by Caren Crane
I've been writing a book that is about, among other things, breaking up. As I think we've discussed before, breaking up is hard to do. (Nod to Neil Sedaka here - for the kids, he was a popular singer back in the day.) Some break-ups are harder than others, though. I mean, as women we fully expect - or at least anticipate the possibility of - our fair share of break-ups with boyfriends and, sadly, even husbands. Romantic break-ups are widely featured in songs, movies and books. Break-ups are sort of a romantic milestone and constitute a specialty niche in our entertainment.
But I want to talk about a different sort of break-up. I have had my heart thoroughly and completely broken by men, so I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt. There is a different sort of break-up, though, that is potentially more devastating and certainly much more of an existential crisis: break-ups with the women in our lives.
Ever broken up with a friend? Fallen out with a sister? Been on the outs with your mom? I can't speak for dudes, because I'm not one, but I'm not sure if they grieve in quite the same way. (Please do tell!) But I know that for me these are some of the most painful relationship dramas to weather. They are the worst pain to bear and, sometimes, the hardest breaks to mend.
Recently - VERY recently - my Girl Scout co-leader told me she won't be coming back next year. It's not personal in any way. Her daughter will be a junior and she's moved on to other interests, so my co-leader is no longer interested in investing the time in the troop. I totally get that and would feel EXACTLY the same way in her place. And yet, when I read her e-mail (yes, it was an e-mail break-up), it knocked the wind right out of my sails.
I shook it off pretty quickly - after all, I'd been through this before - but I had this montage of emotions before I managed to move on: shock, betrayal, anger, disgust and deep disappointment. I've been a Girl Scout leader for 11 years. (You probably can't read this t-shirt, but it says "I run a Girl Scout troop. I also have a full-time job, a family and a life. Beat that!") One daughter has 2 years to go and one has 3. I made a commitment that very first year, when my older daughter was in kindergarten, that I would lead as long as my girls wanted to stay in Scouts. I fully expected it to be a 14-year commitment. So far, we're on track. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I learned (at the end of the very first year) that not everyone felt the way I did. What?
Yes, friends, I was just that naive. Being someone who only makes promises she intends to keep, I took this fly-by-night leadership rather hard. I got over it, but it took time. Happily, I am already following a hot lead on another leader to hook up with, so I have hope that my drama will be short-lived. The sad thing is, I really like my current co-leader and I know, without a doubt, that without the glue of the troop, we will not stay in touch. I have, in essence, lost a friend.
That fighting with a friend thing, though, that's a tough one. I had a friend who was a co-worker a few years back. She and I were very different, but we appreciated each other. We were both quirky in our own ways and were not quite in step with the rest of our department. She made some choices I didn't agree with, but we got past that. However, I think I sort of failed her as a friend. After she left the company, she needed a friend who was more accessible than I could be, so I usually couldn't drop what I was doing and meet her for dinner or drinks. My life was complicated and she needed someone who was able to be much more spontaneous than I could be. After a while, she stopped returning my calls and didn't answer my e-mails. I let her go. I still sent an occasional "hope you're well" type e-mail, but got no response. Then recently - very recently - she texted me out of the blue! Now, mere days later, we are friends on Facebook and just about caught up on one another's lives. It has been a real gift.
So, in the past week I've had to say good-bye to one relationship and hello again to another. I think that's the beautiful thing about the girl break-ups. They usually have an expiration date, even if it's years down the road. I can't say that's true with the guys I've broken up with. Once they're done, they are done. And no, I wouldn't friend those dudes on Facebook. (Or that random guy who messaged me looking for late night action, either - eew!)
Have you ever broken up with a girlfriend? Did you manage to mend fences or is the Great Wall still standing between you? And why is it so hard to say good-bye to our friendships?