn’t realize at first that we also both had family histories of unhappiness, a bond that was far more lasting. This was the undercurrent that ran beneath our friendship. When I felt churning anxiety, I had a tendency to be controlling. Her response was to be adventurous, to make bold choices that provided an escape. But by then, the friendship had acquired an aura of permanence, each year adding another protective layer. “It’s been that way for 6 ½ years and always will be,” she wrote in a collage she gave me for college graduation, spelling out the words with colorful letters cut from glossy magazines. “That’s why we’re still best friends.”

For the next two decades we passed through life’s stages in tandem, marrying in our twenties, having kids in our thirties, and then beginning to care not just for our children but for our parents and our spouses’ parents.

We knew the family legacies we’d inherited: the anger and depression, the legacy of suicide attempts embedded in our family trees. In her case, productivity masked bipolar tendencies; in mine, being moody and critical was a cover for depression.

The flaws in our friendship usually retreated into the background. But there were times I criticized her, my own insecurities more visible in the radiance of her many successes. And she could wound me with her words, calling me on my shortcomings when she felt hurt. It was easier not to dwell on these rough patches, to focus instead on the longevity of our friendship.

Then, when we were 42, a single conversation triggered its collapse. “I have news,” she said. “We’ve decided to move to Israel!” In a happy rush, she shared a flurry of details, including how they’d now be near her in-laws. Her husband had already negotiated a job transfer.

Perhaps I should have simply been happy for her. But as we sat in my living room that warm fall California afternoon, I swallowed back my own feelings of loss. I wondered, too, about the other plan now evidently abandoned: the cross-country summer road trip to visit the key landmarks of her parents’ lives. It had been one year since her father had died, just over two since her mother had died. The trip had been a major focus of hers as she’d channeled her grief into planning.

Later, I told her I was bummed she was moving and that I’d miss her.

“A lot of people have said that when we told them,” she said sympathetically.

If she were someone I’d met as an adult, I might have let the comment slide, or dismissed it as the verbal mis-step of someone still coping with loss as well as the immensity of a trans-Atlantic move. When we talked on the phone the next day, I might have been secure enough in our friendship not to get hung up on her words. But perhaps I’d never really transcended the dynamic of our teenage years. I couldn’t help revisiting it. “It doesn’t make me feel any better to know how popular you are.” Even as I said it I knew how petty I sounded.

She hung up on me. The legacies that had been held in check for so long had finally broken through. She sent me two lengthy emails, then called my husband the next morning at work. She told him tearfully that my comment sounded like one her mother would have made.

I hadn’t told him yet about our falling out and was embarrassed he’d been dragged into it. Over the next several days she continued to call him and to send emails to both of us, each one escalating in tone.

The unhealthy subtext of our friendship had resurfaced. Even as I saw the breach tearing open, I couldn’t resist being angry too. Our argument echoed with the discord of old family patterns; I felt justified in my anger yet panicked by her rejection. If only I could find the right words her anger would soften into understanding.

I chose my words carefully. I left a voice-mail. When she didn’t respond, I sent a follow-up e-mail recapping my apology. We had stirred up powerful emotions in each other, but over the years she’d been my closest confidante.

“First, I wanted to apologize for what I said. I know that the comment I made wasn’t kind, so I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry,” I wrote. “At the same time, though, your response seemed disproportionate – the volume and the intensity of your anger.”

But by then it seems we were too far gone. Soon after, I realized she’d unfriended me on Facebook and severed our connection on LinkedIn. It pained me to realize the foundation of our friendship was far less solid than I’d thought. Three weeks after she’d announced her move, I sent her a final note of good-bye.

As May Sarton wrote, “Though friendship is not quick to burn, it is explosive stuff.” I didn’t anticipate the final eruption, the lengthy e-mail she sent to my mother two days later detailing my numerous shortcomings as a friend, daughter, wife and mother. Various confidences I’d shared had been twisted and distorted in one final missive. She blind-copied the note to me and to my husband.

I wish I could say I didn’t crumble. That I didn’t feel the old, familiar dread as I watched my mother temporarily come undone, the adult relationship we’d carefully built wounded by the serrated edge of those final accusations, the knifepoint scraping away at the emotions of our own relationship during my teenage years. That I weathered the next few weeks calmly until our mother-daughter bond shakily righted itself.

“She’s trying to destroy all of the relationships that are important to me!” I sobbed to my husband, who wondered how I could even think she somehow had the power to corrode my marriage or my family bonds. I wasn’t yet able to see that I’d become the focal point for her displaced anger. The dormant issues in our friendship had bubbled up, providing an outlet for the other tensions pooling below.

My kids are still too young to understand why the close ties between our two families were suddenly severed. They miss her kids, but they’re content for now with my explanation about her family’s overseas move. I can’t explain to them that the breach that’s torn open is far less navigable than the ocean that now separates them from their friends.

I can see now that the ending was entirely understandable, fueled by powerful undercurrents. We were too steeped in common hurts, too vulnerable to regressing into old adolescent patterns. For nearly 30 years our shared history had bonded us together. But eventually, it was what broke us apart.

