Life Partners: My complicated relationship with my straight best friend

I recently watched the film Life Partners by Susanna Fogel. I don’t relate to any character wholly, but I really share that same shit storm of emotional, lone wolf affectedness that Leighton Meester’s character Sasha experiences. I know what it means to have a friendship that is sacred and akin to sisterhood, of which a frenzy of exciting highs and incredible lows come with it, too. 

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A few months ago I had a major falling out with my best friend. This was by far the worst one we’ve had. (Yep, there have been several.) 

We met when we were in middle school. She approached me and said, “You seem cool. Can I be your friend?” (Spoiler: I was not cool.) Before we knew it, we went from sneaking into to see Scream to sneaking into bars downtown before we were old enough to get in. My tried and true friend had been there for me and with me: crying outside the movie theater by a payphone, on her 21st birthday when she barfed all over the seat of my car and I tucked her into her bed, riding around in her car to Bikini Kill, having parties at her condo where as kids we filmed homemade horror movies on my camcorder. And she was there for me when I came out.

When I was around 24, she outed me while we were in a Prius driving somewhere with her family and some of her husband’s family. By now, she had three kids—adorable twin boys and a girl with her same curious smile. I was visiting them in their new city and we got friendship tattoos and drank a bunch of tequila. “So, hey everyone: Kim’s gay,” she proudly announced. To my surprise, I really felt proud, too—and happy that she was so proud.

Another high: me forgetting I entered a Twitter contest one night after I’d taken an Ambien, and the prize was a trip to LA to see the VMAs. And I won. I brought my best friend with me, and we had the time of our lives. And we also had lots of tequila (clearly a reoccurring theme in our friendship). Or what about that time we hung out with unnamed members of the Real L Word and one tweeted a picture of us, comparing my friend’s looks to Casey Anthony? You guys, a sure pick-up line. Go with it.

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The first falling out happened around the time I went off to college and she met her now-husband, then-boyfriend. He was older, had cool tattoos, rented a home, and she was a teenager. Let me rephrase that: I was a teenager. She was already living on her own, and in my eyes, she could handle anything. She actually makes it look like she enjoys doing dishes. When she began her relationship, I felt replaced for a sec—which is classic, I know, but then I decided to give her/them time and space to, you know, get their love on. I liked them together, so that was no problem. And then they ended up getting married and having babies, so I never got the chance to even be that territorial or protective of who she dated—probably a good thing.

Now, for a low: not talking for six months because of an insane former girlfriend I had who convinced me that my friend did not have my best interest. I eventually snapped out of my trance and realized I’d been misled and I needed to wave a white flag. Points go to Team Lez for a way less insane ex-girlfriend encouraging me to do so. So, I drove to her house in my Subaru (and at that: let’s pause and recall that epic scene in Life Partners where we see just how many lesbians fit into a Subaru). We talked on her bed for a few hours like no time had passed, all bad vibes lifted. I broke up with my girlfriend a few weeks later. She really resented the fact that I had a friend in my court again, having isolated me so much—but now I was all clear-eyed, full-hearted, can’t lose.

Then something happened again, but by now, we were approaching 30 and we were way better at communicating how we felt. Right? Wrong. Her career was taking off in a big way. She was collaborating with a couple of girls on a new project. Early on, they started to bully her in muddled ways that I recognized from being bullied myself. She would labor over their words and actions, being that point in their triangle that just wanted to be treated with compassion and good old female-to-female support. How hard that can be to come by in its pure, organic, unprocessed form. Having been badly bullied as a kid, the idea of the mean girl became illusive to me over time. When fictional female characters represent an ugly version of female friendship through stories of competing, comparing, shaming and putting down, and a woman constructs a similar reality through their devious acts in real life, they hold little weight or power in terms of what is valuable and real in this life. I don’t know if young girls get how much those characters can fuck with our heads. I pretended I was simultaneously living in the films Jawbreaker and Cruel Intentions respectively during my ’99-’01 academia—well, just in my head.

So I decided to stand up for my friend, because things had become so dicey and she was not only forced to back out of her project, but also was never credited for the work she was a part of starting up. Riding in on my horse, I thought I was being a fiercely loyal Gemini when I left an encouraging comment on a post she made about going solo. I was so vague in my delivery, but these girls knew exactly what was up. To combat this effort to be there for my friend, they both blocked me. I was now guilty by association—only I really didn’t mind. I was drawn back to days of AOL. I really pondered their move for a while. I never called them names or picked at the parts of them that will make them feel insecure—I just stood up for someone I felt had been bullied into submission—which I fucking loathe about situations like these. In the end, the wind blew everything over and everyone moved on.

