When your BFF goes AWOL

By Caitlin Kelly

Do you have a best friend?

I wish I did!

Best Friend Forgotten
Best Friend Forgotten (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new movie by Noah Baumbach, (whose “Squid and the Whale” I really disliked), addresses the push-pull of female friendship in your mid-20s, “Frances Ha.” It’s about Frances and Sophie, who meet at Vassar and are still BFFS at 27, but being pulled apart by work, life and boys.

Fans of the series “Girls” on HBO might find some of the themes similar, and Adam Driver, who stars in the series, is also in this movie.

Frances is a modern dancer, tall and gangly, financially struggling and a bit of a mess. She never brushes her hair and is repeatedly pronounced “undateable”, with which (ouch) she is quick to agree.

Sophie snags the banker boyfriend, Patch, and moves with him to Tokyo.

It really hit a chord for me and I left the theater, alone, an hour before sunset, feeling melancholy and wishing I still had a best friend like that, someone with whom I still shared a ton of history, in-jokes and the sort of sexual secrets that make for excellent blackmail material.

I lost my BFF, or she dumped me, or maybe or we just got fed up with one another — it was never clear or resolved or even discussed or addressed — about a decade ago.

We looked alike and were often mistaken for sisters. Hyper-competitive, in life and with one another, she’d say, “I’m the smart one.” I’d say: “I’m the pretty one.” Or vice versa.

I knew her mom and Dad and sister. I knew she’d always have a huge hunk of Brie in the fridge. She had three cats, one so enormous he could have doubled as a doorstop. I still remember their names.

Both bubbly, chatty Geminis, we were also both ex-pats who had moved to the U.S. and then to New York. She had a tiny studio in the West Village and we’d go dancing at Polly Esther’s and flirt with boys a decade younger, sometimes more. We both dated wholly inappropriate men. One of hers was a musician in a famous band who had very few teeth. Another was a friend of mine, but they argued constantly and eventually broke up.

Like Frances and Sophie in the movie, we sometimes platonically shared a bed and woke up giggling on a sunny Saturday with nothing to do and no one to report to. Bliss!

She held my hand while I wept really hard during my first divorced Christmas and climbed a hill in a snowstorm after the cab couldn’t go any further to accompany me to my first knee surgery — and caught me as I fell, tree-like, into the bathroom door afterward.

We traveled together to Venezuela where we both got trapped, terrifyingly, by the 1999 landslide that devastated the countryside. I got the last scheduled flight out, at 8:00 a.m., but she was stuck there for a week or more and returned home traumatized by the smell of dead bodies.

We went to visit her home country, where her father scared me by getting really drunk. We hired a small airplane and a pilot to fly us to where we wanted to go, meeting him at dawn. It felt exactly like the final scene in Casablanca.

But she met a man I didn’t like much, who boasted about his money and looked at me like I smelled funny and replaced all her charming furniture with his ugly, chunky, dark choices. She married him and moved to a huge lakeside house.

I saw little hope for our friendship continuing. And I was right.

It’s been a long time since we stopped being friends.

I’m lucky, though, to still have two dear girlfriends of very early vintage — one from high school and one from my first year of university. They knew me thinner, pre-marriage(s), before I left our native Canada for the United States in 1988. I see each of them once a year or so and keep up with them by phone mostly.

One of them, even though she was then living so far away she was practically in Alaska, came all the way to New Y0rk for my first wedding and again, in 2011, to Toronto for my second. We met when we eye-rolled at one another in our freshman English class. We added a few vowels to our first names and became The Pasta Twins. I still use the tattered, stained cookbook she gave me in the ’80s.

I pray that both of these women remain in my life for decades yet to come. It’s very comforting to be deeply known yet still well-loved, to share so much of one another’s long life histories.  We need to explain nothing — why we ditched that man or how our mother drives us nuts or the reasons we’re still chasing a few unlikely dreams.

We know.

Here’s a perfect list of 22 ways you know you’ve found your BFF, from Buzzfeed; 2,3, 13, 15, 16 and 20 really rang true for me.

Do you have a BFF?

Have you ever lost yours?

53 thoughts on “When your BFF goes AWOL

  1. Very sensitive subject here and as usual, you write so honestly about it. I finally “broke up” with a friend of 10 years about three years ago. There were many positive things about her and we had some good times but for someone who was deeply into counseling others, she finally showed the worst side of herself, the very manipulative one. I guess I finally realized that some people can really undermine your confidence and be takers as well. I found I was doing a lot for her and she took for granted my paying for lunches, parking, etc. . But I got a call last week from a friend I have had for 27 years and it was just as it always was. We will be friends forever, even if we never see each other again.

