friendship

"My friend called herself a 'crazy rich Asian,' then she dumped me."

I didn’t see it coming, but really, I should have. I loved Connie* like a sister. But one day, she told me I wasn’t good enough for her anymore.

It wasn’t always like that. Seven years before, things were the opposite.

Connie* was a new mum at school, and new to the city, from Singapore. I was drawn to her immediately, when I saw her standing alone at school pick up one day.

I’m the sort of person who can – and will – chat to anyone – especially if they’re alone. She reminded me of how my mum used to say that as an immigrant herself, she always felt like an outsider at school.

So, I decided to say hello – and the rest, as they say, is history. I discovered that Connie was indeed struggling to feel accepted, was conscious of being an outsider, and always worried her impeccable English wouldn’t be understood because of her accent.

Naturally, I took her under my wing – but it was also a very mutual friendship. Connie and I shared a similar, sarcastic sense of humour. Being of Asian descent myself, we understood all the cultural stuff about each other. We became firm friends – years later, referring to each other as family.

But underneath it all, our values were very different.

Can you bribe your kids to do well at school with money?

Want to hear more? Subscribe to This Glorious Mess.

Connie would talk about how hard she had worked to build a life from poverty. She thought everyone should do the same – especially the homeless. I found that a shocking attitude, but then again, I didn’t know what it was like to be as poor as she had once been.

I also noticed that Connie would belittle my career successes by pointing out it was easy for me to achieve them, as my parents had given me an excellent education – something she hadn’t had.

Education was certainly an issue for Connie, and that was apparent in her parenting. She was stringent in her approach to her sons’ education. She threw every resource into it – private tutors, private school, weekend school.

Me? I also wanted my son to have an excellent education – but my attitude was much lazier. I wanted my son to work hard at school, but also, enjoy it. And learn in different ways – not just about academics.

Connie was very competitive between our boys (they were in the same class), and would often tell me my son was “talented in different ways” – but never stipulated exactly what she meant.

ADVERTISEMENT

Another way our values differed was that Connie was extremely superficial about appearance. She was slim, tall, and effortlessly glamorous – everything I am not.

I didn’t have an issue with her being superficial – each to their own. But I had an issue when she told me that I do the best I can by dressing for my body, and making the most of what I’ve got.

Um, thanks?

I dismissed these comments, because we all say things that we don’t mean to be insensitive. And I knew there was something I had which Connie never would – I was at peace with myself. I was confident. I didn’t spend my time comparing myself to other women. I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong.

But Connie wasn’t like me – she was deeply, deeply insecure. I could see that – and so I let these comments go. We would go out together, me in a nice outfit, her in a $10000 Gucci or Chanel one, and still she’d say to me in the Uber on the way, “Are you sure I look ok?”

I would be gobsmacked, and because I loved her, I would reassure her that she looked amazing.

Connie also explained that in her homeland, amongst her group of friends, appearance and status was everything. This is why she would invest in the latest Louis Vuitton handbag, and only shop from matchesfashion.com.au.

The trailer for the movie of Crazy Rich Asians. Source: YouTube.

I didn’t care. Money didn’t impress me. I liked good quality, but I also liked a bargain where I could get one. But again, I dismissed this as an issue in our friendship as I could see that these things made Connie, coming from her poverty-stricken childhood, feel safe.

Connie was a stay-at-home-mum, and her husband was from a wealthy Malaysian family. Again, that made no difference to me. But one day Connie told me that her husband was starting a new business in Malaysia, and it was going to be worth hundreds of millions.

I remember us sitting at her dining table, and she looked at me over her glass of wine, and she said:

“Promise you won’t let money change me.”

I loved her, so I promised. But ultimately, I couldn’t do anything about what happened next. Connie’s husband’s business expanded, and she enjoyed new diamonds, new clothes, luxurious holidays. But when we were together, none of that mattered. We were just two mums, complaining about our kids, laughing about stuff like we were in our 20s.

ADVERTISEMENT

Eventually, though, things started to change. There was a Lamborghini in the drive way one week, a Ferrari the next. I thought it was great, and really cool – but Connie would tell me she hated it.

“He’s so pretentious,” she would (seemingly) say about her husband’s purchases. When she got a Mercedes worth about $350 000, she declared, “Oh, it’s so embarrassing.”

I realise now, she was telling me what she thought I wanted to hear. But she was very wrong. What I wanted to hear was the truth.

Instead, a distance began to grow between us. I noticed that Connie acquired new friends – women who were married to her husband’s business associates. That was understandable, that was natural – but I had enough insight to know they were women whose lifestyle she had more in common with.

One day, she threw a glamorous lunch for all her ‘closest’ friends, and I wasn’t invited. When I expressed my hurt, she told me it was my fault, because I had had a falling out with one of her invitees (a mutual friend), and I would make it uncomfortable for her.

But the message was clear: she no longer needed me. I sensed she wasn’t being open with me as she withdrew from our friendship – but then again, what was she supposed to say?

Did I expect her to just blurt out that we didn’t have anything in common anymore? No, of course not – but, to her credit, I guess – that’s what she finally did.

One day, she came over and told me they had bought a very expensive house, worth millions. And then she said she had read a book called Crazy Rich Asians, and recommended I read it, because then I would understand.

“Understand what?”, I asked.

“Understand that I’m a crazy rich asian now – that’s the world I need to be in for my husband, to support his business. And that’s where I’ll be spending my time.”

I got it. Connie couldn’t talk to me about the difference in airfares between First Class Emirates and First Class Qantas. She felt she couldn’t talk to me about her incredible new home.

But more importantly, I got that she didn’t need to. She had other friends for that, now.

*name has been changed for privacy reasons.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???