'My friend ignored me in the street. It was the start of a "comprehensive ghosting".'

The following is an extract from Friendaholic, Confessions of a Friendship Addict by Elizabeth Day.

About a year after returning to London from LA, I was walking home from the tube one night when one of my closest friends blanked me in the street. It was as I waited at the traffic lights, thinking about what I'd buy from the Co-op for dinner, that I saw her. Becca was coming down the street towards me, on the other side of the road. She was dressed in her trademark leather jacket, white vest-top, ripped jeans and Doc Marten boots. She had dyed a streak of her fringe bright pink. I felt the pang of not knowing she'd decided to change her hair; it's the kind of thing we would have talked about. But that was before.

We hadn't seen each other for a while. I wasn't sure why but Becca had started ignoring my texts and emails. At first, she'd reply with a few non-committal words when I suggested meeting for coffee. A birthday message I'd sent had been curtly received. It was weird. It wasn't like her. It wasn't like us. But, I reasoned, maybe she needed space. There had always been something unknowable about Becca, an unreachable quality that meant when she bestowed on you the gift of her attention, you felt special. When it was removed, it was as if the seasons had changed and you were left outside without a coat in the windy chill of autumn. I told myself it was nothing to worry about, that Becca just needed some time. I didn't want to annoy her by pestering her endlessly.

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Then something even weirder happened: Becca stopped answering altogether.

Seeing her in the street that day made me oddly nervous. And yet, I reasoned as we approached each other, Becca was one of my dearest friends. There was no need to be anxious, I told myself, grabbing more tightly to the straps of my bag. We'd say hello and the strangeness that had been festering between us over the last few months would dissipate and we'd hug and chat and I'd feel much better about it all. I'd probably been inventing the distance, I thought. I had a tendency to do that: to imagine the worst when I hadn't heard from someone, when in truth they had simply been busy or preoccupied or on a work deadline. 

We got closer and closer. Although we were on different sides of the road, I could quite clearly see her turn her head and clock me. There was a flicker of recognition in the way she tilted her face. She didn't smile. I caught myself in the act of raising my hand to wave: an automatic reflex. Embarrassed, I brought my arm back down by my side. Becca carried on walking.

I was so shocked, I actually laughed. Her blanking of me had been so nakedly deliberate and I wasn't sure how to react. I failed to say anything in the moment. I couldn't reach for the right words. In place of where there should have been the shared vocabulary of our friendship, there was instead an all-encompassing shame. I felt humiliated. My internal logic decreed that I must have committed some terrible error. What had I done or said or not done or not said to make her act in this way?


I never got an answer from Becca, because it turned out that blanking me in the street was the start of a comprehensive ghosting. I would never hear directly from her again. No more calls or emails or texts or cups of coffee. No more nights out, laughing riotously over one too many vodka tonics. No more long conversations where we would talk about everything from casual sexism and politics to the best romantic comedies of all time and the optimal ingredients for a sandwich filling (me: cheese and tomato; Becca: tuna mayonnaise). No more of Becca's eight-year-old daughter giving me unsolicited style advice.

"Elizabeth, that top is ugly," the daughter had told me when I turned up in a knitted yellow sweater one day. Becca had laughed and although I wanted to ignore it – because honestly, who was going to take sartorial guidance from an eight-year-old wearing a Hello Kitty onesie? – I chose not to wear that jumper again. 

I ended up giving it to a charity shop at around the same time as I finally admitted to myself that my friendship with Becca was over. Like the jumper, I would never again feel its consoling warmth. Worse, I would have to live with the fact that I would never know what her reasons were. Sometimes a friendship ends and the only explanation you're given is silence.


I first met Becca at a spin class. For most of my twenties, I had actively avoided exercise as if it intended me harm. I was always the person during weekends away with friends who refused to go on a hearty Sunday afternoon walk if the EastEnders omnibus was on. It was because I had bad memories of school games lessons during which we were forced to wear the scratchy regulation maroon knickers under too-short skirts while we attempted to hit a ball with a wooden stick in the freezing winter months. In the summer, I would so often claim to have my period in order to skip swimming class that the teachers must have genuinely worried about the frequency of my menstrual cycle. In short: I believed I was bad at sport. As I grew older, this belief translated to all forms of exercise.

But in my thirties, this changed. It was partly because I was going through fertility treatment and wanted to give it the best chance of success by being as healthy as I could, but it was also because I needed to reclaim my own body. It was a body that was being injected and scanned and prodded and probed and examined. It was a body that was trying to have a baby and yet kept failing to do so. In this, it was a body that had been found wanting. It was my body, but it felt disconnected from my own desires. I began to yearn for wholeness. I wanted to inhabit my physical self; I wanted to love it even if I was being made to feel by medical professionals that it was failing in this supposedly simple biological task. I wanted to feel good about it again.


Listen to Mia Freedman interview Elizabeth Day on No Filter here. Post continues below.

I had an urge to make myself powerful. I was so sick of being buffeted around by the crashing waves of self-administered hormones that I needed to build up my own strength. I needed to be able to stand and withstand, to cope with whatever came next. And I needed to show myself that sometimes, if I put in the effort, my body responded in the way it was meant to.

Someone I knew suggested I try a spin class. She explained spinning to me as a cross between a nightclub and a religious experience.

"Basically," she said, "there's this fit instructor at the front telling you you're amazing to pumping music and it's so dark you don't have to worry about anyone seeing you look sh*t."

I was sold. Soon, it became a borderline obsession. Any time I was disappointed by a failed IVF round or angered by the hopelessness of infertility or had had an argument with my husband, I would pound it out on the bike. I would sweat and cry and whoop with joy when the instructor swung their towel around their head at the end of class. Afterwards, as I washed my hair in the shower, I felt better. I felt empowered. I had done something good with my day. I noticed that, over time, I started finding it easier to ride to the beat of whatever frenetic remixed pop track was playing. Inch by inch, pedal by pedal, I was getting stronger.


When she walked into one of those classes, I noticed Becca immediately because unlike me, who liked to skulk in the back where no one could see my face grimacing in agony, Becca had booked a bike in the front row, directly in the instructor's line of sight. She was wearing leopard-print leggings and a gold sports bra. Her hair was tied up in bunches. Her nails were long purple talons. I watched as she adjusted the height of her seat and nonchalantly swung one leg onto the handlebars as a warm-up stretch, reaching for her toes with a dancer's poise. This particular spin studio was situated in Oxford Circus, central London, and apparently it was a regular occurrence to see someone a bit famous there. Rumour had it that Harry Styles came all the time, although I only ever saw John Torode, the MasterChef judge. No shade, John, but I wish it had been Harry.

There was something about Becca – her swagger, her indifference to what other people were thinking of her – that made me think she must be a celebrity. She was like the love child of Kim Kardashian and David Bowie. During the class, she effortlessly kept pace with the instructor and was able to do all the difficult, choreographed dance moves. 

After the class was over, I unclipped from my bike and rushed to the shower, hoping to beat the inevitable queue. But when I got to the changing room, there were already three people ahead of me, each one wrapped tightly in the gym-issued towels, rosy-cheeked from the forty-five-minute ride. I stood in line and the woman in front turned to me and smiled. It was her. The lady in the leopard-print leggings. She caught my eye and smiled and when she did, her whole face crinkled sweetly. She seemed instantly more approachable than she had been in the studio...


Image: Booktopia.

Friendaholic, Confessions of a Friendship Addict by Elizabeth Day is now available for purchase. You can order here.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

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