I think the dew is off the flower.
This is a real thing my gorgeous best friend said to me two nights ago when she discovered a line near the corner of her eye that she swears didn’t used to be there.
Please, I told her. I’ve named the wrinkle on my forehead after the person I know gave it to me. I say “good morning” to it.
The truth is that both of us look fine. Sure, the passage of years means that we’ve changed, but she is still beautiful and here’s some proof: whenever my ex-whatever used to hear me say her name, he’d state happily, “That’s the one I like.” He said it every time – and he never really liked too many people and, well, let’s just say that he’s slightly more critical of aesthetics than Anna Wintour, so I think it’s safe to say that yes, my best friend is very pretty. Anyway, that night – after laughing hysterically over her dewy flower comment – we started talking about the weird and winding roads we once walked (and sometimes crawled) down that led us to become friends all those years ago. It’s funny: I don’t remember actually meeting her, but I do remember the two of us becoming real friends in a quick progression, as often was the case during those hurried college days before the concern about forever colored things, before my wariness about getting too close spiked sky-high.
Once upon a time, there were ten of us and we were really close and we stayed that way for about a decade. Even after we no longer lived in the same house or on the same street, we made it a point to get together frequently. Of those other nine girls, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I met six of them. Many of my finest stories from those years involve them playing major roles. We shared private jokes that, even after they were told a thousand times, stayed somehow funny to us and for a very long time I knew almost everything about those girls and they knew just as much about me.
Certain memories stick out:
One of them collected every tissue and wad of toilet paper in the known vicinity and handed it all to me in a tragic clump when I found out that one of my top graduate schools had rejected me.
One of them used to take off her socks when I felt down because she knew the sight of her oddly shaped toes – they looked like water towers! – made me inexplicably smile.
But there’s also this:
One of them still has my grey Delaware hoodie and I miss that hoodie more than the person who stole it.
We had a good run, the ten of us together. But at a certain point the group splintered. To me, it felt like a natural thing and a part of me always expected it would happen because some long-distance friendships don’t last. I held no animosity for the girls I no longer considered my friends and I truly wished them all well. And I had no desire to engage in the bitter war of words a few were waging for no good reason at all during the aftermath. It all eventually broke down for real when one of the people who has remained my friend emailed everyone to say that she was f*cking sick and tired of showing up to showers and weddings and birthdays to celebrate the major moments in the lives of a group of people who never once asked anymore about her life. All she wanted was reciprocity and an acknowledgment of some sort that these people had become bad friends, but that’s not what she got. No, these people – who for a few years there never once asked her how her career was going or how she felt after she moved to the city – all of a sudden had a sh*t-ton of things to say and all of it was defensive and not one of them ever apologized. There were long emails that could have been turned into lengthy scrolls on which some girls swallowed any complicity they might have chosen to recognize and instead threw up the kind of bitter verbal bile that even smells accusatory. Not one seemed willing to harness any self-awareness in order to say, “Hmm, this person doesn’t usually send me this kind of hurt and angry email. I wonder if perhaps I contributed to her feeling this way…?” As for me, I often asked her how her career was going, so I wasn’t part of her intended audience and I didn’t know what the result would be from a group of people I already felt distant from, but whatever my guess would have been, I’d have been wrong. I watched with total puzzlement as the interactions grew ugly and it really surprised me. I never expected such fury! What was the point? Did any of them really expect that ten of us would continue to walk into bars together until we turned sixty? Had they never before grown apart from somebody? Why were they taking the loss of a friendship they didn’t care enough to nurture so hard? Was there no way to simply bid adieu to half of a group of friends and revel in the fact that now there were fewer people around who knew what we all looked like before we’d discovered waxing? Would nobody even consider looking on the bright side?
And since we’re on the subject of splintering friendships that are actually broken beyond repair, I tuned in to the season premiere of Girls Sunday night and watched as a Marnie the Bride surrounded herself with a group of bridesmaids who hate her. They do not hate her because she’s getting married; they hate her because she sucks and the four of them have nothing in common anymore because it’s hard to find real friendships that can be sustained beyond the purview of college convenience. And sure, recognizing the limits of a friendship can be disappointing – startling even – but sometimes it’s just best to move on and to do so before everything falls to sh*t and you can no longer recall a single thing you once appreciated about that person you once called a friend.
My experiences might not be universal, but one thing I have found is that some friendships are not fully linear. There can be a period of time that passes with nothing but silence and then a connection somehow transpires and the relationship reforms with new common ground, one that is now supported by the foundation of history. Just this last summer, I found myself reconnecting with someone who had once been one of my closest friends and we each waded back in gently but with a smile. She asked me to meet up for lunch and I took care with my outfit like I was heading out on a second date with a guy I might really like. The second I saw her, I realized three things: 1) she looks exactly the same 2) she picked out her clothing carefully, too 3) it was like no time had gone by. We did not rehash any of the old animosity because there was no anger anymore. Time had taken the sting out of anything we’d ever done to one another, and I left that lunch with a big grin on my face and feeling like I had just made a new friend who I wouldn’t have to take so much time to explain my history to because she already knows it.
Over lunch she suggested that all ten of us should get together again. I have no problem with that prospect, but I can’t say I’ve actively missed some of those people and I cannot imagine that they are losing any sleep missing me either. I mean, I’d probably do it just out of curiosity and to see if those old jokes still land funny, but I wouldn’t harbor any hope that we’d end up becoming a group like we once were. Also, I know off the top of my head someone who would rather set herself on fire than be in any room with some of those people, and while I share none of her still-raging acrimony, I can see her point.
Some friendships simply should not be rekindled once they have finally been laid to rest. There are just events some people cannot get over, incidents that once crackled too loudly to pretend there could ever be a peaceful silence in the present. That said, I am living proof that a former friendship can be rebuilt if you are both able to harness a quiet forgiveness that doesn’t need to be continually explored or rehashed because all of that is just f*cking exhausting. I also know this: probably one of the best ways to avoid having to repeatedly have unpleasant conversations you don’t want to engage in is to stay the f*ck off a reality show because yammering away about past conflicts so they can remain present conflicts is clearly part of the job.