While watching the finale of Girls recently, I joined the chorus of people who were thoroughly disappointed with it. If you’ve ever watched Girls, you know it’s a whirlwind of emotions, drama, fun, awkwardness, and nudity. If you haven’t, now you know. Despite the fact that the season finale was as boring as it was predictable, I do think Lena Dunham did something really special in her depiction of the complexity of female friendships. The show revolves around four girls, each of them vastly different, with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Dunham is never afraid to show things as they are, even when they’re not so pretty. She shows a much less glamorized side of what it means to be best friends with someone at a time when everyone is still getting their shit together, dating the wrong people (or the right ones), and being selfish the way one is in their twenties.
There’s one episode that really stuck with me though. It was the second to last episode of the final season (which, let’s be honest, would’ve been a far more satisfying finale) because lately, I feel as though I’ve had to play the part of Shosh in my own life. I’ve had to be the person that says enough is enough, I choose me. For a while I thought maybe I was being selfish or a bad friend, but I’ve come to realize that there is nothing wrong with ridding yourself of the sources of negativity in your life and prioritizing the people and the things that make you happy.
I’ve recently had some interesting encounters that have really made me question the idea of “friends forever.” Can that really be the case for every friendship? What if your priorities no longer align and you don’t value the same things anymore? What if one of you is stuck in the past, living a reality that no longer exists? Or, what if you suddenly realize that person just isn’t really a good person at all?
I’ve been going through a rough patch with a friend I’ve known since kindergarten for the past two years. You know how they say living with your best friend isn’t always the best idea? It isn’t, because that’s where our rough patch began. A combination of me dating someone seriously for the first time, a lack of communication, and me moving away to New York kept us drifting back and forth in a weird place our friendship had never been before. I didn’t know what to make of it. It’s an odd feeling when someone who was once a constant in your life suddenly changes to merely being a figure in the background. The cherry on top of our already unstable friendship happened on my last night in New York City. She was in town and we went out drinking to celebrate my last night before moving away and she ended up doing something that deeply upset me. I told her I was upset and then, it was never addressed. The next day she acted as if nothing had happened, disregarding my feelings entirely when I had made them so clear. I was hurt. For me, a vital quality of a good friendship is the ability to apologize, to care enough to acknowledge when you’ve done something that hurt the other person, whether it was intentional or not. So why, after all these years of friendship, couldn’t she do it?
Then there’s the bully. I grew up in a small town where everyone knew everyone. This girl would always pick on me in school, and then there were days when I was stuck carpooling with her because our parents were friends. This was a friendship that I felt pressured to have. She was friends with all of my friends and was perfectly nice to them, so I thought I had no other option but to be friends with her too. Every once in a while, she was nice to me, but only if it was in her best interest to do so. She was always gossiping about people and was just so negative and full of hate. Listening to her talk about people and then turn around to put on her best smile for them just like Regina George always made me so uncomfortable. This year, I had to be in a bridal party with her. The days leading up to the bachelorette I was anxious. I hadn’t seen this person since high school. I told myself I had no reason to be insecure. I have a great life, a loving fiancé, I’ve explored new cities, and done well for myself. And I’m certainly much more confident now than I ever was in high school. At the bachelorette, she would throw subtle jabs here and there, the same sorts of things she would tease me for in high school. But then, she would ask about my fiancé and my upcoming wedding. Previous to the bachelorette, she even threw some comments in about planning my bachelorette via text. And not surprisingly, every night of the bachelorette trip she gossiped about people we knew in high school.
Now, let’s talk about the girl who claimed to be my friend growing up and then all of a sudden proclaimed that she hated me and was actually never my friend. Sure, we were never the best of friends, but we went to sleepovers together, made small talk and hung out in groups with the same people all the time. We were friends. Nothing special, but still friends. Years passed and we always had mutual friends but never saw each other. She messaged me at some point in college to ask that we put the drama behind us. I remember laughing because I never had a problem with her, and I told her we had always been cool in my book. She too was in the bridal party, as the maid of honor.
Life has a funny way of setting you up for complete, emotional chaos sometimes. What do all three of these people I’ve talked about have in common? We grew up together, went to the same school together, and therefore, were all set to reunite at our friend’s wedding. Before I go on, let me just say the wedding was absolutely amazing and my unfortunate encounters don’t reflect what the wedding as a whole was like at all. So, in a nutshell, everyone got drunk and decided to lay it on me. Back to back. All within the span of an hour like some horribly cliché plot in a shitty movie.
