One of my ex best friends’ birthday was steadily approaching and it would be the first one we hadn’t spent together since we’d met. I was debating on whether I should call or send a card, especially since I’d been the one to sever the relationship. I finally decided not to do it, after seeing a plethora of preemptive birthday shouts, to her, on social networks via our mutual friends. She had more than enough love she’d be all right without my commemoration.
Sometimes when you’ve been friends with someone for so long it’s hard to identify their negativity. Snide remarks and intentional hurt will be misconstrued as sarcasm and time-of-the-months. But this never lasts for long. When you come into contact with genuine folks, a Venn diagram for your so-called BFFs, their continuing faults will become more apparent than ever.
When we’d met she was a party girl, content with finding the hottest outfit and club for the weekend. As all friends do, we sacrificed for one another. Sometimes she gave up her parties on nights I wanted to attend a literary event or an open mic. After a few weeks of these outings, it suddenly dawned on her that she could meet men, on a completely different tier than those that she’d been dealing with, in other places than the club. Suddenly she was flirting with musicians, poets, and writers; she’d also bought a journal to keep her thoughts in. I was excited at the prospect of my best friend getting involved with the things I loved, until I realized she was faking it.
After seeing her retweet something I said, I saw that her Twitter bio was a lot longer. When I took a glance at it, I was immediately offended. In less than a year she’d gone from “just a girl who enjoys life” to “author, copywriter, educator, intellectual.” Say what now? As someone who has spent most of her life behind a book and work shopping her craft, it annoyed me to see someone use the titles so easily.
The instance did light a small fire within me, but I decided not to speak on it. We continued our friendship, over the years. She was suddenly all too involved in my professional world, wanting to know every little detail about the steps I made. She broke the hearts of men I’d introduced her to, men who were my good friends before their connection but decided to keep their distance afterwards. She uttered things about my career that bothered me but I tried not to let it get to me:
Oh how’d you get that gig? I mean I could write for them, but I think my work is too good.
Girl you still writing that little book? I would have been done by now. Writing a novel seems too easy. That’s why I’m working on a memoir.
Despite all of this, I still gave her the benefit of the doubt. I made sure to help carry her upstairs when she was too drunk to do so herself. I connected her with the right people when she was in desperate need of a job. I even held her during her first heartbreak even though she’d broken enough of her own to deserve it.
Soon her unpleasant comments seemed not so far and few in between and a pattern developed in our friendship: she only called when she wanted advice about something literary, if she needed to get into an event that I had passes to or if she’d spied someone hot on my friends list. Thus our divide became incredibly clear:
I called to tell her about an awesome writing opportunity I was given. She sighed into the phone, “Everything happens for YOU doesn’t it.” I laughed, because I thought the angst I heard in her voice was a joke. It wasn’t. Huh? She stated again, “Everything GOOD happens for YOU. Good for you. I’ve got to handle something. Let me call you back.”
She and I, and a ton of our friends went to our favorite restaurant for brunch and she’d announced that she’d just received a promotion. We raised our mimosas in cheer and congratulated her. The table buzzed incessantly about how far she’d come. After a few minutes one of the other girls at the table asked, “Erica didn’t you just get a promotion too? How is that going?” I opened my mouth to speak and my “best friend” cut me off, “This is definitely my moment. Are you serious?” Everyone got really quiet and diverted the conversation to an entirely different topic.
We planned to all get together for a dinner and I’d had a really rough day at work. She called to ask if I was coming and I realized that I’d completely forgotten about it. “Where are you?” she asked. I responded, “I’m so sorry, I just got into the house. I didn’t have a chance to…” She flipped out, “Whatever, I don’t have time for this. Everything is about you and the one time I choose a place for us to go, you don’t come. I don’t know who you think you’re fooling.” She hung up.
I was floored. How could someone I’d put my all into, several times, speak to me like this? I couldn’t even begin to list the sacrifices that I’d made and I’d never asked for anything in return.
I took a long deep breath and did something that I’d been meaning to do for months: I texted a long goodbye. She took in the message and responded the day afterwards, “Fine, if that’s what you want, but I don’t see what I did wrong.”
I was discouraged for a few days, but as weeks passed by I realized that a burden started to lift. The courage it took to send that text message took off. I immediately removed a few girls who had similar idiosyncrasies from my social networks and phonebook.
A few noticed and emailed to ask where we’d gone wrong but I didn’t feel like I had to give people who made no attempt at a reciprocated friendship an explanation.
One of the most important lessons that we’ll ever learn is that some friends are seasonal. Another lesson: For every friend we let go, there’ll be someone that enters your life that depicts exactly what you’ve been looking for in a comrade. I’ve recently started a friendship with a co-worker that has mutual interests. Although we both have our flaws, we never fail to check in on one another. She’s teaching me exactly what acquaintanceship truly looks like. I’m blindsided by it everyday.
The toxicity of others will consume. Last year, I had to make some of the most pivotal decisions I’ve ever made, but I’m so much lighter because of it. You deserve so much more in a confidant. Don’t let decades defend disrespect.
“RivaFlowz” is a teacher and professional writer living in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter: @rivaflowz.