    1. Thanks…It was a tough thing to lose that friend of mine, but I also discovered (ugh) that she had lied to me and that left me shaken. As I reviewed our friendship, I, too, was often, (it seemed) the supplicant and the needier one. That isn’t healthy and I’ve since toughened up in that respect. It’s comforting to hear this isn’t unique to me!

      So glad you, too, have dear old pals. What a terrific blessing they are. (I suspect, at that vintage, yours might also be Canadian? I really like having my roots there with these old friends of mine.)

      1. I still think of her sometimes, Caitlin, but would not renew the friendship. I felt so much better being free from it. And that sense of relief made me realize how much it was burdening me. I also lost touch with someone I really did like but could not warm up to her husband. The friend of 27 yeas was someone I met in Massachusetts when I was living and working there. I cherish her. I have reconnected to old friends from Canada on FB – and I mean old friends – and it was a comfort to know they were alive and well. But people change, circumstances change and there is no going back to what was. You know, you may reconnect with this friend on a different level. You could test the waters and see – but only if you still miss her.

      2. It’s very true that sometimes you just cannot go back. I tried to reconnect with a woman I was very close to when we both worked at the Globe (Toronto) in the 80s. She’s become a logorrehic bore. Sad.

        Not sure I want to be friends with her again. I did not like how her husband treated her or me. He insisted she work all through chemo and radiation…he was loaded financially. I found that ugly and her acquiescence weird.

  2. Great excavation of what makes a BFF a BFF… the magical moments and not so magical are there. Well done. You hit the emotional nerve that describes in short what my BFF is to me: the one with whom I share, compete, laugh, hold hands, share platonic beds and drinks and cry over my children, talk about sex or the lack there-of, etc. Your description is well done. Thoughtful and thought provoking. – Renee

    1. Thanks…I so miss that level of intimacy. The closest I have now is my two Canadian friends who live very, very far away from me. Even after 25 years in NY I have never found anyone (other than the lost BFF) who really got me….from the trauma of boarding school to life as an ex-pat with multiple passports to having an alcoholic parent…I think a real BFF gets you in ways no else ever will.

      These days, luckily, my husband is my BFF.

      1. Yes, you’re spot on, when the particulars of your life set you apart it can be especially difficult to find people who can relate… so when you do, their loss is particularly poignant. And, some folks just think that lives like ours are that of privilege, regardless of that perception, most people desire and need that level of understanding and intimacy that goes beyond empathy – that that BFF knows what those experiences are like. Well written!

      2. The writing world is crammed with tedious trustaffairians. I was lucky enough to grow up around $ and rich people so none of them scare me. I got terrific educations along the way, but have banged down every damn professional door myself — only twice has anyone made personal introductions for me, and both of those people I found on my own in the first place.

        Not so much creative but insanely persistent and willing to shove my ego into a lead-lined box. Most people (perhaps wisely) would have given this up a long time ago.

        Thanks for the kind words.

  3. I’m blessed to have a best friend who’s known me since we were 5. We’ve lived hours or days of driving apart since starting college, but somehow we’ve kept that closeness. She knows that “orange sherbert” is code for “ridiculously needy guy” (long story), that despite any facade of coolness I’ve managed to create I am in fact the nerdiest person alive, and that we need to each have our own pie when making apple pies due to the fact that she has an OCD need to measure and peel everything perfectly and I have an equally strong need to wing it. The longer I spend living far from friends and family, the more I realize how valuable those kinds of people are. She better not break up with me, because I’ve got nearly 20 years’ worth of dirt to spill.

      1. As I’m sure you can relate to, when you live in a place where there’s a lot of people who don’t know you well, it’s great to have someone you can call up and start a nostalgic or just ridiculous conversation with “no doughnuts” or “orange sherbert.” 🙂

  4. justaweirdthought

    well…frankly telling…i am not a very social person…i don’t feel the need of a best friend because i find more pleasure in my own company. but yeah in sixth grade i had this friend who was kinda close to me. but then some envy cropped up between us because of something petty…at that time those things seemed too big but now they don’t even matter. Then in highschool, ther was another girl. We shared a lot of similarities but later when we moved to college together, she made new friends. I, being an introvert or call it weirdo, couldnt mix up in that environment so she left me and I let her go. Now I don’t think I nwould want any best friend. I undergo frequent mood swings and can’t stay the same all the time. Friends wont understand this and will definitely judge me. Actually, this is what is happening. I am currently doind editing for college magazine and in a few meetings, i did not participate as actively as i did at other times. So, my fellows now think that I have EGO. I love my work and trust me, i do it with a lot of dedication but in return, what do I get? A nasty blame.
    Would you please help me how should I make it clear to them that I am not one of those pride-puffed freaks???

