My Best Friend Broke Up With Me

I was 20 years old when my best friend broke up with me.

B and I had lived life in tandem since middle school. We became official BFFs over AIM one summer when we were both too sunburnt to go outside. We nicknamed ourselves Lobster Buddies and traded tricks like peeling scorched skin off with pieces of Scotch Tape.

She knew every secret of mine and I hers. It wasn’t just that B and I trusted one another—our secrets became each others.

In high school we played volleyball and tennis and drank the same peach-flavored malt beverages with the same friends on the weekends. I drove her to school every morning in my red Montero Sport; on the way there we’d share a pair of silver-wrapped black cherry Pop Tarts.

   It was a platonic love, more special even than kinship or sisterhood. We weren’t born tethered to each other; we chose to be.

We were sure of our future together. One night toward the end of high school, my divorced parents took me to Chili’s for dinner. We sat in the bar area, where the chips and salsa were free, and they told me, haltingly, that I couldn’t go to the college they’d promised. “It’s just too expensive, Mag,” my Dad said.

I slid out of the booth and escaped the restaurant in tears. I drove to B’s. I’d worked hard in and out of school; the least I deserved was the college of my choice. I sat on her bed and complained through sobs about how unfair it was. She listened intently. “We’ll pick another school for us to go,” she told me when I was done crying. Then she jumped off the bed, put on “My Sharona,” and shimmied around the room. I laughed until I joined her.

And that’s how it went. Whatever happened to me, happened to her. Wherever I was going, she would go, too.

We were college roommates. B always left weird and hilarious drawings of talking dogs on the kitchen table and drafted a set of house rules:

#14 Dancing counts as exercise.

#22 Girl time comes 1st always.

We shared clothes and detailed accounts of our hook-ups. We took naps in each other’s beds and pretended to be each other as we wrote perfectly cool texts to each other’s crushes.

It was a platonic love, more special even than kinship or sisterhood. We weren’t born tethered to each other; we chose to be.

But then we stumbled. Amidst complaints that she felt lost at school, B put space between us, a sensation so unfamiliar that it felt like we were starting to unlearn each other. She sought out new friends, new interests; she seemed tired of sharing everything with me. To top it off, she had a long-distance boyfriend who was 10 years our senior; he never wanted to do what we wanted to do, and I found him controlling and repressive.

I felt threatened, so I wrote her a letter.

I told her all the reasons I was disappointed in her. I pinned everything that was wrong in her life onto her relationship. I thought she could do better, and I told her so. I made assumptions about how she felt, what made her happy and sad, and what she wanted her life to look like.

“I don’t think your relationship is letting you live. I don’t want you to regret this. I wish you could see the extent of what you’re doing.”

The truth was that she was beginning to look like someone else, a someone whose identity wasn’t strapped to mine. I wanted to keep her the same. In the letter I tried to pull B back to the life I wanted her to have—the life I wanted us to have.

Unsurprisingly, my letter did not go over well. B retreated further, made new friends, and eventually moved out.

“We’re still friends!” I would say brightly to anyone who asked, but, of course, that wasn’t true, at least not in the way we once had been.

Without B my life felt plainer. She was my champion; with her I had the confidence to be the best, most authentic version of myself. Without her I felt lesser, too serious, boring, old. I no longer cleaned the house in my underwear while dancing to Starship’s “We Built this City” on repeat. I missed her weird illustrated dogs.

After college we moved to different cities. But our shared girl group meant we were seated together at weddings; we saw each other at bars when we were home for the holidays. Luckily, as time moved forward, so did we.

A few years ago we exchanged our first timid texts, recommendations of music and shoes we knew the other would like. Texts turned to occasional phone calls. Eventually, the awkwardness of our former friendship faded into the nervous, awkward excitement of starting a new one. This time with no expectations or standards to uphold; just an open, supportive relationship between two women who love each other.

It’s been over 12 years since I lost the person who knew me best. I was heartbroken, but not in the familiar way I’d felt when ending something with a boyfriend. Comparing the grief to losing a boyfriend felt cheap and diminishing; I wasn’t missing companionship or intimacy or swimming in the shame and disappointment of not being liked.

I didn’t feel betrayed. I felt lost.

We were friends. Supportive sisters and allies, our union was based on shared secrets, an intimate knowing of each other, a love for sweet tea over crushed ice, and peanut butter eaten off the same spoon.

I still have a copy of the letter I sent her. It’s written in a bubbly, size 10 font. I keep it stored in a folder on my hard drive like a keepsake.



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