Why I broke up with my best friend

In September last year I broke up with my best friend. The animosity started way before then but the actual break up came in September. At the time, it was hard to find anything written about female friendship and how to know if I was doing the right thing. So now that we’re through the worst of it and in a much better place, here’s how shit went down. 

The history

It started, as the best stories do, with us not liking each other. A disastrous girls’ holiday showed me that she absolutely was not the girl for me. Fast forward a few months, when I realised I’d had enough of not having any real friends and it was time to make an effort, and we were in the pub. She graciously gave me the time of day and later on, in a taxi heading for town, there was that click. You know the one.  

It was a slow burner, but the best kind. Where you fall gradually into each other’s pockets and pick up snippets of one another along the way until, one day, you realise she’s your person without a word ever needing to be said.  

We saw each other through all of life’s big stuff, and the little things too. We watched with pride while the other glowed, and reminded them to shine when they faded. We finished sentences with song lyrics, drank sangria from Pyrex jugs and we sat and cried on the floor together when that’s all that was left to do. She never told me my crimped hair was shit and I should have made her leave her crappy boyfriend sooner, but we did it all together so who cares if it wasn’t perfect, it was always us.

The middle

Truthfully, I don’t know what changed, and you can’t shoe horn 15 years into a few sentences to ever fully explain it. But something did. Life gets busy doesn’t it? Marriage and babies and where-the-fuck did the last five years go. As with all first-person narratives there’s the temptation to throw my grievances onto the page. To list all the ways she hurt me and the things I felt she did. But I don’t want to do that, not any more. Just like our friendship, the falling out of love bit happened slowly too. Minor issues that never got aired, resentments that started small and were explained away but, eventually, all those tiny moments and those it-doesn’t-matters do start to matter. Those paint splatters, barely noticeable at first, start to form a bigger picture until you’re forced to look at it and see that it’s become something ugly. 

The end (ish) 

For a while we plodded, played the game and didn’t say all the things there were to say. And so, inevitably, there was an argument. A horrible, drunken argument that was never really about the thing we were arguing about. It was about us recognising that somewhere along the way we’d become less of an us and we didn’t know how to deal with it, so we hurt each other over trivial things instead. We tried to repair the damage but it was half hearted at best. Months went by where we’d hardly talk, perfunctory text messages or awkward glances at the school gates. She used to be my 3am phone call, my ‘I’d only ever say this to you’ and she’d become the person I cried in the car about when sad songs came on the radio. I think that only if you’ve gone through losing a best friend like that can you know how much it hurts. I’ve come to realise that heartbreak isn’t exclusive to romantic relationships, the only criteria is that you loved someone once. The irony now is that she’s the only person I know who does really understand what it’s like but the one person I can’t talk to about it.

Saying goodbye

And so, one September afternoon, underneath the sun and my heart beating out of my chest, I told her I didn’t want to be her best friend anymore. In the crappest most cliched way, we’d simply grown apart. For a long time, there was a huge part of me that wanted her to say ‘no’, to show me that those two girls who necked Jagers in newsagents and held each other’s new-borns could find a way back to one another. But she didn’t. Because we couldn’t. We still talk, I’d still spend an afternoon in the pub with her reminiscing and eye-rolling, but that unbreakable bond, the one that felt like you could touch it, has been broken. Through losing a friend, I’ve gained new ones, I’ve stopped closing myself off to the idea that other people might like me and I’ve loved every part of finding out who I am when I don’t hold myself back. I’ll always be a bit sad that my bff wasn’t meant to be, but that girl gave me memories to last a lifetime and lessons that, though hard to learn, have made me a better person. Once upon a time a girl sat next to me in the back of a taxi and we had an amazing time for a long time. And that’s all that really matters. The end.

from Underbelly by Anna Whitehouse

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