I endured my first breakup when I was 17. Yet, as devastating as it was, it never compared to the second. Throughout my entire life I thought it would hurt more to be dumped by a man than by a female friend, but I was wrong. It was worse, way worse.
The thing about friendships is that, somehow, they never seem to equate to romantic love in the eyes of society. Everyone looks for a partner, even when they already have a circle of friends to support them when shit goes crazy. The incessant search for a romantic partner keeps alive the narrative that we need another half to be okay, and that no matter how fulfilled we might feel with our friendships it will never be the same.
But, as my former best friend slammed my apartment door as she left that summer night, I found myself being dumped again.
The truth is that a friendship breakup needs to be mourned, just as we sit for hours watching sad movies and eating ice cream when a partner dumps us. I was clueless as to how I could mourn the loss of a 6-year friendship because I was never informed by society that friends are just as important in our development as a boyfriend is.
Memories were unbearable. This was a woman who had shared a stage with me, had enjoyed the company of my family, walked me through awkward stages of adolescence and shared common passions with me that no one else had before. She loved fashion, and I did too. We both danced ballet. We loved Gossip Girl, and thought Chuck Bass was the epitome of beauty and style. And it all went away in the blink of an eye on a drunken fight after I threw her a surprise birthday party.
Her friendship provided an outlet for both us of to be who we really were, without the need to try to impress or put on a mask. As Rebecca Traister noted in The New York Times, friendships are a space for ‘attention, affection and an outlet for intellectual or political exchange’.
But, even as I felt defeated and unworthy of friendship, society never allowed me the time to mourn the loss of this space of sisterhood. No one thought it was the same as enduring a breakup; no one cared if we had been together for 6 years. Everyone wanted me to move on, yet I couldn’t.
Society has constructed an ideal of how one should carry out a break up, and in what circumstances it is considered as such. Google ‘How to deal with a break up’ and you will find that no one talks about the grief experienced when losing a friend. It seems as though there is only one love, the romantic love, and friendship is just a passing phase in your quest to find a perfect partner.
In retrospect, I took our friendship for granted because, in my mind, she was always going to be there, no matter if I sucked as a friend. The responsibilities of friendship are not instilled as much as the importance of looking good for a boyfriend or making sacrifices for a romantic partner. The truth is that friendships take camaraderie and compromise because, as much as we deny it, they are deeper and more influential than a relationship in many ways.
I recently had to mourn another friend, and I gave no fucks when someone told me that ‘Shit happens’. I defended my right to be sad. I had the right to listen to 80s anthems we both enjoyed and sort through old photos of our travels. It was okay to be hurt.