When You’re No Longer “Girls Together”
What's left at the end of a friendship?
Teenage Diaries is a monthly column on navigating the oddities, culture, and experiences of high school in the modern era.
Mapping the demise of a friendship shouldn’t be difficult. There is life, then death, and there are friends, then not friends. At a middle school sleepover, a friend told me ominously that her mother didn’t believe most friendships had the strength to weather the harsh climate of high school. In the odd hours between boy-searching in the yearbook and sleep, I didn’t have the words to face our sad little prophecy. Maybe our friendship ended then, or it ended when we stopped talking, or when I told my mother about the whole ordeal.
At a K-12 school, most things change in slow increments and appear all at once. Everyone has decided to dress differently. The tall green Zara pants are everywhere, then nowhere. All of the guys are suddenly wearing ankle socks and are mere traces of the boys we met in kindergarten. We eat salad for lunch. Scrap that, we don’t eat lunch, not here. I knocked over three Stanley tumblers that used to be Hydroflasks that used to be Starbucks Cold Cups with my laptop. I walked into English class one morning, and a classmate stared up at me as I took my seat. “Wow, your hair got long. I just noticed that,” she said. I brushed it off, mostly because hadn’t noticed either, which was funny. I was oblivious.
We used to have a class called “Decisions,” which told us how to stand up to bullies and that we should stay off the internet because strangers use it (in other words, how to be just the right amount of cruel and that we should use the internet as much as possible, especially because strangers use it). Decisions taught us that there are many types of friends: good ones, bad ones, lazy ones, prettier-than-you’s, smarter-than-you’s, frenemies…the list goes on.
But Decisions did not teach us how subtly everyone changes, that the things that once made us interesting together can go grey, or that the glitter of easy chemistry isn’t enough to substance for what we need out of friendship. Decisions told us to fix things up nicely, to make friendship bracelets, to drink glasses of fortified milk in each other’s kitchens, and to go on being “girls together” the way that Women are supposed to.
We’re birthday card keepers, grudge-holders, silent starers, and non-explainers. Friendships at school don’t implode or go up in flames. Instead, they’re snuffed out by tall bell jars of disappointment and resentment, and when we smell something burning, we leave the room. I’d like to imagine that this is how friendships end in the large (and thus, awkward) adult world: quietly and without confrontation. And so, when they don’t end in a firestorm of tears and proclamations of SLUT and WHORE, it’s hard to track where things went south and even harder to let go.
So, we pin it on a Big Thing. In most books I read as a child, the same thing always happened to teen girls when they were supremely close—their balanced blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice is soured by Boy, an unwanted but always expected ingredient. Stories like Emma and Little Women had convinced me that in seconds, a sister-like bond could crumble at the seemingly golden, singing opportunity to be wanted by someone other than friend. One will get swept off her feet, and the other is destined to lie in the dusty snow angel she left behind.
And this is the case sometimes.
dude all my fucking friends have bfs now
literally when a friend gets a bf they start to dissipate
they change so much
it’s like an obstacle lol
fr you lose them whether you like them or not
The intrusion of a third party can throw this dynamic off kilter; after all, holding hands three-across is very inconvenient. A friend told me that she had been seeing a guy, and he was cute and nice and polite, and I smiled. But the only other person she had ever shared a bed with was me, really, in the most perfect and innocent way. Giggling at 10 p.m., the latest we had both ever been awake at some point in our youth, we would collage our intertwined futures on the dark backdrop of a nighttime bedroom ceiling.
“If we’re both unmarried by forty, we’ll adopt children and move to the french countryside and raise goats and never ever think about taken away by a man. And if we adopt sons, we’ll raise them to never call girls too fat or too skinny, and send them off to school with our fingers crossed. They’ll probably still do it though. And our kids will all speak five languages.”
But at the heart of most friendships is a fantasy of eternity and a promise to pass through the world together, and to say that our friendships are only as strong as our romantic weaknesses would be a lie. Female friendship is beautiful on its own, full of its sprawling fantasies about what rewards wait for us after our educations are chiseled at and exhausted, and we don’t necessarily appreciate its fullness and depth until it’s lost.
When my friendships came to an end, there was never any bad blood—I never had the strength to fight my friends, not truly. I doubt that most people do. We ceased to be girls together, but we’re girls at the same time, around each other but apart. I still use the blush that she bought me when I turned twelve. Maybe our friendship ends when it runs out. I use it sparingly.