Today I found myself recalling an old wound – one I hadn’t thought about in years.
A client told me, tearfully, about how hurt she is over having lost a childhood friend several years ago.
Her friend didn’t die. She stopped responding to her. With no explanation.
Which got me thinking about a time in my life when that happened to me.
It happened twice, actually. A decade apart.
Both times a ‘best friend’ left me swimming in unanswered questions because she lacked the integrity to prioritize our relationship over the momentary discomfort she would have to endure to tell me what I’d done (or failed to do) in the relationship.
I’m going to tell you one of those stories and I’m going to use her real name because frankly, since she couldn’t be bothered to say goodbye, I can’t be bothered to think of a pseudonym.
It was the first time I’d ever been ghosted by a friend and, predictably, it’s the one that hurt the most.
I’m 19, in college, and I meet this amazing woman named Eva.
Eva is different from anyone I’ve ever known. Maybe because she’s from the west coast. Maybe because she was raised in boarding schools and had a passport before I entered kindergarten.
What I know for sure is that I like our differences.
I like how worldly she is. How deeply she thinks. And, I suppose, the future shrink in me is drawn to how wounded she is.
Her mother is a famous actress. Growing up with the complexities of having a celebrity mother, coupled with the mother’s perchance for dating awful humans, leaves Eva with a good amount of baggage.
Her biggest fear is being betrayed. Talked about. Or used by a friend who wants to be a part of her mother’s Hollywood world.
I pass all her tests – prove myself trustworthy. And even though I transfer to a school that places us three states apart, our friendship grows.
When she graduates, she gets a job, her own apartment, and invites me to visit her in LA.
I don’t find it weird when her mother’s assistant is sent to LAX to pick me up. Or that I spend more time with her mother’s assistant than I do with the friend I’ve flown 3,000 miles to visit. Eva’s just started a full-time job. She has an apartment. Bills to pay. I get it.
Besides, the mother’s assistant is only a few years older than we are and she’s happy for me to tag along with her as she runs errands, Eva says.
It turns out she was fine with me as a person, but she resents that she’s expected to entertain her boss’s daughter’s friend.
Which I learn because she talks about it. A lot. And about the mother.
And even though I’m known (back then) to chime in when gossip is swirling (or to initiate it), I know participating in it will break one of Eva’s cardinal rules. And I don’t do it.
I’m guessing that the assistant also knows that it’s one of Eva’s rules, and though she has a lot to say about how awful her job is and how underappreciated she feels by the family, I assume she gets paranoid after I leave and she tells Eva I talked shit about her. Or maybe the assistant confesses that she was the shit talker and Eva finds my failure to disclose that unforgivable.
All I know is that Eva never speaks to me again.
I try calling. Writing letters. I even send a letter to her college’s alumni association a decade later asking them to forward it to her.
The experience leaves me with a gaping hole in my heart, two decades worth of confusion, and a less-than-rosy outlook on humanity. I’m a little jaded.
I go over that trip in my head a hundred times. I comb through every interaction she and I had. I remember our last days - what we did. She was fine. We were fine.
I come up empty handed. Every. Single. Time.
I will never understand how a person can do that to someone they care about. Someone they claim to have loved. Someone they called family.
Is it possible that I hurt Eva? Absolutely. But how do you not tell the person? Give them an opportunity to apologize? Or at least say goodbye?
Sometimes platonic relationships run their course – just like intimate ones.
I had a very close friend who I ended a friendship with about five years back. We outgrew each other. And for reasons I won’t discuss here, I didn’t want the friendship anymore.
Which is why I told her. I told her I didn’t want the relationship anymore. And she accepted it. The way adults do.
So now let me ask you a question: Have you ever ghosted a friend?
If you have, use today to clean up your shit.
I’ve made it easy by creating an email template for you to use. It’s sort of like Mad Libs.
You just fill in the blanks and it’ll spit out an email so you can sleep well tonight knowing you cleaned up your side of the road.