Navigating friendships seemed so much easier when I was younger. When we were kids, my best friend and I—I’ll call her Sandra—would get in fights with each other and make up within the hour.
Sandra and I were as close as two friends could be. Born a day apart, we spent our birthdays together. As teenagers, her house was my second home. We spent weekend afternoons getting manicures and shopping. Our conversations were about the future—what they were going to look like and who we were going to be.
Her family treated me like one of their own. It was Sandra’s mother who put me on birth control, and Sandra’s cousins who invited me to their weddings and graduations. I vacationed and celebrated holidays with them. Her family was there for me in ways my family couldn’t be.
When it was time to move out, we got a place together. Instead of shopping or long lunches, we bonded through excessive partying. But the late nights and exorbitant drug use soon turned toxic. We picked fights with each other and talked behind each other’s backs. Ultimately, we decided the crazy party days had to end. Navigating that rough patch was proof to me that our friendship was solid.
In our mid-twenties, she became completely enthralled by her relationship. He was a Republican who spent his evenings watching Fox News, downing beer after beer. He didn’t actually vote or participate in the political process, but he espoused generalized opinions about everything. I often heard him complain about freeloading liberals or Big Government elitists. Everyone was trying to take his money.
I ended my own relationship and went back to school, ready to start a new career and make more money. Sandra talked about becoming a wife and a mother. Her politics changed, too. Instead of just dating a Republican, she started voting for them.
Then I came out as a lesbian.
If I’d believed that Republicans and Democrats could be friends in theory, it proved much harder in practice. There wasn’t a single area of life that politics didn’t impact. Suddenly I had a friend who supported a political party whose tenets threatened my rights in the world, in ways that wounded me at my very core.
I could no longer pretend that everything she stood for wasn’t the complete antithesis of who I was and what I believed in.
I knew I was gay before Sandra and I became friends, but I was too afraid to confide in anyone about my sexuality—not even the best friend I thought of as family. By this time, Sandra was married and had a child, a son who called me Aunt Gigi. When I came out to her, she told me she supported same-sex marriage, but it seemed like she was patting herself on the back. After that, if our conversations turned political she reminded me of her progressive stance. I responded with an eye roll. Wasn’t it “her” party that was hindering marriage equality?
I distanced myself from her and her family. Despite growing apart, I wasn’t ready to completely give up on our relationship. I loved her son dearly. I thought of her as family.
As the years passed, we grew further and further apart. I moved to New York City and she remarried. I was one of her bridesmaids. By then we had known each other for twenty years. At the ceremony, surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, I was genuinely happy for her.
She had more children and doubled down on her support of the Republican Party. Her new husband seemed even more staunchly Republican than the last. And this one voted. Her social media presence became disturbing. She fell on the conservative side of every controversy: Against background checks for gun ownership. For extreme-right political figures. In support of conservative favorites like the Duggar family. She even fell on the side of Chick-fil-A during the boycott fiasco.
She told me on several occasions that her only purpose in life was to be a mother and a wife. I couldn’t reconcile remaining friends with someone whose political views effectively denied me those very same choices. I could no longer pretend that everything she stood for wasn’t the complete antithesis of who I was and what I believed in.
As the primaries wound down in 2015, it was clear that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican candidate. Laced with misogyny, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and anti-gay rhetoric, Trump’s campaign represented all of the ugliness in the world to me. He wasn’t the candidate Sandra wanted, but her support for the party didn’t waver. I had hit my breaking point. I decided I could no longer be friends with her.
I deleted her from all of my social media. I wrote her a three-page letter explaining why I was done with our friendship and how much she had hurt me. She never responded.
It’s been nearly two years since then. Sometimes I want to reach out to her. I’d like to find out how her son is doing, or see if she’s ready to apologize. Sometimes, when I listen to the news, I just want to say, I told you so. But every time I think about reaching out, I remember why I ended things.
Cutting Sandra out of my life was the best decision I’ve made, but I think about her often. How could I not?