Trust my rock ‘n roll mind to understand Black Sabbath lyrics, right? But the first line of their 1972 song Changes resonated a lot with me recently. “I feel unhappy/I feel so sad/I’ve lost the best friend that I ever had.” Granted, I’ve moved past the unhappy, sad phase, but I did lose the person who was once my best friend. Only I lost this friend years ago and never realized it fully until now. Bear with me, this is gonna be long.
A kid’s early teenage years are just horrible, I don’t care who they are. Everything is changing; their bodies, their skin, their emotions. It’s all one big, awful stew of confusion. Now add to that moving four times in two years and attending three different junior high schools in three different (oh so different!) states. Fun times, y’all. Fun times. Not. But I was lucky enough to find exceptionally wonderful friends in all three schools, friends that I connected with instantly. One girl, though, quickly became my very best friend of all.
She and I seemed to like all the same things, whether it was music, movies, books, humor, clothes, everything. She had this laugh that seemed to come straight up from somewhere deep inside her, a loud, heartfelt, raucous belly laugh that you couldn’t hear without laughing, too. A huge laugh that came from a girl who barely topped five feet tall (if that) at almost fourteen years old. That’s one of the things I remember most about her, that joyous, unrestrained laugh.
In the few short months my family lived in her hometown, she and I spent almost every minute together. If I wasn’t at her house then she was at mine. Not to say we never had squabbles. Come on, we were thirteen/fourteen years old! Of course we had spats. None of them lasted very long, though. Our friendship survived all of it. And it seemed destined to survive for the rest of our lives even though we ended up living so far away from each other for the majority of our adult lives. That distance isn’t what ultimately dissolved our bond. It was something deep-seated, something I didn’t fully come to realize until last year.
As much as I always loved my friend, I look back now and realize that she not only expected, but also demanded that I share her opinions. There were times over the years when that realization raised its head and got my attention for a bit, but I always pushed it away rather quickly. This was my friend and I loved her. I could keep my mouth shut and let her believe I felt the same way about certain things, right? Fast forward to the mid-1980s. I wrote her a letter, one of those long, rambling ones that contained everything from the antics of my two children to my feelings about the presidential candidates. Oops.
In return I received a condescending missive that chided me as if I were a misbehaving child regarding my statements about her chosen presidential candidate and his wife. While she had not seen fit to hold back her gushing admiration of them in earlier letters to me, she let me know that she was “troubled” by my dislike of them. In fact, she compared my distrust of someone who might become the leader of the country to the dislike she felt over the kitchen decorations chosen by her sister. That hit me like a slap to the face, that my opinion to her was nothing more than the irritation she felt when she walked in her sister’s kitchen and saw blue ducks on the wallpaper. Let’s just say I didn’t answer that letter.
In fact, I think that was the beginning of a very long break for us. I was married, working in radio, and raising two daughters. She was still single, and bouncing from job to job. For the first time in our long friendship we truly had nothing in common. But thanks to technology, years later we were able to find each other again.
In the time we hadn’t communicated she had married and had two children of her own. We exchanged emails, photos, and phone calls, and even a quick but lovely visit when we met each others’ families. Time and distance had taken the shine off our friendship, it’s true, but I still considered her my friend, and I know she considered me hers. Until the recent presidential debates.
We still didn’t agree on politics and social issues. But we agreed to disagree, I kept my mouth shut about how pissed I was when she marginalized my opinions to the level of blue ducks on kitchen wallpaper, and all was good. Then the second presidential debate took place on October 4, 2016, and the proverbial shit hit the fan.
The candidate I backed pretty much destroyed hers in that debate, and my friend did not handle it well. Over the years she had made occasional posts on Facebook praising the president of that time, and expressing her admiration for his wife. I never responded in any way, shape, or form because her opinion was hers and none of my affair. But after the debate she composed a post worded in that smug, condescending way she always had. Words that made it appear that she was so very, very wronged and that her heart was just broken by something the media reported my candidate had done. Since I knew this was misinformation (and I knew she knew it, too, and was just trying to find something to praise from the debacle her candidate had made of the debate) I answered her.
