I met a girl in high school in the locker room. We’d just entered our freshman year and she was fixing her hair in front of a mirror that hung on a concrete wall.
I hated gym class. I hated changing. I hated getting sweaty. I hated how frizzy a game of volleyball or basketball made my hair. I walked by her and smiled at her reflection. I liked the way she smelled and was jealous of her non-frizzy hair.
“I hate how I look after gym class,” she said. “I might as well not even bother getting ready until after class.”
She looked beautiful to me and I told her so.
That was day one of our almost thirty-year friendship.
My Former Friend Never Put Much Effort Into Our Friendship
We’d spend the night at each other’s houses and walk along the aisles of drug stores sampling the eyeliner and perfume. I was always the one to ask her to do stuff, and I was fine with that arrangement. I figured that one day she’d start to take the initiative.
It never happened and I ignored it, burying my hurt feelings and being happy for the time spent at the beach, flipping through magazines, or sleeping in the tent in the back of her house.
She’d blow me off for her latest boyfriend, or cancel plans at the last minute saying she forgotten or was too tired.
Through high school and college, we drifted in and out of each other’s lives and we were always able to pick up where we left off. Deep down it hurt to know that if I wanted to see her I had to do the asking, pursing or shuffling of plans to make it happen.
But then she’d say something like, “Thank you for asking me to do this. I didn’t realize how much I needed to spend time with you.”
She’d always leave saying she’d call, but she never would.
She come see me at the drop of a hat if I needed her though— if something traumatic happened in my life like a break-up, she was the first to arrive.
She also came running to help when I bought my first house, had my first baby, and the time I had surgery and was bedridden for a few days.
My friend was a good friend when she felt she was needed or there was space for her to help. But without that need for her to be there to fix something, it felt like I didn’t have a place in her life.
As we aged and had kids we hit a fork in the road.
She was busy. So was I. For a long time, I was fine with only seeing her if I asked her to do something, always hoping she wouldn’t cancel which she often did. The hurt dissolved. Probably because I was too tired and busy focusing on my family to make room for these feelings.
When we did spend time together, I began to feel like dead hair washing down a drain. She’d talk about how crazy her life was and how she was sorry we didn’t spend more time together.
One afternoon while eating bread sticks and drinking wine we sat exchanging updates on our lives. While listening to the reasons why she was only able to see me a few times a year despite living six miles apart, the self- pity I used to feel, wishing things were different between us, vanished.
I wondered why I always put in so much effort to see her when clearly, by her cancellations and lack of reciprocal invitations, spending time with me wasn’t very important to her at all.
So, I stopped reaching out. I haven’t seen her in almost two years.
I miss my friend. We grew up together. We got married in the same year. We had babies at the same time. We’ve eaten platters of nachos together. We send the occasional text and she still says she’ll call so we can make plans to get together.
But I feel better now she’s not in my life.
It’s not a good feeling to put yourself out there in the hope that someone will say yes to you for years and years. Chasing friendship is exhausting and letting go of this one has been the gateway to a few beautiful new friendships where we all put in equal effort.
I’m not saying I keep score when it comes to my friends. I’m saying I pay attention to the way they make me feel.
You can miss a person, but not want to be friends with them any longer. Everyone changes with each new chapter of their lives and sometimes it’s okay not to invite everyone to come along with you.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
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