We don’t celebrate our true girlfriends enough. I’m talking about those most treasured, ride-or-die gal pals, 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 thing he will regret most in his entire life is hooking up with you. The ones who gamely volunteer to escort you to an event where your ex will be with his much younger, skinnier new girlfriend. The women who help execute the birthday night out you accidentally fabricated to get a boy you have a crush on to hang out with you. And the very ones who then 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 when you are in the middle of a major depressive episode.
These are good fruit, several rungs up from the perfectly nice Costco fruit who make up your acquaintances and work-only work friends. In fact, these women aren’t just good fruit, they’re a whole flipping Edible Arrangement, chocolate-covered pineapple wedges included.
But friendships are hard, so much harder and potentially painful than anyone ever makes them out to be. I know you know this, because when we were 7, it hurt like a b*tch when Paige told you that you were no longer her best friend, but her second best friend, because Marielle is her first best friend because she gave her a brownie bite at snack time.
And as you’ve no doubt learned, friendship actually gets worse and harder as you get older and better at bullsh*tting, because you will eventually tag Paige when you post a Buzzfeed listicle of the “10 Things That Are True When You’ve Been Best Friends Since Kindergarten,” but will tell Marielle over margaritas how Paige is a hot mess and you wouldn’t even believe what she did in the bathroom at Bar Lubitsch last weekend.
The truth is that good girlfriends are actually excessively hard to come by, and bad girlfriends are lurking everywhere: in the breakroom, at Pilates class, in ourselves! Everyone’s worst girlfriend nature is always just around the corner, waiting to ensnare you with lines like, Your style is so cute, I wish I could pull that look off, and You wouldn’t believe what my ex just posted on Instagram.
I had a friend like that. We’ll call her What’s-Her-Face, to preserve her anonymity (and my safety). She came to me in a usual friend way; we were thrown together in a work setting and had instant girlfriend chemistry. We sheepishly admitted to each other, after our first Will-You-Be-My-Friend lunch, that we had each called our respective mothers to tell them we had made a new friend, and how great she was.
I found What’s-Her-Face at a critical time for friend-making: I was in the midst of my cataclysmic breakup/disengagement; my ex was moving out in an extremely slow and painful way, and I often feared for my safety in the face of his terrifyingly heightened emotional states. She was sympathetic and generous, allowed me to crash at her place, and welcomed me into her circle of friends when I was left friendless, having disengaged long ago with everyone other than him, caught in the nasty isolation that forms in a codependent relationship. Best of all, she was full of issues of her own and had no qualms about acquainting me very intimately with all of them, which allowed me an escape the drama tornado that was my life.
What’s-Her-Face’s generosity with me was in curious contrast to her generally selfish emotional landscape, which she attributed to longstanding issues with abandonment and a damaged self-worth. I understood her failings, and used them to excuse her (somewhat regular) bad behavior. She had been devastated by an ex-boyfriend who was by any standard a sh*tty person, and who had used her weaknesses to manipulate her. This meant that talking her through an emotional episode was like traversing a minefield; say the wrong thing, and she exploded in anger and confusion. This exhausted me, but perversely, I also liked it. I didn’t want to take care of my baby of an ex anymore, but without someone to tend to, I felt bereft. It was nice to feel needed again.
I eventually moved out of the apartment I used to share with him, eager to start fresh. About a month after I moved into an adorable, tiny studio in Beverly Hills, I received the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Africa for several months of work. While I packed and emptied my fridge of perishables, What’s-Her-Face sat on my couch and updated me about her ex’s appearances on social media. As we were walking out the door, she asked me to give her my house key, so that she could check up on the place every once in a while. I had been planning on asking my neighbor, with whom I had developed a very nice, budding, almost-girlfriendship, but What’s-Her-Face insisted, so I 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 per week, and I spent a lot of it receiving blurry photos of my dog from my mother.
What’s-Her-Face was going through a particularly difficult time, something involving her ex, who remembers. She had an exceptionally bad moment while I was either working or sleeping or downloading a blurry photo of a dog… whatever the case, I was on the other side of the planet, unable to answer. Feeling abandoned, What’s-Her-Face’s next conversation with me was an explosive one, or as explosive as things can get on Gchat (it involved a lot of caps lock). Tired and busy and a little homesick, I just wasn’t having any of it. That was the last time I spoke to her while I was abroad.
As punishment, What’s-Her-Face proceeded to not check on my apartment once in the two months I was gone, where a large trash bag of rotten fruit I had forgotten to take downstairs spent the summer generating the most massive colony of fruit flies I have ever seen.
Do you know how fruit flies manage to seemingly appear out of nowhere? They’re teeny-tiny little assh*les, that’s how. They can get through microscopic crevices in walls and windows, and all you need is one to lay up to 500 eggs in all your old, rotty fruit. And anyone who has had the pleasure of being acquainted with those worthless, microscopic jerks 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 What’s-Her-Face. Much like our friendship, which was based on convenience and the mutual using of one another, all it took was one no-good piece, and the whole thing went up in a mushroom cloud of nasty fruitflies. That’s a rotten girlfriendship for you.
It’s been two years since I’ve spoken to What’s-Her-Face, and my life is immeasurably better. I have girlfriends now who are truly the greatest gifts 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 do my best to answer texts even when my anxiety tells me NO YOU CAN’T TALK TO ANYONE RIGHT NOW; I send unsolicited Justin Bieber remixes via iTunes; I love their boyfriends unconditionally, unless we’re mad at them. And I’ve learned to channel my nurturing instincts in a far more harmless and acceptable way: by smothering the sh*t out of my dogs.
What’s-Her-Face is now happily coupled and living 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 Loch Ness Monster exists. So there’s that.
Cherish your girlfriends. Get rid of the bad ones. Don’t keep old fruit in your apartment. Life’s too short for all that, good friendships are too rare for all that, and you never want to get to the point where you’re unceremoniously killing fruit flies with your hands… not that I do that, who says I do that? That’s disgusting.
Mikayla Park is a teacher/nonprofit creative person residing in the slums of Beverly Hills. Find her, and her two charming rescue dogs, everywhere at @mikaylapark.