Y’all, I was nice. I have witnesses. 🙂 I simply pointed out that she was repeating false information about my candidate. She responded, but still civilly. I answered her back and she got angry that I dared disagree with her. She even told me that she had let me post positive memes, etc. about my candidate without saying anything. Then her teenage son decided it was his business to weigh in, and he was a complete and utter prick about it. So you know what I did? I went back up to the beginning of the thread and I deleted my original comment. Of course all the attached comments were deleted as well since they were part of the thread. Y’all, I swear by all that’s holy, she lost her effing mind. Again, I have witnesses.
From the posts that followed accusing me of unfriending her, deleting her posts, and pretty much everything up to and including the Iraqi war, I can only surmise she was three sheets to the wind. She’d always been combative when drunk, so I tried to explain that I deleted my own comment, and that included any and all replies, and tried to get the hell away from her for a while. She kept raging at me, and in her mind it was my fault that she didn’t understand how Facebook works. I finally got rather stern and told her several times to Let. It. Go. But she kept having kittens over my deleting my own post. So I got snarky and said at least I didn’t delete 33,000 classified emails.
It got interesting then. I ended up blocking her son because, really? I don’t know that kid, and from his posts I don’t want to. His mother quieted down and shut up and I figured it was over. Granted, my friends and I did obscurely discuss it in some posts, with one person saying they thought certain people were going to tell me I couldn’t sit with them any more, and another saying I handled it well but that Snowflake didn’t. And then it ended. Until her husband started stalking my Facebook profile.
Yes, he and I were Facebook friends, but we very rarely interacted. I didn’t know him any more than I knew his son, so we didn’t exactly have a lot of subjects on which to converse. But right after the election he started replying to some of my posts. He wasn’t nice. It quickly became clear from whom his son learned the art of being a prick online. There was no reason for him to do it other than being a sore loser and, I can only surmise, immature as hell. I ended up blocking him, too.
I have not spoken to my now-former friend since October.
Like the Black Sabbath song says, at first I was unhappy and sad. I dwelt on it more than I wanted to, but it’s only because so many things brought up memories of her. Certain songs, certain bands, catch-phrases we laughed at together. You know how it is. But I haven’t contacted her, and I’m not going to. As I’ve looked back over our friendship I’ve come to realize that I was the one who made all the concessions. She expected it, and I did it. I’ve also realized that while I was growing and changing and stretching my wings and my knowledge and experiences, she’s never really had an original thought.
While I discovered on my own my love of some of the bands we both liked, she liked them because her older sibling did. She liked the books and movies she did because of this sibling or her parents. In our teen years I explored opinions and issues that differed from those of my parents. I supported the political party they didn’t, which disgusted my dad, but he was wise enough to know that I had to come to some decisions on my own. As I matured I saw that I didn’t agree with that party anymore, so I explored and studied again, until I found the ideals and policies with which I agreed. While I was stretching and changing and exploring differing ideas, she never changed. She still slavishly clings to the political party of her parents, and has never once expressed the desire to hear or consider a dissenting opinion. It appears her husband is just as inflexible, so I doubt she’ll get any encouragement to loosen up and admit to her less-than-stellar behavior and apologize. We’re still friends on Facebook, she and I, but we don’t interact. The other day I saw she had written a new post, one worded in that social justice warrior language she uses these days. I just rolled my eyes and scrolled past. (Yeah, we’re friends on Facebook, but if she reads this I figure we won’t be for long.)
So I lost the best friend I ever had. No, it wasn’t over politics. It was over the fact that I am no longer a person who lets someone else tell me who I am. I have embraced my lovely, wild, free, bohemian self, the one who knows my opinions and ideas are just as valid and just as worthy as anyone else’s. I have finally remembered who I was before my now-former friend told me who she thought I should be. And that is why I lost my best friend.
I heard the song 5:15 by The Who yesterday, and felt a twinge. I won’t forget her or the things we shared, but I can’t live by someone else’s rules. You know? The fact that she’d want me to is the thing about this that’s sad.
Thanks for letting me get this out. 🙂
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