Lisa Lewis is a contributing writer for Literary Mama and has also been published on Prime Number Magazine.

Reader post: No Girls Allowed! by Laura Probert

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My girlfriend of many years brought her son and daughter to the only birthday party my son specifically asked to be all boys. In the middle of the bowling alley, while I was organizing the rowdy group of boys who had made their way onto the floor, doing their best John Travolta impersonation to the Saturday Night Fever that was playing in the background, she asked me if her daughter could stay. When I made up some lame excuse about not having enough goodie bags she grabbed her daughter’s hand and stormed out, leaving her husband and her son there in her wake.

That was the day I lost my friend.

 

I watched as she left in her huff and I panicked, realizing that I had offended her. I ran to her husband and begged him to plead my case with her over the phone. She wasn’t answering. I wouldn’t have a good chance to explain until much later, when too much time had passed and our egos were too large for deflating.

 

My girlfriend and I were part of a bigger friend group that had been bonding for years. The five of us and our husbands and families did life together, first the weddings, then the babies. All our kids were regulars at everyone else’s kid’s parties, and I did understand her confusion. If she had RSVP’d to my formal mailed invitation she would have seen the details. Boys. Bowling.

 

Instead I had to call her the day before to ask if her son was coming. My bad, I didn’t mention it was just for boys on the phone that day. I didn’t think I needed to. I had just chalked it up to her being mildly rude by not RSVP’ing, and she was a good enough friend that I would give her that by.

 

My friend was so mad, so offended by my response at the party that she never got over it, even when I apologized. Even when I tried again several months later with a heartfelt letter, and again the following Christmas when I emailed a “Hello, how are you?”

 

I felt such a deep shame after this event. At first I wondered what I had done, and decided that I should have just said okay and let her daughter stay. What harm would it have been except to disappoint the birthday boy? I second guessed myself and took on the blame for our falling out. Not only would our relationship suffer, but our whole five-some would eventually “split up.” Oh the guilt.

 

When I made the effort to apologize and connect several times without an equal response I had to let go. I had to come to the realization that even if the mistake had been mine, I did all I could to do repair the friendship and that it was in her court at that point. Letting go was really hard. I had trouble tolerating the feelings inside, the idea that I had been a bad friend.

 

The emotions I felt after losing my girlfriend felt worse than some love relationships I have had. I was really stuck in a lack of self worth, and shame. It didn’t seem right. It took me a really long time to be okay with that break up, and come to a place of peace with it.

 

Nowadays I hear rumors about my friend’s life and successes and I feel happy for her with a small pang of regret. I think about the communication break down that was ultimately the cause of our split and I feel grateful for the lesson it taught me. I have worked hard over the years since to know my worth, find my voice and speak from my heart. I know that the current friends I have benefit from that, and I can be thankful for the painful experience it took to wake me up.

 

Today I make it a practice to listen to my intuition, speak from my heart, and get clarification when I need it in my relationships. I don’t have time for petty arguments, judgement, and superficiality. What makes great friends is awareness, listening, and authenticity. My friend taught me one of the best lessons I could ever learn.

 

 Laura Probert, MPT has practiced the art of physical therapy and awareness for over 20 years. Connect with her here: www.bodyworksptonline.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Submission: The Thick and The Thin by Christine Benvenuto

Christine Benvenuto’s story is the first in a series of reader stories about friendship breakups we will be sharing on our blog in the coming days.

 

The Thick and The Thin

Christine Benvenuto

Right smack in the middle of one bright winter Saturday afternoon I called my friend’s cellphone. “Hey,” I said when she picked up, my voice friendly, casual. “Where are you? Whatcha doing?”

“You tell me where you want me to be.”

“No, really, I was just wondering – ”

“You tell me where you want me to be and I’m there.”

Despite my certainty that I had conveyed just nothing of the crisis moment I was having, she wasn’t having it. She knew. A few minutes later, true to her word, her car pulled up curbside and I hopped in.

She rescued me – that day and countless others during the tumultuous course of a nasty breakup and divorce. It wasn’t a one-way street. “I have to see you,” she texted the day she suddenly wondered if a harmless office flirtation maybe wasn’t quite so harmless after all. On the road to my home, I veered off to swing onto hers. She told me everything. We told each other.

We weren’t childhood friends, college friends, friends as young singles. We met as mature career women, wives and mothers with virtually nothing in common. Different religions, different cultures, different economic backgrounds. In some respects, different values. We shared a few, though. Like the value we placed on friendship.

If all the ways we weren’t alike didn’t keep us apart, nothing would. During times of man trouble my friend would spin out our shared future: we would buy a house together, or she would just move into mine. We’d be old ladies together, strong women who didn’t require men to keep us from being lonely because we had something better: female friends. Our collective brood of half a dozen children would come and go from our home. Her daughter and one of mine were going to be best friends for life, just like us. Sooner or later, they’d bring our grandchildren along with them.

