friendship

'I was dumped by my friend, and I still don't know why.'

Mia Freedman has written about killing a friendship that’s toxic, unproductive and painful.

Mine is the flipside of that story – I was the person who was dumped. And years later, I still don’t know why.

We’d been friends for years. I met her – let’s call her Bel – through another mate, and we just seemed to click. Before too long, we were going to lunch together, popping over to each other’s house for episodes of Sex in the City and having long conversations over a lazy glass of ‘fine divine’.

Bel was one of the people I went to for advice, for a giggle, to examine the endless details of a new relationship. I visited her family, and when my mother got cancer, she was one of a handful of friends who visited mum of their own accord. Once, I think she visited the hospital and actually cut mum’s toenails. That, I think you would agree, is REAL friendship.

It’s not like we were joined at the hip, or that we were similar people. Our politics was very different (on the upside, that meant she got on very well with my dad). We worked in different industries, and I was definitely more bleeding heart, except when it came to dogs. Bel was the softie on that front.

Our friendship spanned years, boyfriends, deaths and house moves. Then one day, a mutual friend said casually, as she was saying goodbye, “I’ll see you at the pub on Thursday.”

But I hadn’t been invited to the pub. My Thursday night was a large, vacant space. Bel had organised a gang, and I wasn’t part of it.

I was urged to go anyway, and stupidly, I did. Bel seemed a bit surprised to see me, but the night was otherwise uneventful. We laughed and chatted, and I pretended it had just been an oversight.

Ever wondered if you might be ‘the obligatory friend’? Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues after audio.

Then it happened again.

This time it was a dinner party – yes, I know, restricted numbers, mixing guests blah blah. But I had been at every dinner party for the past god-knows-how-many years. So I felt a bit perplexed.

And then … nothing. We’d see each other at events we were both invited to, and chat vaguely about nothing that actually mattered. We’d promise to catch up for a drink – “soon”. “Soon” never came.

Eventually, I decided to bring things to a head and ask what I had done wrong. We set up a time for a drink – she was sick at the last minute. A couple of weeks later, I tried again. Thirty minutes before the agreed time, she sent a text to say she was “just buggered, Darl”.

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And at that point, I’d had enough. Our friendship, I realised sadly, was over. And I would never know why.

I remember so many fun moments. She called me in to help cull her wardrobe – she’d keep things for years (decades?), just in case they came back into style. She had endless fodder for jokes after I convinced her to get rid of something in a Burberry print, only to see it in every fashion spread about three months later.

One New Year, she was an orphan – so we bundled her up for the car trip to my sister’s on the Gold Coast. It was a wild night of dancing and bubbles and fireworks, and I remember toasting the next 12 months thinking life was pretty damn good.

But that’s in the past.

Bel has repeated the dumping process with two other friends. They are as perplexed as me. We’ve analysed and scrutinised and wondered. We’ve never come up with a reason. She comes up occasionally in conversation but today, I don’t even know if she lives in the same city as me.

It’s hard to explain the emotions that come with being dumped as a friend. They are complex and manifold: hurt, anger, confusion, denial. It is like a death – in the end, though, I’ve just had to accept it and move on. Today, I only rarely think of her.

I consider myself lucky to have friendships that stretch back to my school days, and friendships that that have sprung from awkward beginnings (he says I didn’t speak to him for eight weeks even though I sat opposite him when he started at our workplace; I can honestly say I thought we chatted from day one. I was his ‘best woman’ when he got married a couple of years back). I have friendships with members of my family, and friendships with people other friends don’t like. I value them all deeply.

But Mia is right – there’s no rule that says friendships should be forever. ‘Forever’ is certainly not something I subscribe to: I’ve had friendships that have drifted apart naturally, and close friendships that have become more casual.

There’s a proverb that says friendships come in different forms: for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I thought Bel was the last.

Turns out I was wrong.

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