“Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

“The older we get, the more we need our friends – and the harder it is to keep them.”

– Jennifer Senior

When I was 11 years old, I met my very first “Best Friend”. Ronda & I looked like sisters and very quickly became just as close! We wrote each other notebooks full of letters, chronicling our time apart when we couldn’t be together, and then talked and laughed, rode horses together, and created our own adventures every chance we could get! We experienced puberty together, went “boy crazy” together, and laughed as we talked about holding hands, first kisses and sex – things that neither one of us knew anything about. We’d take turns spending weekends at each other’s houses and one summer, when my mom was admitted to the hospital, I got to live with her, as her family took care of my sister and I. But, as we grew up, we began to drift apart. When we graduated high school, I chose to get married and move away, while she chose to remain single and further her education. But then she met Matt. Suddenly, I wasn’t so “crazy” in her eyes and, as their relationship became more and more serious, she slowly returned to my life, and I really thought we might actually succeed in being “friends forever”. I was honored to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. However, by the time she walked down that aisle, I had become a mother to my newborn daughter and was experiencing things that she had no knowledge of or interest in. The day they said “I do”, she and I, once again, said “Goodbye” – as they moved to Colorado, and I returned back home to Pennsylvania. We wrote letters back and forth for awhile, then emails and the occasional phone call. We’d try to get together whenever she came back home to visit her parents but, gradually and over time, our communication became fewer and farther in between until, eventually, it ceased to exist at all.

Ronda & I – 1991
Ronda & Matt – 1998

*My heart still aches for Ronda, and I tried (again) to reach out when her brother told me that Matt has died of Cancer, but she has not responded. They were happily married for 23 years. They never had any children. She still lives in Colorado.

As a young mother, at just 19 years of age, I desperately needed a friend. I was fortunate to find her in my sister-in-law, Diana. She was a stay at home mom, fluent in navigating the manipulative behaviors of our mother-in-law, and we quickly became inseparable! Every day we made it our habit to get together, just us and our kids – cooking, cleaning, playing at the park, grocery shopping, or just hanging out, on my couch or hers, watching Disney movies on VHS and stealing snacks from our kids bowls. She was older than me, more experienced in her life as a wife and mother, and she made it a point to be present for every little “growing pain” I ever experienced – my marriage’s first fight, morning sickness and miscarriages, pregnancy problems and the birth and growth of my daughter. If we could not be together, we spoke on the phone – every single day we cracked each other up with all the things we would say and do! But, all of that changed the day I walked away from that toxic marriage and the religion that had ruled our entire lives.

Diana & I – Summer of 1998

*Though her religion still prohibits her from associating with me, Diana did her best to look after my daughter and offer a “safe space” for her to go to as she navigated one of the most difficult years of her life, while rejecting the love of both her father and I.

I was 25 years old when I met Tara. It was like meeting “Ronda” all over again – only this time we were older, wilder, and both of us were single! We worked together as E.M.T.’s at a local ambulance service, went out dancing with each other at our favorite nightclub, and frequented each other’s apartments, taking turns supplying the food and/or alcohol. We were good on our own, but considered “dangerous” when we were together. We lived it up while it lasted, but it wasn’t long before I got serious with Rick and she got her heart broken by another man. I enrolled in the Paramedic program while she chose to phase herself out of EMS. She took a temp job with another employer, started DJ’ing nights at a local bar, got casted for small roles in locally filmed movies and, eventually, opened up her own tanning salon. To this day, I still don’t know exactly what happened between us. I saw her at the grocery store late one night and, as I approached, super excited to see her again, she stared coldly straight ahead and walked right by me, as if I didn’t even exist. I tried to call her a few days later, but she didn’t answer. I texted her phone asking what had happened or what I had done because, whatever it was, obviously changed us and I desperately wanted to fix it… but I never received a response.

Tara & I – December 2003

*I ran into Tara a few months ago, as my husband and I were out for brunch. She looked as if she hadn’t aged a day, but she is now married and has several kids. The conversation never progressed any further than small talk and the usual pleasantries. We did not exchange information and we have made no further attempts to reconnect.

I was going through boxes of old photos the other day and it made me realize just how many friends have actually come and gone throughout the years – some of them with little, if any, reason or closure.

It’s hard not feel bitter at times, when the memories of being ghosted or rejected come rushing back. Cancelled plans, unspoken words, and unanswered questions still linger inside my mind when I find myself missing them. But, the truth is, people change and, while I was a good friend to all of them, I obviously wasn’t the kind of friend they needed at the time – and that’s okay.

I was supportive, but I wasn’t the kind of supportive that they needed – and that’s okay.

I did so much, but it wasn’t the kind of “much” that they needed – and that’s okay.

When a friend breakup happens, it doesn’t have to be dramatic. It doesn’t have to be all-consuming. It does no good to put the other person down. That kind of resentment will rage inside of you and rot you from the inside-out, so fight the urge if and when it festers up. Learn to say “and that’s okay,” because it also does no good to be wrecked with guilt. It isn’t helpful to put yourself down, or replay scenarios over and over inside your mind.

It is what it is – and that’s okay.

Maybe nobody ever really is “the bad guy”? Maybe nobody is in the wrong and there is no antagonist to the story? Maybe it’s all just a part of life, and the best thing to do is acknowledge that the friendship was mostly a positive thing, come to terms with the fact that their season in your life is over, and walk away still wanting good for yourself and good for the other person – because that’s what true friends do.

Break-ups will almost always make you hurt, but they don’t have to make you hate.


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