Dear Kelsey, I had this super-rad best friend in high school. I'll call her "Sarah." We mostly lost touch after college, but I wasn't too stressed out about it. I felt like I had made a good effort to keep in touch, whereas she frequently didn't respond to my texts / awesome snail-mail postcards. So, I figured we'd just drifted apart — no biggie. Fast-forward to 10 years after high school graduation: Sarah reappeared asked me to be her maid of honor. I was surprised, but also thought, Wow, she must not have anybody else to ask. So I agreed. BIG MISTAKE. Long wedding-story short, I lost a year, many thousands of dollars, and a good deal of self-respect just doing the bare minimum of what she "required" of me. I only attended one of her three bridal showers, I opted out of every bachelorette-party activity that I possibly could, and when asked to remove my facial piercing for the wedding, I straight-up refused. I did my best to assert myself, but nevertheless ended the process exhausted, in serious debt — and having realized how very little Sarah and I have left in common. Now, I don't know how to proceed with this friendship — or lack thereof. I know she still considers me her Best Friend, even though her whole wedding process made it clear we have very different values in life (and I was honest about that). Also, now that the wedding is over, we're still conspicuously not in touch, and I have very communicative relationships with my other friends. We visit each other, text frequently, even write letters (I know!). But with Sarah, it's years of radio silence; then, she randomly pops up assuming we are Besties 4 Lyfe. How can I let her know that she's been eclipsed by much-stronger friendships? Especially when it really seems like she has nobody else? Or, do I not let her know at all, and on the intermittent occasions (once a year or so) when we interact, just allow her to continue referring to me as her Best Friend? It's no skin off my back at this point. Does everyone deserve a "Best Friend," even if the sentiment isn't returned? Best, Not The Best
Dear Not, You know what's funny? When I'm stuck in a romantic relationship problem, all I think is: Why can't this just be simple and easy, like it is with my friends? Then, I stumble into a friendship problem and I realize I am so, so stupid that it's actually funny. Romantic-relationship problems are a goddamn cakewalk. They have books for that shit. Friendships? You're fucked. Not helpful? Okay, let's start with why you're fucked, and then we'll un-fuck you (god, sorry, I'll switch metaphors now). Friendships are more complicated because they are such rich, long, life-defining relationships — yet they exist with no formalized contract. There's no friendship marriage (setting aside companionate marriages, which are very real, but that's a whole ‘nother ball game). We don't have titles that carry the weight of "boyfriend" or "life partner." We have "best friend," and, as you know, that can mean different things to different people. And that's how you can end up walking down the aisle at a stranger's wedding. I don't think either of you did anything Officially Wrong. Losing touch with an old friend is sad, but normal. Showing up a decade later and asking that friend to be your maid of honor is strange, and a little sad as well. If I were in your shoes, I'd probably have panicked and said yes, too. I probably would have been pissed at her (and myself) for shelling out all that cash and time on a wedding that really wasn't my style. And I probably would have wound up looking for a way out of this friendship, too. It seems to me that's what you're doing, and that's okay. Really. But first, let's step into her shoes. You might be right in guessing she doesn't have any close friends anymore. But it's just as possible that she asked you to be her MOH because she felt an obligation to. After all, you were once best friends, and to some people, that's a lifetime title. She might have thought she had to go to you first as the Official High School Best Friend, or you'd be offended. Don't forget, weddings tend to bring out the extreme in all of us, and if she's a super traditional gal (three bridal showers?) then maybe you were the mandatory first choice.
And once you love someone — even if you stop — he or she will always be someone you have loved.
Or maybe she was being a jerk — I don't know. I just think, if only for your own conscience, it's important to get a little perspective before you act. But I do think you ought to act. You say it's no skin off your back at this point, but this letter says otherwise. It's thoughtful and considerate; clearly, this friendship once meant something to you. And once you love someone — even if you stop — he or she will always be someone you have loved. There, how's that for complicated? She expects your friendship but gives nothing back. You, in turn, don't have much interest in keeping up with her, either. And, as you point out, your values are no longer in line. It seems to me that, in your own ways, you're both letting go with one hand and hanging on with the other. As anyone who's ever been in a stagnant romantic relationship will tell you, there's really only one way out of that: Someone's got to let go and walk away. I wouldn't do this out of the blue, but the next time you're together and she calls you the "B" word, take note. You say you're a letter-writer, so gather your thoughts and write her a letter. You might have to ditch the first draft (the angry draft) and write another. You're ending a relationship, so take it seriously. Just because it's over doesn't mean you have to burn a bridge. In fact, you should extend her one, letting her know that if and when she wants to talk about this, she should give you a call. You don't owe it to her, but to both of you. Yes, everyone does deserve a best friend. But you're not it for her. She just doesn't know it yet. Let her go, so she can go find that person. Sincerely, Kelsey
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