    1. Frequent mood swings are wearying to be around, sorry to say. I dated a man like that and it was exhausting. So if you have not (?) had this medically investigated, you might consider doing so. I have a bi-polar relative and it is challenging.

      It’s difficult to relate to people who are emotionally inconsistent, so I am not defending people’s rejection of you or your college friends’ behavior BUT…people are human. If they don’t know WHY you are behaving as you do, they are likely to judge/reject you. Depending on the maturity level of your co-editors, you might address this with them very directly — “I can sometimes be very quiet and other times be very lively. When I get quiet, I’m just as interested as before, don’t worry!” People often think it’s all about them when it’s usually not.

      Or something…?

  5. Love this post and your description of your ex-BFF. It hurts deeply when someone you thought was a “friend for life” ends up not being so, especially when a man/marriage gets between you. I’ve been lucky to have a couple of best friends since childhood. We don’t see each other as often now, can go months without talking to each other, but when we do it’s like no time has passed. My older sister and brother are also great friends (very lucky indeed), and I have some other close friends in L.A. and elsewhere. I guess I don’t have one specific BFF anymore, they’re sort of spread out geographically and chronologically. But I don’t mind. It’s less drama. 🙂

    1. Thanks!

      I mourned the loss of that intense, crazy, fun friendship for a long, long time. Years. Even my Dad kept asking “How’s X?” It really hurt deeply. She was furious I didn’t attend her $$$ Caribbean destination wedding (I was broke at the end of writing book no. 1) but I wasn’t willing to be a fake friend spending $$$$ I didn’t have to maintain appearances as we were already somewhat estranged thanks to her husband.

      She was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer (she is fine) right before her wedding — instead of attending that, I went to effing chemo with her, where her doctor (!) asked me if I would donate my eggs if hers were affected. I also picked her up at the hospital after she had some of her eggs removed. Being ditched after that was just salt in the wound.

      So glad, esp. post Kaz’ death, you have a good, strong loving network.

      1. Yeah, I don’t know where I’d be without that network, to be honest, probably in a crazy house. I’m so sorry for your lost friend. Maybe one day she’ll resurface?

      2. I know where she lives and works and she’s on LinkedIn, doing fine.

        But you know the drill — in the emotional game of paper,scissors,rock, a $$$$$$-earning husband who doesn’t like me wins.

  6. I was recently “dumped” by my BFF. It was quick and with no explanation. We were inseparable! went to dinner together, trained for races together, got internships together (I got her hired onto my agency), laid around and watched HBO’s Girls together…we often said we would rather spend time together than with the men we were dating. Then she found a boyfriend, she had had Bfs before so I thought nothing of it. But then a month into their relationship our outings stopped, the text messages went from 50 a day to 1 every other day….then…I was blocked from her FB and every other social media outlet we had. No explanation. No “good-bye”. I can say without a doubt I never did anything to her or talked badly about her in order to warrant this drastic change in our friendship. I guess I’ll never know what happened. I still feel sad about the situation and very confused.

    1. So sorry to hear this! That is seriously effed-up and brutal. I think women who don’t even have the guts to say goodbye (with some excuse) or even try to work out some conflict are gutless. It may take you a while, but — sadly — you will likely find you were better off without her “friendship”. Anyone that unreliable is not a nice person.

      The fact she ditched you after you hired her….VERY sketchy, no?

  7. Lovely post, very thought provoking.

    First of all, sorry your friend let you down so badly; is ‘betrayed’ too strong a word? When someone craps all over a great friendship like that, betrayal doesn’t seem to overstate the impact. It sucks.

    I haven’t had anything as drastic as that happen to me but certain friendships have definitely ‘cooled’ over the years and the loss of some of those connections hurts more than others. Timing and growth are two huge factors that can derail any relationship and then throw in a spouse/partner/lover and all bets are off!

    I’m probably a sap to admit it but my wife has become my best friend in real terms – we spend most time together, we laugh most together, we talk most, share most, confide most, support most etc. I do not take it for granted at all. I’m lucky. Lucky me.

    However, my chronological BFF is still out there and we’ve come full circle in that we were very close at a young age, spent great tracts of time together through university and immediately afterwards, briefly worked and lived together overseas, then drifted apart because we were on a quite different evolutionary courses, virtually no contact at all, genuine disappointment/disillusionment, a gesture of reconciliation offered and accepted, a different quality of friendship proceeded, a more mature appreciation emerged and now, I regard him more affectionately than ever even though we hardly ever see each other and exchange minimal communication.

