The Brutal Truth About Friendship Breakups
In an exclusive excerpt from her new bridal guide, Stone Fox Bride, founder and creative director Molly Rosen Guy shares a candid story about breaking up with a friend while being courted by her now-husband. All names have been changed.
“I met a guy I like,” I said to Lou. It was a few weeks after my first date with M, and we were drinking coffee on her stoop. Literally, at that moment, Wes Anderson walked by. We both watched him, a tiny little man in a tight pink suit, strut down the street, then disappear around First Avenue.
“So I met a guy I like,” I said again. “He’s cool. He’s cute. He races cars.”
“Nice,” Lou said.
“No. I mean, really. Like he’s a really good guy.”
“Mmm,” Lou said. She started chewing on a fingernail.
“Like I think I might marry him.”
She laughed at that, and who could blame her, but it was the beginning of the end.
I’d met Lou five years earlier, in the spring of 2004, at a party on the Lower East Side. I’d been hooking up with a guy named Dave, an assistant at ABC News. One night, Dave was working late and his best friend, John, was having people over, so I’d wandered over to his apartment. John was a skinny know-it-all who went to Vassar. He wore colored Nikes and had a goatee. Within an hour we were wasted on blue drinks singing “White Rabbit” into a karaoke machine. His apartment overlooked Delancey, and while I was singing, I noticed a pretty blonde smoking a cigarette on a balcony across the street. John called out his window, “Come over!” and minutes later she did. Even in crummy shorts and a tee she was a knockout—long gold hair, bee-stung lips, big brown eyes—part hipster rug rat, part hot-bod platinum sexpot.
“I’m over this heat,” she announced to John. She yanked on her ponytail and flopped on the couch next to me.
“I’m over everything,” I said into the karaoke mic.
She looked at me, I looked back, and I swear to God, a tiny little spark of crazy sexy insta-girl-crush chemistry crackled like a flame between us. Then she said, “Hey, I’m Lou,” and I pretended not to know who she was, but of course I did. She was an actress. Her breakout movie—a campy rom-com—had come out the summer I graduated from college.
After that, we started bumping into each other around the neighborhood, at the coffee shop or the yoga studio. She would invite me to parties, or to go thrifting or get breakfast with her, but I’d decline every time. I found her beyond intimidating. Truthfully, my insecurity back then ran so deep, I couldn’t believe she wanted to be my friend.
I was 27. I’d just quit my job at Nylon magazine and gone through a high-drama breakup. I was getting drunk or high or both all the time and blue-drink-fueled karaoke was standard weekend fodder. I remember that whole period of time the way you might remember a really subpar tapas meal, in lots of little bite-sized bits, all of them kind of gross and greasy. Lots of blow jobs, shopping sprees, barfing pinot noir.
Eventually I realized I had to stop partying, and yoga became my drug of choice. I used to show up at the studio in my pajamas and cry through half the class, but weirdly, Lou always seemed happy to see me.
One day in the changing room after class she asked what I’d been up to.
“Crazy week,” I said. “My sister just had a baby. I was actually in the delivery room.”
“Wow. How was that?”
“It was a bloodbath.”
Her eyes went wide. “I love a bloodbath.”
Finally, it was on. We couldn’t stop talking. We talked about everything: penises, astral projection, Patti Smith. That weekend we had our first girl date: a road trip to her hometown where we ate dinner with her eccentric parents and slept in the same bed. As we drove home through the Holland Tunnel she dished some insider scoop on the whole Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes thing, gesticulating wildly with her chipped, cherry-painted nails.
A few months later she moved into an apartment across the street. Every morning we’d walk to the corner for coffee, drink it on the stoop in pajamas. At night we’d hit premieres and parties. Saturday afternoons were for roaming the Lower East Side arm in arm, wearing matching purple heart sunglasses, reciting lines from Fight Club.
I was in love.
One day we bought a taxidermied cow’s head at a thrift store. When we got home, we realized that it smelled like rancid manure. Lou decided we should boil it to kill the stench. She said, “Here’s the plan,” and emerged from under her sink wearing big rubber gloves. She submerged the skull into a pot, then stood over the stove prodding it with a wooden stick. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Once she texted me in the middle of the night to help remove a mouse from her toaster.
Once she texted me in the middle of the day to come see a YouTube clip of Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream” and we sat there watching it and blinking back tears.
Once at a party she threw at her apartment, she started telling me how great her gynecologist was. “Can you send me her info?” I asked. Lou’s response was “She’s right over there!” and pointed to a chic brunette drinking a martini.
Lou taught me to cry on command. She taught me that hotel room pornography could be written off as a work expense. That you could act like the most important person in the room by ignoring everyone.
I taught her about my favorite alterna-girl pop culture icons, like Mary Gaitskill and Fiona Apple, and the differences between Jungian and Freudian analysis, and how consuming nine fish oil vitamins daily was scientifically proven to boost serotonin levels.
Our differences were almost comical. She was the intrepid Jersey Girl who knew Morse code and once hiked the Himalayas on a whim. I was the depressive Pisces and unemployed writer, holed up inside my head. She had an agent and a lawyer and a publicist and a manager and a business manager. I had two cats (one was on Prozac), and my parents were paying half my rent.
When Lou wasn’t out of town filming, her social life was an endless string of movie premieres, parties, after-parties, and fashion shows, and I got to be her wingwoman. I’d get ready and walk over to her apartment, then lie on the couch while a makeup artist agonized over her eyeliner. After events, I’d go home and Google her name to see if I ended up in any of the party photos.
