I started University with great optimism about all the new people I would meet and in particular I was positive I would connect with the “best friend” I so badly wanted.
It almost seemed like a dream come true when I met Isabelle on that vast campus. We seemed to have so much in common and, best of all, she wanted to be my friend.
Often, I would return from an evening with Isabelle frustrated and angry. It never occurred to me that there might be some other reality where I could come home and think, "Isabelle is such a great person. It’s so fantastic how we communicate."
Instead I was angry at being ignored, criticized or subject to a black mood. Isabelle would invite me out, but entertain me with a mood so foul that, when our other friends showed up and I asked her to come to their table she would utter a barely audible, "Fuck you." Isabelle was never there for me, but I was expected to be on point at a moment's notice.
I once asked her to act in a short film I had to make for class; she was eager to help. After one day of shooting she decided she didn’t want to do it anymore, but not before telling me my script was stupid. She left me in the lurch with my deadline days away and a lot of useless footage.
Her bad treatment of me escalated to the point where she would invite me to have drinks with her, and then sit there in silence while I struggled to have a conversation. Meetings like that became so unbearable I would sometimes take out my book and read to prove a point she failed to notice. Isabelle would call me up and expect me to be there at her convenience, with no regard for what I was doing.
I took to lying about how long I would take to meet her because I was fearful of her anger and accusations. She would invite me for dinner and then say things like “Glad I didn’t spend too much on food” because she disapproved of the cheaper bottle of wine I brought.
Money was always contentious. Isabelle felt that she could buy me drinks or food and that would fulfill her side of the friendship, while lacking any emotion or response when I came to her with my troubles. She would hold her job over my head like some amulet that made her better then me. She never let me forget that she was a hardworking breadwinner, and I was an idiot for still being a student.
I thought that whatever problems Isabelle and I had could be remedied by my trust and understanding. We saw each other several times a week, we texted and called each other constantly. I thought we would be friends forever.
If she was in a good mood, which was not often, we had a lot of fun. We would giggle about pop music, or talk about books. She once dared me to drop a nickel down some guy’s butt crack in a busy bar. I dropped the nickel discreetly and then ran for the bathroom. When I came back we laughed like maniacs as she told me told me about his reaction.
These were the moments I looked and prayed for. Their sweetness, how honest they felt. They were so true, fuzzy, and pink. Now I feel like it was all a fake. These moments were on her terms. She was in a good mood, and I was therefore, granted clemency.
It took me a long time to stand up to Isabelle and realize that her behavior was not OK. The last day we spoke was the day I finally, properly, stood up to her. She had left me waiting for hours. We were supposed to go to a party together and she didn’t bother telling me she had other plans. I texted her:
“Hey, it’s not really cool that you had other plans and didn’t tell me. I really don’t appreciate being treated like I don’t matter.”
What followed were a litany of insults, most involving the words "fuck," and "you," but I still didn’t realize it was over for almost two months. She disappeared from my life as quickly as she had appeared, and with zero explanation. I was livid, confused, and devastated. I kept sending her messages and tricked myself into thinking she was busy with work.
It took a face-to-face encounter to really let me know that it was all over. I was at a bar with several male friends who stupidly encouraged me to buy her a beer and try to talk to her.
If I’m being honest with myself, I knew exactly what was going to happen before I plonked down 6 dollars for that beer. Isabelle looked at me in a way I’ve only been looked at by strangers. Her gaze slid away from me as easily as if I were a lamppost, the quietly uttered "No thanks" echoing inside my head. Then I cried on the patio like I’d just lost my only friend.
Isabelle broke my heart into a thousand pieces. I felt as though someone had died. The anger and resentment churned inside me to the point where I would randomly stand above the bed my fiancé and I share, screaming at him about Isabelle.
I felt like she had no right to end the friendship after I had put up with her for so long. I’m sure she ended it because she thought something had happened that did not happen. She thought I was the abusive one that I didn’t care about her enough, or that I didn’t have enough money and couldn’t be respected.
My "break-up" with Isabelle was not something people knew how to talk about. Men shrugged their shoulders and told me I was better off, while women listened politely and then, changed the subject.
There’s no rulebook for breaking up with a female friend. There’s no goodbye, there’s no closure, and there’s no ending. The people I told thought I was being a little ridiculous. They acted as though my goldfish had died and I was losing my marbles.
The only person who really understood was my mother who, after 50 years of friendship with another woman, was unceremoniously dumped much like I was.
I haven’t yet been able to let go of the rage I feel toward Isabelle, and I’m fearful of running into her. The idea that she could act like she never knew me hurts more then all the emotional abuse and put-downs I endured for the length of our friendship.
I’m trying so hard to remember the times where it was good, where we were connected, when we enjoyed the same books or films. The times she would put her insanity aside and just be my best friend.
The saddest thing is that I’ve had to let go of the belief that she cared about me. She dropped me like yesterday’s garbage. There was no love, there was no remorse, there was nothing.
I mistook Isabelle’s intensity for real love shared between friends and it was very easy for her to prey on my emotions. I have become hyper-vigilant of selfishness in the other women I have formed friendships with. Still, I often look at myself and realize that I am again embroiled in a friendship where it is all about the other woman.
I realize that I have spent my life looking for women to relate to and, when I befriended those women, I taught them that I would give them everything and, that they could give me nothing.
We teach people how to treat us. If selfish and negative behavior is reinforced with kindness and understanding, why would these so-called-friends act any differently?
Isabelle had power over me that I gave her. So frenzied was I to have an intimate, "best friend" relationship that I basically gave her license to treat me like shit At the time, I thought everything going on was simply a quirk of Isabelle’s personality and not particularly wrong.
I know now that I give too much, too quickly, to people who were never willing to do the same. I still really want the real thing: a woman who would truly be my "best friend." Now, it is clear that not everyone I come across will be that person.
I need to figure out what sort of woman I want as a friend, and understand that I am always going to be disappointed if I’m not clear about what I want in a friendship.
Everything in this world must be asked for. Otherwise, you’re standing in a crowded room wondering why no one is talking to you.