About six months ago, my close friend S and I broke up. I felt and still feel good about our breakup. Our friendship had run its course, and I ended it early enough that when I think about me and S, I still recall all our loving memories – fending off fleas at our Airbnb in New Orleans after my college graduation, watching UnReal and The Bold Type in my apartment while eating tons of takeout from Silver Diner, teasing each other about our respective trust issues and laughing because despite our issues, we trusted each other.
After my friendship with S ended, I started grew closer to another friend, L, an iconic queen with radical vibrant energy who went dancing with me in Philly. I did not realize this until early October, but in many ways, L fulfilled for me all the things S did not. Whereas S started moving more into a romance-oriented, non-rebellious lifestyle, L embodied racial justice, anti-capitalism, and out-loud feminism in all that she did. Whereas S and I slowly drifted after a solid few years of friendship, L and I came together quickly after having only exchanged a few messages and some in-person meetups in DC POC-owned cafes. But my friendship with L came to a startling halt in late September too, when I realized that our communication felt unhealthy and that she in fact had served as my rebound friendship after S.
Another friendship of mine has shifted: my friendship with A, the caring and compassionate queen who moved over a year ago. Over the past couple months, A and I took a few short breaks in our friendship after we experienced some conflict. To sum it up, A started dating a man and engaging in more heteronormative behaviors than I ever thought she would based on our first year of friendship. After a lot of internal work, I realized that even if A and I may differ a lot in terms of how we choose to live our lives – I for one detest the idea of a wedding or wearing a patriarchal heteronormativity ownership device wedding ring – we still care about each other and share similar values and communication styles, the components of a strong friendship. At the same time, I still make space for myself to grieve the idea that A would live a more radical life that aligned itself more with mine.
I have spent a lot of time processing these friendships as of late, in particular my friendship with A. While grading papers last night, I thought about songs that would match my mood state, and then it clicked: “thank u, next.” “thank u, next” fits because even though these friendships have either ended or shifted, I feel so much gratitude toward every single one it also fits because S is Mac Miller minus the drug addiction, L is Pete Davidson minus the white male mediocrity, and A is Big Sean except more of a compassionate empathic queen.
I feel grateful for S for acting as one of the few men in my life I have ever trusted, for our shared bonding over family trauma and anti-capitalism and loyalty to the people we care about. I feel thankful for L for her amazing passion for social justice, for her inspiring energy that warmed my heart and continues to motivate me to fight even harder to end oppression. I feel appreciative toward A for how she provided me with a super close friendship the year I started grad school in a new area, for her empathy and insight and kindness.
I share about these friendships because friendships can mean so much to us and carry so much rich complexity, yet they often do not receive as much attention as romantic relationships or familial relationships. As I wrote in my post about my iconic friendship weekend with Natasha, I never have felt like I needed a man, in large part because I derive so much emotional intimacy from my friendships. When I listened to “thank u, next”, though, I realized I had been falling into the heteronormative trap, this thought that because S and L are pretty much out of the picture and things with A have shifted, I need to fill that space in my life with a new close friend right now.
I caught this thought and sat with it. I gave the thought space. And I gently reminded myself that as Ari sings, there “ain’t no need for searching.” I have my closest friends, Bri and Natasha, several other good friends, and also a weird over-disclosing red-haired BlackPink stan friend, myself. If another friend who values compassion and social justice shows up, that friend shows up. But if not, no worries – because I’m spending time with the friends I do have now, including myself. I may feel some yearning, and I also feel great. I may want something more, and I also feel full. While these friendships may have caused me some pain, as do most things that matter in life, I still feel so, so grateful.
How do you navigate friendships in your life, either when they end or shift in form? Reactions to anything I shared in this post? What can we do as a society to value friendship more in the face of heteronormativity and patriarchy? Until next time!