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Then another low. An ex-girlfriend of mine sent a text to my best friend one night, telling her, totally out of the blue that she still had feelings for me. On some level, I was humored because it had been over a year and I was perfectly happy in my current relationship, so, like, where was this even coming from? Pressing her for more info after I’d had a good laugh with my partner, she suddenly didn’t want to tell me about it anymore, saying she didn’t want to perpetuate gossip or petty drama. That moment really struck me.

When I came out and had a first-ever girlfriend, I discovered she had a public Tumblr completely devoted to her ex girlfriend. (You guys, one post was like: It’s been this many months and this many days since we broke up and I still love you.) When I told my best friend about this discovery, her reaction was: Well, we know your track record, so, I’m not surprised. Just like in Life Partners, I was sure she had inadvertently let me know what she thought of my decision-making. Like, “Sorry you’re hurting, but maybe we should’ve seen it coming considering who you characteristically allow into your life.” Coming out and going through some of those first few relationships helped me discern if and when I am not honoring myself. I knew why she was keeping this recent text from my ex from me. She feared I would regress into some state of cloudiness, analyzing the text and dwelling hard. I love and worship my partner, so I was irked over the possibility she might think I’d be so tempted by the fruit off the previous vine. But, after a little wine, some pot and a decent phone conversation, we were solid again. 

Then the big bang happened, and yeah, we can call it another low. Some heavy stuff was going down with a family member I’m super close to. I wasn’t being completely chatty about it with her, but she knew and understood where I was at. Sometimes an old friend has that knack for knowing just where you’re at. Our phone calls, which were pretty regular began to taper down to none at all, and we hadn’t texted each other in weeks. I felt something was up, but then she’d be right there on Instagram to like a photo of my cat, so I wasn’t overly concerned and figured we’d talk when we talk.

Suddenly, a whirlwind of good things happened to me, but I didn’t want to jinx anything and felt really superstitious so I just posted a few things to Instagram to share something that would suffice for now. Being that her career was now 100 percent tied to Instagram through work, she was usually the “first like” in a matter of seconds on most of my posts, so I was a little taken aback when she didn’t notice my posts or text me after days and weeks. I tend to crave a beeper and MS-DOS still because the level of insecurity the Internet and social media can create is akin to boiling water. In theory, I could have relied on calling or texting her to explain as a mature adult how I felt about being ignored, but why do that?

I really believed my friend just simply stopped caring, maybe never did, was not happy for me, didn’t want me to be happy, and despite all her own successes, still found reason to downplay or disregard mine. I was sure of it. I thought about doing something that I knew she would see: I would unfriend her from Instagram because she had an app that notified her when she became unfriended or blocked by anyone. I guess I chose that method because that really seemed to hit a nerve with her—people exiting for all kinds of reasons, which is hypocritical because I am just as sensitive to it. She’d see it, she’d text me within the day, I’d explain I’m butt hurt and that I made an impulse move—but still, that I was feeling hurt and acted out.

On one hand, she knew that and understood, saying I was better than that. And she was right. But she leapt into defense-mode, telling me all the ways she’d been so busy living her life, and we never made our way back to the root of this, which was, that something decently powerful had happened and she didn’t seem curious—she just brought the subject onto her, and her doings. My therapist Deborah told me, “You gave her your truth,” which helped. But I was screaming inside: My friend doesn’t care. Then a few days passed and I hadn’t written her back because I felt so unable to use my words, and she sent a 2 a.m. text: “I’m considering this an end of an era. Good luck with your life.”

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A friend breakup is terrible feeling. You can still go to the bathroom and eat food, which I’ve learned is way more difficult to do when a romantic relationship ends. But now your fuse gets shorter, and a ghost seems to follow you around when you see things that remind you of them, or even think you spotted them walking down the sidewalk. I did a lot of gardening, cleansed my crystals several times over, saged my house, went to a chakra healer on a sliding scale, wrote a bunch of things I never finished, never sent, or never saved. Until now.

Still, what else could we have done better or differently? On her birthday, I sent her an email and told her I loved her because life is uncertain and I just needed her to know. The part I’m glossing over though: At one point in this mess, she used the veil of Facebook to call out a “bully” and I’m pretty sure she meant me.

So when I told her I loved her, I told her I was still hurt, too. If that was her intention, to hit me where it hurts because I hit her where it hurts, all we did was fail at being the women we are best at being. I know “best” is a lot to live up to, but there should probably just be a better word for it. That friendship tattoo we got? It’s a lotus. I like what lotuses represent—beautiful flowers blooming out of the dark mud and water, taking their time to sprout before they make their big debut, going through many incarnations.

She’s always going to be the Joan Jett to my Cherie Currie, and I’ll always think of her when I look at my Celebrity Skin CD. Life partners come in many forms and they may not always be at their very best. I don’t think we’ll wait 30 years like the Bangers Sisters, and last night when I started singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” to my cat, in the back of my head, I was like, “Please don’t let us reunite like we’re in the movie Beaches.”