A few years passed and Lou made more movies. She traveled to Paris, Alaska, Mexico City. And I ... well, I kept doing my thing, which was not much. I went to grad school, took weird freelance writing jobs, and babysat for my professor. She had a constant rotating lazy Susan of boyfriends, most of them famous, rich, and hot—a far cry from the hobos I was hooking up with. There was the shaggy pop star with a private jet, the ex-sitcom celeb with an infinity pool. She was focused on work, though. She was someone who claimed to never want to get married and you actually believed her. “Who cares?” she said once when I brought it up. “Look at Diane Keaton!”
Lou was the first friend I called after getting engaged. She was on set; I was on my lunch break. “M proposed last night!” I screamed into the phone, standing on the corner of 57th and 7th. A second later I regretted it.
“I’m so happy for you!” she said, but it was strained and theatrical. She’d met M only once before leaving for Toronto to film a TV pilot. During that time I’d given up my apartment and moved to Brooklyn with M.
Awkward small talk ensued, then I fudged an excuse as to why I had to hang up.
When Lou came back to town, she did everything right. We picked out registry items and brainstormed venues together. I asked her to help me find a makeup artist and she gave me the best, most Lou-worthy advice ever: dewy cheeks and lip stain, call it a day. But there was a flat, anxious vibe to it all. The deliciously kinetic energy we’d once had together had suddenly dried up.
Then two months before the wedding she broke her leg doing a stunt on set. It was a bad break. She was airlifted from Toronto to New York, where I met her at the hospital. Weeks passed and while I was running around the city in full wedding planning mode, Lou was holed up in her living room in a wheelchair, surrounded by dusty stacks of scripts and tended to by a caretaker in uniform.
I came over one day with a container of soup and a favor to ask. Could I do my wedding dress fittings in her apartment, since the seamstress was in Manhattan and I didn’t want to keep dragging the dress back to Brooklyn? She was clearly annoyed. For a while we sat in silence watching shadows from the trees outside snake across the ceiling.
“Sorry, Lou,” I said.
“It’s fine,” she said.
“You’re my best friend,” I said.
She didn’t respond to that.
The morning of the wedding Lou showed up at my hotel suite with coffee and helped me steam the dress. Even as an invalid she looked fresh off the pages of French Vogue: her bun was slicked, her black dress was tiny, and her lips were the perfect shade of bright red. With her leg encased in plaster from ankle to thigh, she looked like a bizarre Helmut Newton-Barbie hybrid. In a cruel twist of scheduling fate, the wedding actually fell on her birthday, and when I handed her a pathetic gift (an artisanal beer bottle opener made with antlers) on the limo ride to the venue with my mom and Becca, she said “aww” but didn’t make eye contact. During the ceremony, she teetered up to the mic on her crutches, and recited a Raymond Carver poem about butterflies. But during the party, I caught her staring into space after the speeches, looking dreamy and dark and ready to leave. Later that night, as I was packing for the honeymoon, she texted, You did so great today. Elegant, warm, beautiful, and true, but again it felt forced. Then months passed, and despite a few halfhearted attempts to connect over email, we never talked again.
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What happened? Who knows. Maybe our relationship was grossly imbalanced from the start. Maybe I loved Lou more than she loved me. Maybe we were always doomed since she was famous and I wasn’t. Maybe it was all of those things and none of those things. I think, most likely, it had to do with the fact that our friendship rested on me always being her plus one. I didn’t have much of a life when Lou and I were hanging out. Then, suddenly I did—and the whole friendship fell apart.
Best girlfriend heartbreak can be so much harder than any other kind. The connection is purely heart to heart, and in some ways you’re more vulnerable with your girlfriends than with anybody. When things go south, there’s no protocol. There’s no breakup talk or revenge sex or closure. You can’t just go to the bar and pound shots and scream, “He’s a dick.” Sometimes there’s just a shift, and you don’t really know why.
I do know that during my first year of marriage I needed a best friend more than ever. I was mourning the freedom of my old life—those late sexy nights when Lou and I were walking to a cool party, arm in arm, feeling that a new adventure was about to unfold around every corner. The novelty of being married was magical, but I weirdly missed all those aimless hours of thrifting and laughing hysterically and standing around at parties, people watching and wasting time. Most of all, I missed Lou. She was one of my great loves.
One night a couple years later, I was in bed thumbing through a gossip site on my phone and there was Lou. She’d gone and gotten married after all. Sparkly dress, flowy veil, armful of dahlias. It all came back then, my late twenties, John and Dave, Fight Club quotes, the East Village, all of it. The years I’d spent sinking into the muck of my own solipsism and how Lou waltzed in, yanked me out, then turned and walked away.
Feeling emotional, and pissed off not to have been invited, I got out of bed and snuggled up next to M on the couch. He was watching Deadliest Catch and eating cheddar bunnies.
“Lou got married, babe,” I said.
“Cool,” he said, his eyes glued to the screen.
“My feelings are so hurt! We weren’t even invited!”
“Who cares,” he said, reaching for another handful of bunnies. “You haven’t talked to her in years.”
I debated launching into a monologue about how devastated I was—but then decided against it. Deadliest is literally M’s church, plus he probably wouldn’t have understood anyway. Your husband is not your best friend, despite what people might say.
Excerpted from Stone Fox Bride by Molly Rosen Guy. Copyright © 2017 by Molly Rosen Guy. Excerpted by arrangement with Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.