Recently I read Shauntay Dunbar’s book, Diving Into Stilettos, which discussed all the men she had dated. All the failed relationships. It got me thinking; for most of our lives, we have more platonic relationships than romantic relationships. Platonic relationships can be just as difficult and end in the same toxic ways as bad romantic relationships.
However, it’s easier for us to read and relate to stories of love lost instead of friends lost. In my life, I have experienced three toxic platonic relationships. Each one left me with some new resolutions regarding friendships.
Jelly and I had been friends since 8th grade. We started our friendship in the choir and remain close even after I went off to college. In the summer of 2006, she introduced me to my now husband. As soon as things started getting serious between Nicholas and me, she felt the need to tell him about my “past”. She would tell him about the number of guys I had been with. State that I was a flirt and wouldn’t be a good girlfriend. He already knew my number and knew I was a bit flirtatious. However what hurts me was her outright jealousy. Luckily Nicholas saw through it and asked me why I was friends with her. She stated that she was protecting him from me. Well a few months later, I moved, and our friendship vanished as Nicholas and I built a life together. In hindsight, I should have seen her jealousy. She always devalued my college education and just talked about how much money she was making without college.
Lesson: Your happiness will show you who loves you. If your happiness brings the ugly out of someone then you have to let them go.
In 2009 I made a new friend at the community college I attended. She was drop dead beautiful. Honestly, she had to be one of the most beautiful women I have ever met in my life. She had that Southern Belle pageant look going for her. She knew she was gorgeous but was dedicated to her education and her then boyfriend. We shared the same dark humor and kept each other entertained during our class. I can tell at the time she valued our friendship as most females did not want to talk to her because they were intimidated by her beauty. We both transferred from the community college to San Francisco State and were the same majors. We even thought about moving in together with our boyfriends, but it didn’t work out. We remained friends in college but we didn’t have the same circle of friends. Our friendship continued to grow even after graduation. She eventually broke up with her boyfriend and moved to San Jose for awhile with a 40-year-old divorcee. She started to rely more and more on her looks. She began to work at Hooters and tried to find her identity through a man. When she decided to move back to Indiana, I supported it knowing that she just needed a fresh start in life. We talked and texted for several months. We made plans for me to come to visit and meet her in Chicago. Chicago was only a three-hour drive from her small hometown in rural Indiana.
I assumed she would handle most of the planning as she had friends in the Windy City and it was my first time there. As soon as I landed things started to unravel. First, she didn’t’ get time off of work. So we had to spend three days in her rural hometown, that’s main attraction was the Wal-Mart. Secondly, my flight landed late, and she didn’t book a hotel room. So we ended up at a random guy friend of her apartment and fell asleep on his pull out couch. I wasn’t upset just bewildered that she didn’t inform me beforehand. Now keep in mind, Shade had to work. So here I am in this small town in Indiana where I knew no one. Her roommate was kind and took me to the local liberal college where she worked and I sort of just walked around the campus. At night we would go to some local bars and it was clear she was relying on her looks again and instead of being coy about it she was a bit reality-tv trashy. She was admired by all the men, and the women loathed her for it. It didn’t help that she had slept with some of their boyfriends. She was basically known as the “Slut From California”. So again, here I am in this small town, where none of the locals would talk to me because if my friend was a “slut” then I was a “slut”. The older bartender who was the only guy in town who didn’t fall for my friend’s tricks took pity on me and poured me some free drinks every night. I told myself it would get better, once we got to Chicago. That the women were jealous. That she was just exploring her sexuality.
We finally arrived in Chicago, and the tension became worse. She didn’t want to do any of the tourist things. She became frustrated with me for being frustrated with her. After just a couple of days, she had some sort of “family emergency” had had to drive home. So I was alone in Chicago for a day and left with no ride to the airport. An added expense, mind you. I tapped into my network and found a friend of a friend in Chicago, who kind enough to be a tour guide. She did tourist things with me and we ate good food. Shade never called me to check in or apologize, or even make sure I made it home safely. I sent her a thank you note and that was that.
Lesson: It’s hard to help someone that just won’t admit that they have a problem.
Betty Draper and I were friends for about 6 years. We met in college and we had so much in common. We both were Latinas. We both were pretty much Americanized. We wanted to have it all. Our first three years together were great, but the last three years, unfortunately, were horrible. I named her Betty in honor of the character from “Mad Men”. Betty and Don Draper stayed together because they love the illusion of themselves together but soon realized they were toxic for one another. Our friendship reminded me of how a marriage falls apart. Slowly and painfully. Every day I woke up and resented Betty more and more. She resented my personal growth. I resented that she never had to work for anything. Everything was given to her, and when it wasn’t she had a tendency to act out. I even saw her throw a hissy fit in front of her mom over sunglasses. She was 23 years old and was mad that her mom bought her the wrong pair of sunglasses. She would make me feel so bad about my choices that every time we hung out, I was constantly apologizing for my accomplishments. Our friendship ended abruptly after I got married. We both knew we had to let it die, or it will kill us both.
Lesson: Sometimes you can find yourself at a crossroads with a friend, and you both just have to wave at each other while going separate ways. No friendship is worth saying “sorry” every time you see them.
All of these relationships did rock my core at the time. I came up with such silly resolutions after each one. For example, I thought I should never befriend girls who cared so much about looks because all of these girls who cared so much about their looks hurt me. However, my tribe was always filled with performers and athletes; my first memories of friendships always had me in the audience. I went to so many concerts, plays, games, and so on, cheering my friends on. So I knew on some level, my friends will care about their looks.
I did also learn about my faults. For example, I need to speak up more and not get mad at people who can’t read minds.
Friendships are a tricky thing. But they are worth having. Just like with romantic love, you cannot stop trusting people after someone breaks your heart. We all need friends.