In the early 2000s, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were the quintessential BFFs (Best Friends Forever). The two were inseparable, even starring in “The Simple Life” — their own reality show — together.
They were so widely recognized for being best friends that when their friendship ended, it was shocking. Hilton went on to star in her own reality show, “My New BFF” (2008), in which young women compete to become her new best friend.
Their high-profile lives are hardly the norm, but their close friendship and subsequent split are very human and relatable. Over the years, I would go through multiple best friends, and when any of my close friendships would inevitably unravel, it tended to feel soul-crushing. After all, much like a De Beers diamond, best friends are forever. Or so they say.
It’s not that I don’t value my long-term friendships or believe that they’re impossible to maintain. It’s just that years of going through best friends made me wonder why so few of them would last. I used to think it was because there was something wrong with me or the other person. But lately, I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s neither of those things. It might even be a good thing, even if it feels painful initially.
The first time I lost a best friend was in elementary school. My BFF and I were friends before we could even walk. Even when I moved across the country with my family, we remained good friends. But when we moved back, a few things happened; her parents got divorced, and she grew more and more distant, opting to spend her time with a new group of friends. Our friendship collapsed, and I never really understood why.Batya Carl/Dearly
I’ve had many other best friends over the years: high school, my gap-year abroad, undergrad, and post-college years. Because my life circumstances were constantly in flux, it seemed like every year, and every stage, I had a new BFF. Once, I joked with a friend that I needed to host my own version of “My New BFF.” I was finding it more and more difficult to maintain the Best Friends Forever rule.
Flash forward 20 years from when I was in elementary school to when I found my most recent best friend. We were like sisters, always just a text away. I had someone to “wingman” for me at social functions and someone who would spontaneously knock on my door on weekends just to say hi. We were there for each other at our lowest points and build each other up until we felt like ourselves again. Each of us thought the other was “the funny one.”
We were known by everyone in our social circles for being each other’s best friends. I was certain that this friendship would last a lifetime.
Our favorite activity was leaving voice memos for each other. It was like always having a friend by your side. If anything funny, awkward, or upsetting would happen, I would leave a voice message or vice versa. Without fail, one of us would respond, a familiar voice laughing at my jokes, giving me encouragement, or sharing my pain. Getting one of her voice messages was how I felt when the next episode of a favorite TV show was airing.
But over time, we started to argue. I found myself constantly saying “the wrong thing,” and I felt as if I was walking on eggshells. Tensions built up, and one night, our friendship ended abruptly, with no prior warning.
She called me that night and launched us into an argument, and this time, instead of indulging her, I let my anger take over. I hung up on her, mid-sentence. She fired back with a scathing text. Later that evening, I vented all of the frustrations I’d held back saying for months by means of our formerly beloved voice memo. The next morning, I received a long, vehement text from her, telling me exactly what she thought of me.
And just like that, our best-friendship was over. At the time, I felt like I was blindsided, but the truth of the matter is that it had been steadily crumbling. Despite knowing this, I still mourn the loss.Batya Carl/Dearly
And yet again, I was tempted to hold auditions for my own new BFF. I asked myself, “Would my next one last forever?” But more importantly, I realized that they don’t have to last forever. My BFFs were all real, and all of them corresponded to my life circumstances and what we needed from each other at the time. The type of friendships I sought out in high school wouldn’t benefit me now — because I’m not the same person I was at 16.
We carry this belief, ingrained in us from a young age, that best friends are supposed to last forever. But throughout life, we grow and shift and change, and so do our friends, who I believe are an extension of us and what we want for ourselves. Maybe the “problem” isn’t me or my ex-BFF … because losing a best friend isn’t necessarily a problem — it’s a natural part of growth.
I think a lot of the issues in my most recent friendship stemmed from wanting different things out of the relationship. What worked at the start of our relationship was no longer useful to either of us by the end of it.
As for my first best friend from toddlerhood? A few years ago, when I moved to my current city, I would run into her fairly often, as we didn’t live far from one another and had mutual friends in the same circles. I ran into her once, and she remarked to me that she didn’t have many photos of herself from early childhood, from happier times when her parents were still together and we were friends. She said that she wished she had some.
I checked in with my mom, who owns an impressive collection of old photos. She found a few pictures of my childhood friend with her siblings, so I collected them, putting them in a small album. She was touched, and that day, she invited me over to her apartment. We wound up sitting in her living room, eating dark chocolate and talking for hours. In just one afternoon, we came full circle, renewing the close friendship we have today.
I am often tempted to ask her what happened between us all those years ago.
But I haven’t yet, and I probably never will.