August 6, 2014

Losing a Friend You Can Always Find

Ten years ago, I met this girl.

I have to admit, at first I had some reservations about her. I knew her through our mutual friend, her roommate, and she was a bit... odd.

At barely 18, she had left home and moved across the country to where her boyfriend lived. A boyfriend she'd never met in person, but had known online for several years. A boyfriend I only met twice in seven years.

She was a vegan self-made expert on feminism and human sexuality, and although her quiet snark could cut, she was sweet and conscientious to a fault.

We became friends. Close friends. I helped her get a job with me, working eldercare. She made herself incredibly unpopular with management of the senior center building when she brought to light the sexual abuses undocumented women were experiencing at the hands of the people they were caring for.

She was always looking out for other people.

I liked her a lot. Truth be told, I loved her. She was one of my closest friends. She stood up in my wedding. She helped me move furniture. She modeled for me when I painted.

She was a good friend.

I probably wasn't so good a friend. I went through a lot in those years. I needed a lot. And maybe, I didn't realize that she needed more from me. She was such a giver, she made it easy to ask favors, to ask for help.

She helped me when M and I moved in together. She helped me when he was going through chemo. She helped me get ready for the wedding. She helped me move again, when I was six months pregnant with twins.

And then one day, I called her. I'd seen on facebook that she and the long time boyfriend were engaged, and I wanted to offer my congratulations. She didn't want to talk to me. She was angry at me. I'm still not really sure about what, but she had a list.

The strange thing was, most of the things on her list? They weren't real. She told me I'd never liked her fiancé, who I'd only met twice (once at my wedding). She accused me of stealing a DVD, which I promptly bought and had shipped to her. She told me she hated the portrait I'd painted of her.

I sat on my bed and listened to her list my faults and my transgressions, and I apologized. I couldn't think what else to do. And when I asked what I could do, she told me I could never contact her again.

I agreed, and she glibly told me goodbye, and hung up.

It took me a few months to do everything she wanted me to do. To unfriend her on facebook, and take her off my google chat list.

It sucked. Every second of it sucked. Because she was my friend, and I loved her, and I was heartbroken that when it seemed she was so happy and life was going so well for her, what she wanted most from me was to leave her alone. Forever.

I've kept my word, for the most part. I haven't contacted her. But when her new husband sent me a friend request, I took it. And although it's been four years now, I can't help myself. I check in on her.

You see, people are easy to find now. Particularly when you have mutual friends. A quick googling, a run through photos on somebody else's wall, a few unflattering minutes searching...

You can kind of stalk anyone you want to. And you shouldn't.

But it's hard. It's hard when I see her name published somewhere, and know her career is going well, it's hard to know I can't send her a note telling her I'm happy for her, and I'm unaccountably proud, and I'm glad she's doing exactly what she knew she wanted to do when she was eighteen.

Social media is amazing. With social media we can keep up instantly with the news. with our celebrity icons, with television shows we like, with bands we follow, with the teams we root for. Thanks to social media, I can find out nearly instantly when my friends have babies, or get new jobs, break up, or have a really awesome meal at a restaurant I want to try.

But it also makes us, all of us, accessible in a way we never have been before. Anybody can probably find me, if they try hard enough. Just as I can always find somebody I knew once upon a time, but lost touch with, somehow.

I miss her, and being able to see her whenever I want, from a distance, makes it linger. Makes it impossible for me to just pull the plug and unfriend her husband (who I have never disliked), and tell myself to stop looking for her articles.

But I keep hoping one day she'll miss me, too. And one day she'll check and see how I'm doing, and maybe just click "like" on just one thing, just once.

Because she was a good friend, and I miss her.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately, as the release date of the new HerStories book about the end of female friendships approaches. I have a piece in the book, but it's not about this friend. This ex. Because whenever I think about the idea that our friendship is really over, that it's really done and everything that could be said has passed... it still hurts.

Four years later, it hurts. And I still wish I could call her up to let her know how glad I am that she's happy. How glad I am she was my friend. How no matter what has happened, I'll still always be there for her. If she ever wanted me to be.


"My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends" comes out next month. You can pre-order below

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  1. i think you need to share this post with her. i know she said she doesn't want any contact and you've obliged her but her husband friending you on FB... it's like a door opening a bit.
    i have a love/hate relationship with social media.

    1. I don't know. I think she might see sending her this as a kind of emotional manipulation. I don't want to guilt trip her into being friends with me, that's not how friendship works. I don't want her to feel guilty about ending our friendship- if she thought it was the right thing to do, I can't really argue with that. I guess I hope she somehow does see it, but sending it to her directly seems like a violation of her privacy.

      I don't know. I struggled with how much to put in there to begin with. When she wants to, if she wants to, I hope she'll contact me.

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. Losing a close friend is so painful.

  3. That really sucks, but sometimes all we can do is wish them happiness from a distance. I think that not sending it directly is probably the right thing to do, but I'll share it in hopes that others will too and maybe she'll stumble upon it herself. Your post is heartfelt and if she does read it, I hope she feels that too. PS It's awesome that you are promoting her book.

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