If I could teach you one thing in these precious, formative years of your lives as social beings, it would be to value your girlfriends. That your most treasured, ride-or-die gal pals are the ones who smuggle a tube of slice-and-bake cookie dough into a showing of Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights when that boy you are in love with sends you an email telling you that the singular thing he will regret most in his entire life is hooking up with you. They gamely volunteer to escort you to your film premiere where your ex will be with his much younger and skinnier new girlfriend. They help execute the birthday night out you accidentally fabricated to get a boy you have a crush on to hang out with you. And they arrive, once more, with a tub of frosting and bottle of sauvignon blanc, when you realize it was probably unwise to fabricate a birthday night out with a boy you have a crush on when you are in the middle of a major depressive episode.
That is what girlfriends do, my little chickadees. But friendships are hard, so much harder and potentially painful than anyone ever makes them out to be. I know you know this, because it hurt when Paige told you that you were no longer her best friend, but her second best friend, because Marielle was her first best friend because she gave her one of her brownie bites at snack. Believe it or not, it actually gets worse as you get older and better at bullshitting, because you will eventually tag Paige when you repost a Buzzfeed countdown of the 10 Things That Are True When You’ve Been Best Friends Since Kindergarten, but will tell Marielle over margaritas at Pink Taco how Paige is a fucking hot mess and you wouldn’t even believe what she did in the bathroom at Bar Lubitsch last weekend. You will learn that good girlfriends are actually excessively hard to come by, and bad girlfriends are lurking everywhere: in the breakroom, at pilates class, just waiting to ensnare you with how cute your style is, and you wouldn’t believe what my ex just posted on Instagram.
I had a friend like that, we will call her What’s-Her-Face, to preserve her anonymity (and my safety.) She came to me in a usual friend way, thrown together in a work setting, instant girlfriend-chemistry. We sheepishly admitted to each other, after lunch, that we had both called our mothers to tell them we had met a new friend, and how great she was. I found her at a good time, I was in the midst of my cataclysmic breakup/ disengagement; he was moving out in an extremely slow and painful way, I often feared for my safety in the face of his terrifyingly heightened emotional states. She was sympathetic and generous, allowing me to crash at her place, welcoming me into her circle of friends when I was left friendless. Best of all, she was full of issues of her own, and had no qualms with acquainting me very intimately with all of them, which allowed me an escape from the shitstorm that had become my own life.
What’s-Her-Face’s generosity was in curious contrast to her extremely selfish emotional landscape which, I feel I have rightly assessed, was greatly attributed to longstanding issues with abandonment and damaged self-worth, as a result. I understood her failings and used them to excuse her (more than) occasional bad behavior. She was left psychologically devastated by an ex-boyfriend who, by all standards, was a shitty person who used her weaknesses to manipulate her. Talking her through an emotional episode was like traversing a minefield; say the wrong thing and it was an explosion of anger and confusion. It exhausted me but, perversely, I also liked it. I didn’t want to take care of my baby of an ex, but without someone to tend to I felt bereft; it was nice to feel needed again.
Two years ago, having just moved into my new apartment, I received the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Africa for work. She sat on my couch and updated me on her ex’s appearances on social media while I finished packing/ emptying my fridge of perishables. As we were walking out the door, she told me to give her my house key, so that she could check up on the place every once in a while. I was going to ask my neighbor with the yappy dogs, but she insisted. I guessed it was nicer to have a friend do it, so I gratefully acquiesced.
We kept in touch while I was in Africa, but my access to the internet was limited. We were granted a restricted amount of data a week and I spent a lot of it receiving blurry photos of my dog from my mother, who was dogsitting him. What’s-Her-Face was going through a particularly difficult time, something involving her ex, I honestly can’t remember. She had a particularly bad moment and I, unfortunately, was either working or sleeping or downloading a blurry photo of my dog… I wasn’t there to answer. Feeling abandoned by me, our next conversation was an explosive one, or as explosive a conversation as one can have via gchat (it involved a lot of caps lock) and I, being tired and busy and just a little homesick, for once could just have none of it. That was the last time I spoke to her while I was abroad. Little did I know that, as punishment, she would proceed to not check on my apartment once in the two months I was gone, where a large trash bag of rotten fruit I forgot to take downstairs spent the summer generating a massive colony of fruit flies.
Do you know how fruit flies manage to seemingly appear out of nowhere? They’re tiny motherfuckers, that’s how. They can get through microscopic crevices in walls and windows, and all you need is one and they can lay up to 500 eggs in your old, rotty fruit. And anyone who has had the pleasure of being acquainted with those worthless little assholes knows that, once you’ve had them in a bad way, it’s impossible to truly get rid of them. I’ve had a problem with fruit flies ever since and, every time I kill one, I think of her. Much like our friendship, which was based on convenience and mutual using of each other, all it took was one little rotten piece and the whole thing went up in a mushroom-cloud of nasty little fuckers. That’s a rotty girlfriendship for you, my girls.
It’s been two years since I’ve spoken to her, and my life is immeasurably better. I have girlfriends who are truly the greatest gift I could ever ask for, kind and honest and weird and true, and I do my best to treasure and honor our friendships in the way they deserve. I channel my nurturing instincts in a far more harmless and acceptable way: by smothering the shit out of my dog. What’s-Her-Face is now happily coupled, and living what appears to be an extremely posh, idyllic life, according to Instagram. I would like to believe that she’s changed; that love may be so transformative. That this man’s companionship could turn a selfish, emotionally unstable girl into the perfect friend and lover. But I would also really like to believe that the Lock Ness Monster exists. So there’s that.
Cherish your girlfriends. Get rid of the bad ones. Don’t keep old fruit in your apartment.