I learned the hard way that a girl could wreck my heart even worse than a boy might.
My high school age BFF was a sweet, warmhearted girl who lived just down the road from the competitive dance studio where we went almost every day for 3 years. I learned a lot from her about friendship, high kicks, and savoring the moment. We would stay up all night at her house on Fridays, watching movies and philosophizing about life--no subject seemed too huge for our big hearts and curious minds. We'd sleep a few hours, then zip through the Tim Horton's drive thru for english toffee coffees and honey glazed crullers. It was our treat to get us through the last push of the week: our Saturday morning dance double header. An hour of stretch/strength followed by an hour and a half of lyrical/jazz/contemporary class. It was the hardest and also most inspiring class of the week, the one class (out of 10 or so) that we squeezed the most emotional freedom, technical risk, and sweat out of. During competition season, that class kicked off a full day of group rehearsals for different performance pieces. Our brains would be mush by Saturday's end, our sweet crullers long burned to ash by the bodies we endlessly pushed.
She grounded me in kindness, and sometimes hard truths. We bonded over dad and sibling stuff. We were both older sisters with fiercely beautiful, independent mothers. Her cats roamed the house like the daughters of castle royalty, always regal and mischievous. The cat hair and sleep deprivation left me itchy and runny-nosed, but I didn't care. I was in on this incredible package deal: a girl I could really bond with over dance and cat cuddles, who lived in a quiet, beautiful house in the part of town I always needed to be in anyway.
We both changed a lot in our senior year of high school. After a breakup with my high school sweetheart in another town, I started sleeping with our mutual dance bestie, the golden boy of our studio. I didn't tell her right away, and I regret that. I was caught up in my own world, and I wasn't ready at all for school and dance to just end. I wasn't ready to just suddenly be an adult. I took her friendship, built over hundreds of weekends between classes and rehearsals, for granted. I let a boy, who she also loved (at least as a friend) come between us.
She didn't get mad, at least on the surface. She let me confess on my own time and slowly internalized her true reaction. We stayed friends through that summer and on through our first semester of college. The golden boy left in August for his first cruise ship contract. (he met the woman he would marry and settle down with in the UK. We've barely spoken in 15 years. He seems like a happy dad :)). In December, 2005, I felt like my friend was avoiding me, even though we were both understandably busy with so many new life ventures. She was working toward a PhD in psychology. I was teaching dance to 3 year olds at studios all over town, and squandering my first year uni scholarships, dicking around in biology and organic chemistry, when all I really wanted to do was dance.
When we caught up once, at our regular spot, the Capilano Boston Pizza, the conversation was a little strained. Not too long after, she called me to officially break ties. Our friendship had 'run its course' and she didn't want to fight the inevitable. It never once occurred to me that friendships could slowly break off that way. No explosive fights or dramatics. No battle of good and evil, just a natural float down differing streams. I was shocked that she thought of it that way. I didn't feel like I had the chance to fight for us... but I didn't fully realize until later how much damage I had done to our bond in the past year, that she sort of quietly took in stride. I wished she had called me out, yelled in my face or written a scathing letter. Instead, she sat with her own pain for months, and made a decision for her future based on where we were and where she was headed. God, she was mature for an 18 year old.
It crushed me. I hung up the phone and bawled. Writhed on the floor of my college boyfriend's apartment. Sobbed and gasped with no words for the pain I felt. It was shock, and regret, and deep loss, and there was no cure. I had realized, much too late, that I had fucked up, and all I could do was accept the consequences as they landed on top of me.
It took me too long to realize that I was the asshole in that relationship, and instead of becoming braver and more empathetic, I just swore off close female friends for years. I pounded beers and played video games and worshipped pro-league sports. I did bar crawls and spent Saturdays, hungover, at an Irish pub downtown. I traded Saturday morning dance church with my best friend for bad steak and eggs and arcade golf in a windowless Irish pub. Transformation to adulthood complete, I guess.
But, it doesn't really work that way. You can't just swear off friendships with half the population. Women are too wise and magical to be avoided without consequence, and the more I avoided them, the more I realized I needed heart centered feminine energy to stay true to myself. My friendships with women were still tentative after that, and I often cried on my own time when reminded of the girl I'd let slip away with my careless mistakes.
It felt like my first big adult heartbreak (not to downplay my high school breakup--I just was still a kid), and it left me with lessons I continue to draw from today. The end of that friendship changed the way I start new ones, and the ways I communicate, and the ways I absorb feedback. I began to observe the women who entered my life with fear and respect. Men, obviously, were another story. But this isn't a novel about every rift I've caused in mine and others' hearts. You'll have to wait a while to read that one. :)