    That prompts me to ponder on the differing nature of male and female friendship. The cliches might steer us towards the belief that men put friends before partners with the opposite holding true for women. What do you think? Like all cliches, maybe there’s an element of something real there.

    The other pattern of course, is the friend who disappears when they’re ‘in love’. That friend uses friends as a stop gap while they’re waiting to find Mr. Right. Or Ms. Right, though that trend seems to afflict the fairer sex more.

    Anyway, that’s a separate discussion. The bottom line is, genuine friends are for keeps. A friend who who doesn’t treat you right is no friend. And a best friend who cuts you loose? It’s the pits. And it is a betrayal. It is a failing on their part to recognise one of the greatest gifts we can give each other – trust. When the trust is there then you know it’s safe. Safe to play, to cry, to fight, to laugh, to love.

    Sorry for the lengthy reply, a bit excessive! Friendship is important to me.

    1. Friendship is really important to me as well…having left one country for another at 30, and having to re-start everything, made my old Canadian friends even more valuable to me, then as now. Friends here only know me since then. It’s only in the past four years (of 25) that I can finally say I have a few close friends here in NY. It has been a very lonely place…Americans seem to make/ditch their friends at a shocking rate — unless you went to college. People seem to stay very close to their college room-mates (I did not have any.)

      My husband is, probably, my closest friend now as well, which is lucky! I am his, as well.

      I did feel absolutely betrayed. I think dumping a friend for a husband is stupid. Husbands come and go!

      I don’t know if women put partners before friends, but I’ve seen it happen.

  8. I can really identify with this and sadly my best friend was my sister, 1 year older than me. She was killed when we were in our early 20s and I think about her every day.

      1. I was the victim of a con artist in 1998, nothing as horrific as your experience. But I firmly believe the world is divided between people who have been touched by the filth of crime and those who have no clue.

  9. Yes, I had a BFF. But our roads split. I knew everything about her and she knew everything about me.But she has become a total stranger for me now. Part of it was my fault. I chose a man over her.

    1. Having been on the other side of that, I have to say it’s terribly painful to be tossed aside for a man. What if you and this man split up? Then what? Would you go back to her? Would she have you back?

      1. It’s more complicated than that. He didn’t like my BFF and instead of backing her, I backed him. But at the time, she already tossed me aside for another man. And she also tossed me aside for some other friends of her.
        The man I chose pushed me away too. And I learned he slept with my BFF once when he was drunk.

  10. Sadly, I think there might be an inevitability to it. If you’ve grown accustomed to accommodating that person, but suddenly become aware of it and notice their unwillingness to bend, then the friendship is unlikely to survive any major life changes.

      1. Sadly, it seems to be a common occurrence. Someone once told me, ‘if you have to work hard at it, then it’s not working’ — find it’s a good rule of thumb to go by now.

  11. Pingback: Why we lose our BFF | What's love got to do with it?

  12. I am very lucky to have found a BFF in my workplace. We’ve spent the last year together going to lunch almost every day, laughing about everything, enjoying the fun parts and commiserating about psycho customers that drive me crazy. She’s made coming to work a JOY for the first time in years. We agree on all the important stuff and can even talk about religion and politics! We know each other’s inside jokes and favorite movie lines. She’s so positive and uplifting that just being around her has made me a better person.

    She is moving to another office (only five minutes away, though!), which for some reason feels like I’m losing her, but I know I’m not. I know we’re gonna be besties forever.

    I loved this piece, you really made us feel the connection you had with that one BFF, and even though you haven’t really tried to compare her to your other two long-time friends, one can feel it. She is the one that got away……..

    Nice piece.

    1. I’m glad you have one…if a little envious. There’s a really different depth and connection one has with a BFF. You know it right away and it is a crummy loss when it ends.

      1. I cried like a girl when I found out my bestie was moving to another office, so I can only imagine. I’m sorry for your loss. Maybe it’s like the door closing/window opening cliche—–when one person leaves us, it makes room in our lives for someone who will serve us better. (Maybe not as much FUN, dammit, but hopefully a good fit).

        Still didn’t help, huh?

        PS – I adore Canadians. I was “almost” a Canadian…..missed it by three months. Thank God or else I would have been a Newfie. lol. (please tell me you are not secretly a Newfie).

  13. My first reaction to this post was a grumpy, “No I don’t have a BFF, I’m not 13.”

    On deeper reflection I realized the truth is, I’m envious about the those intimate girly moments you described. I have not had them. I experienced a betrayal in my formative years between my bestfriend and my boyfriend, which might have colored my relationships with women, but strangely not men. I’ve had female friends, but these relationships come and go and are often bewildering because women are generally complicated. My friendships with fellas are the ones that have endured and deepened in platonic intimacy over the years.

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