I’ve known Maya since college. We didn’t go to the same school, but our boyfriends were cousins and we ended up spending tons of time together on double dates, family get-togethers and once on a ski trip. I found her to be wickedly smart, funny and sarcastic in the subtlest way. Sometimes she’d make a remark under her breath and I’d be the only one in the room to pick up on her comment, choking down my laughter and often excusing myself to recover from her insane wit.
When both of us ditched (or were ditched by) the boyfriend-cousins, we stayed friends. We grew closer as our friendship survived three marriages, one divorce (hers), five pregnancies and the death of her father. After almost 30 years of friendship, Maya was without a doubt my best friend, and I hers. Her razor-sharp banter had dulled a bit over time, but it had been replaced by wisdom, compassion and that unique ability to simply show up when a friend needs you the most.
And that’s exactly where I found myself when Maya surprised me by trying to end our friendship.
I was in the worst period of my life. My husband had gone and had himself an affair and I’d found out about it. We were in counseling but quickly heading for divorce. I needed a friend, but it had to be the right friend. I wasn’t prepared to spread the news around yet. It was too shameful, too painful and too soon.
So I reached out to the one person I could always count on, and Maya went dark. Phone calls were met with radio silence and texts went unanswered. Two weeks of ignored emails went by before my almost-ex-husband revealed the identity of his mistress. A quick Facebook search revealed that this woman and Maya were friends. Suddenly it all made sense.
I didn’t bother with the phone or the computer. I went straight to her house and confronted her. Maya broke down. She had been struggling with the decision for months. Should she tell me about my husband’s affair and risk causing a divorce or betray our friendship by holding on to the secret? She claimed to believe it had been a one-time tryst, and that it wasn’t worth breaking up my marriage and hurting my children. She said she was sorry and that she hoped I would forgive her.
And then she disappeared from my life for three months.
I went through the deterioration of couples therapy and the inevitable collapse of my marriage without Maya, and when I finally came up for air, I really missed my friend. So much time had passed that I was no longer angry at her for not telling me. I questioned her judgment and always will, but there seemed to be no point in harboring a grudge over something she clearly felt terrible about and had profusely apologized for. The question now was why she had bailed on me again, and the answer was clear.
It was shame.
Maya is a proud person. Her sarcasm and wit developed out of the need to never be vulnerable, and when Maya messes up, she has to hide for a while before she’s brave enough to come into the light and own her mistake. These are my friend’s flaws, and after 30 years of friendship, I had already decided that this was a person I wanted to carry along with me on the journey of life, warts and all.
So I decided that I wasn’t going to let my BFF break up with me. I was going to force her to let me forgive her, even if she wasn’t ready to apologize. I needed her far too much to spend time rehashing her betrayal or making her feel guilty. I trusted that my best friend, who is more self-aware and brilliant than anyone I’ve ever met, had learned from her mistake and would not repeat the past. Despite feeling betrayed and abandoned by my BFF, I still trusted that she would be there for me in the future. And as a newly single woman recovering from the worst year of my life, I really needed my friend.
So once again, I found myself banging on her door. She answered in perfect, Maya fashion. “Forgot to pay your cell phone bill? Did you break your texting hand?” I demanded that she pour us a glass of wine — which turned into four glasses of wine … at 2 p.m. on a Sunday — and we decided to let bygones be just that.
I won’t say that the whole experience hasn’t damaged our relationship. My ability to trust and rely on her has changed. I’m more cautious now, and as a result, some of my other friendships have inadvertently strengthened because I no longer rely on Maya as my only go-to friend. But she is still my BFF, for better or worse, and after so many years of perfect friendship, I actually think that one blip — even a big one — isn’t so bad.
Everyone needs a girlfriend!
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