By Leilani Tamu in collaboration with artist Janet Lilo
At the beginning of the year, I fell out with one of my closest friends. After sixteen years of being in each other’s lives, our relationship came to an abrupt end. All over the course of a hot chocolate at McCafe. There was a build up of course. She had just gotten married and I had only recently moved back to New Zealand. Weddings are expensive and with hers being in the USA, there was a significant financial commitment that had to be made by all involved. I’d never been a bridesmaid before so didn’t have a full sense of what the costs of being involved in a wedding would be. Let alone an overseas one. It was an awkward situation.
To her credit, my friend did her best to try and alleviate the financial pressure for all involved. I tried my best to be supportive of her, especially as I was the only bridesmaid. But after awhile the financial pressure started to pinch. With my husband being unemployed and me being the sole breadwinner, the trip to the USA was a significant cost given our circumstances. In the end I managed to pull it off – with a total of NZ$600 to cover all of my costs for seven nights – and I know my friend really appreciated it. But throughout the whole experience it became more and more apparent that we had both changed. I don’t think the change was for better or for worse, it was just that that over the course of time we had grown into different people. Being away overseas together for the wedding made the differences between us become even more acutely apparent.
When we got back to New Zealand, I avoided my friend for almost a month. It wasn’t the right thing to do and I regret not being upfront with her. But I needed a break and time to reflect on how to communicate how I felt to her in a way that wouldn’t hurt her feelings. In the end that approach had the opposite effect. My friend sent me a text saying that “it felt like I was breaking up with her”. She was right, I kind of was. I knew it was inevitable, but at the same time I didn’t want it to be.
Breaking up with my friend was really tough. In fact, I didn’t want to ‘break up’ with her at all. I had hoped that our friendship could still exist in some form, perhaps a little less close but still remain intact. I tried to express this – probably not that well – when we were at McCafe. But in the heat of the moment we both ended up raising our voices and saying awful things to each other. I vaguely remember looking up from my seat at McDonalds and noticing that we had an audience. I imagine, the local restauranteurs hadn’t expected to be witnessing an all out ‘girl fight’ while they chowed down on their Big Macs. It must have been somewhat entertaining for them.
At the end of the conversation, my friend and I agreed that it wasn’t possible for us to see eye-to-eye so we should just let things be. As I walked away from her in the car park that day I remember hoping that somehow we would find a way to accept our differences and acknowledge the value of having each other in our lives. I thought, perhaps naively, that this was what my friend wanted too. But as I soon found out, this break up was not going to be a clean one. The first thing, I discovered was that I had been ‘de-friended’ on facebook. This took me by surprise but I accepted my friend’s need to distance herself from me so wasn’t too upset about it. What did upset me though was the realisation that I had also been ‘blocked’ by her on facebook. Being de-friended was one thing, but being ‘blocked’ took it to a whole other level. Overnight I had become Public “Frienemy” Number One. And the repercussions didn’t stop there. I soon discovered that my husband had also been de-friended. As had another mutual friend: all by virtue of the ‘break up’ with me.
When I think about it now, a part of me wishes I had never agreed to be my friend’s bridesmaid. It was wonderful to be there for her on her special day. But it wasn’t worth losing our friendship over. Maybe next time someone asks me to be a bridesmaid I’ll suggest we just stay ‘friends’.