First, I saw my kindergarten friend who I hadn’t seen for over a year since I moved away from New York. She apologized and I thought we were off to a good start. A few drinks in, in the ladies room, she exploded into tears and went on to tell me how I didn’t care about her now that I was engaged, that I only saw her as a friend in my party days, how it was all my fault that we drifted apart, how I was so mean to her and she was so worried to see me because she thought I would be mean again, and how proof of my not caring was the fact that I was just standing there and wasn’t crying like she was. I stood there in shock taking it all in, unable to cry not because I wasn’t upset, but because I was hurt at the way she was portraying me and by the fact that a simple apology still seemed so far out of her reach for her.
Then, I came out of the bathroom and was met by the maid of honor, who was also a few drinks in. She asked what had happened with my kindergarten friend because she saw us come out of the bathroom together and noticed she had been crying. I told her we had a bit of a rough patch and hadn’t had a chance to talk it out until now. She then launched into her own five-minute speech about how, if she was being totally honest, she hadn’t wanted me to be a bridesmaid at all. In fact, she dreaded it, and me, but she had stayed silent because it wasn’t her wedding. She kept on like this for a good while. I was taken aback. Just a few hours earlier, we had sat next to each other at dinner and I had helped her edit her maid of honor speech. When she was finally done talking about how awful she thought I was, she said that she had an a-ha moment and realized that friends from your childhood were friends for life, and now that we were cool due to this revelation of hers, she would totes take a bullet for me. She also advised me to follow her example and just forgive my kindergarten friend because good friendships aren’t worth losing.
Stunned and emotionally drained, I wanted nothing more but to chug some tequila. And then, as luck would have it, the bully approached me. “Well, now that everyone is spilling the beans,” she began. Was this really happening? Did everyone plan this? I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. Luckily, that’s as far as she got. Her boyfriend interrupted and distracted her, and that was that.
I’m not going to lie and pretend like I didn’t go back to my hotel room after the wedding and cry into my fiancé’s shoulder. I was frustrated. I didn’t understand. I felt attacked, and I genuinely felt like I did nothing wrong. It’s hard to stand there and hear people tell you how much they dislike you or what a cold-hearted bitch you are, when all you’re trying to do is be a good bridesmaid for your good friend who just got married. Honestly, I think that’s what kept me from saying anything back to these people. I stood there and took it because I refused to be selfish or make the night about me, my problems, or do anything that would cause drama for the bride and groom on their special night.
A few years ago, I would’ve woken up the next day after the wedding and been stressed. I would’ve felt the pressure of these friendships, and the pressure to keep them because I’d known them all for so long. I would have felt crushed thinking I would have to continue to interact with these people, knowing they would never be able to see the wrong in their actions. But as the tears subsided, I actually felt free. I felt lucky to have left Texas and fortunate for all the new friendships I’ve made.
Sometimes, the problem isn’t that people change, it’s that they don’t. It’s that they’re stuck in the kind of headspace that allows them to believe that it’s okay to be selfish and ignore the way their actions affect other people. That they never need to apologize. That they don’t need to admit when they’re wrong. That friendship is a one-way street. That a friend is only there to benefit them. And that somehow, it doesn’t matter if they’re a good friend or not, because at the end of the day, when you’ve known someone forever, that person will basically always be there for you. This is the kind of thinking that bothers me most, and I think it’s what did Shosh in too. Just because you’ve known someone for a long time, grew up with them, or spent a big chunk of your life with them, doesn’t mean you get to treat someone poorly and then shove it all under the rug. The bond of knowing someone for so long doesn’t exempt you from being a decent friend. That might be rational thinking in high school or college, but it’s just not the way it works.
Watching that second to last episode of Girls, and watching Shosh call it in the bathroom, choosing to live the life she wanted for herself with the kind of people she wanted to be surrounded by was empowering because I totally understood where she was coming from. And while it could have been perceived as her being insensitive, or overly sensitive even, there is nothing wrong with what she did. She grew up. She saw things for what they were and chose to exclude herself from a toxic narrative she no longer wanted to be a part of. And I’m sure she wished them all well, just like I wish these girls well. My kindergarten friend and I actually spoke on the phone the other day, and had a totally normal conversation. Though it was never said out loud, I felt a mutual understanding that while things may never be the same, it’s not like we hate each other. No hard feelings, just like when Hannah and Jessa catch up at Shosh’s engagement party in that same episode.
Herein lies the beauty of this adulthood thing: the realization that nine times out ten, you don’t owe anybody anything. You don’t owe it to anyone to be friends with people that don’t make you feel good or don’t appreciate you. If someone doesn’t bring anything good into your life, you’re not obligated to keep them in it. And isn’t that great?
Michelle Hammond is a fairly new Seattle resident who loves adventure. When she's not at work doing social media marketing, you can find her reading a book, cuddling with her pup, booking her next trip, or on the hunt for the city's best matcha latte.