Oops. This is where we stumbled. Our daughters were friends, good friends if maybe not quite BFFs. Until, one day, they weren’t. My daughter kept making me invite hers. The answer wasn’t no. It was silence. “I’ll ask her and get right back to you,” my friend would say or text. Then: nothing. I got it. It was too hard to keep making excuses. Too painful to keep saying no.

My daughter didn’t know what was wrong and neither did I. tried to ask my friend if anything had happened between the girls. She insisted, convincingly, that there was nothing. “I would make them talk it out if anything had happened!” she told me. And she would. If they’d had a fight, she would have kept them talking until they made it up. But there was no fight. Her daughter had simply stopped being my daughter’s friend and there wasn’t a darn thing either of us could do about it.

My daughter mourned. She suffered. Her heart was broken and I held her while she cried. Then the day came when I dried her tears and told her she had to move on. And, wonder of wonders, she did.

It’s wrenching to see your child through her first rejection, but as mothers we know that’s part of the job we signed on for. What do you do when the cause of that heart break is your friend’s child, the very friend you would have otherwise told all about it?

In the months since our daughters’ friendship ended, we’ve tried to stay in touch. We’ve sent messages. Asked each other to meet. We’ve agreed to meet, only to have one or the other of us cancel at the last minute. It’s awkward. It’s weird. It’s the elephant in the room, or rather it would be if we were ever in a room together.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. It doesn’t have a sad ending either. It doesn’t end at all. We will find a way back. Sometime. I think so.

In the meanwhile, I have to marvel at our undoing. Who would have guessed that the wedge that would come between us would be one of the very few things we have in common? It’s our wild, passionate, and utterly committed motherhood that has thrown our friendship onto the rocks. The most important trait we share.

Tell us your story about breaking up with your best friend

This week, inspired by Bonnie Friedman’s Shebook Devil Doll about complicated women’s friendships, we’re printing stories about breaking up with women friends on our Facebook page and blog. Please share yours (email us at: write@shebooks.net) –and who knows, maybe we’ll have enough for a new Shebook.
Our editorial director Laura Fraser shares her story about breaking up–and making up–with her best friend:

“The apology” by Laura Fraser

When we were 10, my best friend Kristin Spielman and I wore identical silver rings, thinking we’d be best friends forever. We walked to school together every day, and could hardly wait to see each other again when the last bell rang. We talked endlessly about which boys we liked and which girls were stuck-up, and spent long hours working on craft projects. We were closer to each other than we were to our own sisters.

I trusted Kristin so much that I not only let her cut my hair, I believed her when she told me that extremely short, crooked bangs were the height of fashion. When I was teased at school for being chubby, Kristin reassured me, “Your real friends love you the way you are.”

Then, one afternoon when we were 12, Kristin didn’t walk home with me, and she didn’t call. I suddenly realized, like a punch in the stomach, that she and another girl were off having fun together–without me. With no explanation, Kristin just stopped being my friend. I took off my silver ring and hid it in the back of my jewelry box. I had no idea what I’d done to make Kristin stop liking me, but it made me stop liking myself.

By high school, the sting of losing Kristin as a best friend had faded, and we saw each other sometimes in group gatherings. When I left Colorado for college, I don’t even think I wished her goodbye. We weren’t that close.

And so it was a surprise, five years later, to get an invitation to Kristin’s wedding reception. But I went. Her mother was so delighted to see the two of us together again, now grown up, that she cried.

We immediately warmed up to each other, talking and teasing and full of curiosity about our different lives. She soon had a family and stayed in Colorado. I was single, pursuing a writing career in San Francisco. Whenever I came home, Kristin would pick me up at the airport and our conversation would resume right where it had left off months before. No one makes me laugh as much as she does.

“Breaking up” with Kristin in sixth grade was the only thing in my life that halfway prepared me for the day when, after only a year of marriage, my husband left me. When I could finally muster the strength to call a friend, I called Kristin. She insisted I come home immediately.

It was comforting to be with her, to hear her fierce assurance when she said I didn’t deserve what had happened. At a time when the ground had given way beneath me, her friendship felt solid.

During our visit, we took a hike in the mountains and Kristin started talking about her two girls. Her oldest daughter, Emilee, was already a teenager. “She’s like we were as kids,” Kristin said. “She has one really good friend. Hana has a lot of friends and doesn’t care as much.”

Only recently, Emilee’s best friend had abruptly broken off their relationship. “Kind of like what I did to you,” Kristin said. I looked at her, amazed. I never thought that betrayal had even registered with her.

“I’m seeing what Emilee’s going through, and how awful it is for her,” Kristin went on. “I told her to look at us–that everything turns out OK in the end, that you end up being good friends with the people you deserve.”

I looked down at my hiking boots and we kept on walking.

“Did I ever apologize to you for that?” Kristin asked.

I shook my head, finding it impossible to speak.

“Well, I’m sorry,” she said.

I wiped my eyes and gave her a hug. “You’re forgiven,” I told her. “Complete absolution.”

I knew my ex-husband would never apologize to me for breaking my heart. But it was enough, at that moment, that my best friend had.

Copyright Laura Fraser. Originally published in Women’s Day.

Laura Fraser with her best friend Kristin Rankin: 

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