Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 06/29/13 7:12 AM

Feature: When BFFs Break Up

Heartbreak comes in pink, too

I don’t want to sound like I’m writing the sequel to Men are from Mars…. but let’s take the  masculine parallel first.

When  two men move back and away  from what seemed to be a convivial friendship, for reasons best known only to the two, and about which they will forever maintain a state of omerta, what is the fallout?

Is there any soul-searching, any emotional  trauma, any drunk-dialling  of aforementioned former buddy? Are there tears, a  trickle or flood thereof?

The simple one-word-fits-all  answer to these queries is: No.

Men have friends, the old school types, college mates, colleagues from work, even the occasional odd buddy, as in offspring’s father-in-law, Slow Foodies Club fellow member, basketball team player whose name they aren’t sure about.

They meet with these friends on and  off and usually, it’s more off than on. However, when they do meet, it’s all fun and games, pint after pint of draught beer and  salacious talk (heaven forbid we call it mossip: male gossip).

After which, they go their own way, nary a look over their shoulder, and proceed to forget all about these friends till the next time they meet.

And should a fall-out between two such friends happen, the men keep it simple. They acknowledge the news peripherally,  they gloss over it when talking (never relating) about it and should their wives probe, they profess utter ignorance of whatever it was that drove two good friends apart.

The beauty of it is, this ignorance is genuine. The credo is that  what they don’t know is good for them.So. No heartbreak, no anguish. Past masters of the move-on  shuffle, men just er, move on.


The feminine perspective

Now, let’s take the feminine perspective. As a sex, we take our friendships seriously, very seriously. We have overlapping circles of friends, we have concentric circles of close friends, we have a system of classification that starts up at pale mint  (lukewarm) and moves up the spectrum to cobalt (a warm friendship but not a close one) to orange (very good friends) to claret red for our BFFs.

And oh yes, the  first ‘F’ in the acronym here is for ‘Female’. We have midnight-call friends, 3 a.m. friends, let’s-discuss-diets  friends, gym friends with whom we do the zoomba but nothing  much else. We have our small air-kiss clique wherein we polish  our skills at making moues and pretending a casual affection  for those we actually loathe/detest/envy.

We have a band of Gossip Girls with whom we share the most amazingly scandalous tidbits in the fullest knowledge that the moment  we exit the room, it’s our character, habits and sex life the gang is going to dissect in minute detail. We have book club  friends with whom we share details of not just plot and character delineation but some interesting minutiae like  how this author stole her best friend’s husband, that one slept with his valet, and how frumpy most short-story writers are.

And then we have our close friends. It is always in the plural.  Because like the clichê goes, they are all differently shaped pearls in the necklet we proudly and happily wear.

Some are True Liars who boost our morale in the most transparent but awfully invigorating fashion: Of course you don’t look fat.  She said that, the &^ %$ ? What a loser he is, in any case you were about to dump him.

Others are Earth Mothers, as in they pull you down to terra firma in the most abrupt manner possible. Half an  hour with this lot and you know what is what, who is who and where you stand in the universe. These usually brusque and verging on the rude mechanicals actually infuse you with enough adrenaline to take on whatever  comes your way next.

Then there are the Florence Ns. These women nurse you through professional and personal disappointments, so seamlessly you are over it before you know you are over it.So you drift happily through life. These girls have your back and knowing that, you can face the boorish boss, loutish colleague, the bitch down the hall and other assorted nuisances.


Then the apocalypse

Along comes the apocalypse. You fall out with a friend. Not any friend, mind you, a good friend. What goes down with the friendship is a shared history, a mental  record of good times, and a cachet of secrets never to be told. What follows is a period of anguish very like what you suffer when you split from a lover.

First comes the bafflement. What exactly is happening, why isn’t she taking your calls, responding  to your emails? Then comes denial. Of course she isn’t cutting you off, she’s busy, she’s travelling, she’s pms-ing.

Next comes acceptance, which brings in its wake despair, followed  by analysis. Was it something you said, you did? Can it be set right?Will you have to just live in hope that she won’t tell people about What Happened That Afternoon?This is where the line between romantic relationships and girl  friendships blurs. Everything causes you to choke up.

Certain  songs of betrayal, a relationship gone bad or even ditties celebrating days of wine and roses. A less-than-kind comment,  a draped combination of teal and ochre, a certain cadence. You trail pasta indifferently on your plate and actually refuse  the second helping of creme brulee. You’ve done your share of drunk-dialling and met with no response. Now, you have to stop yourself forwarding funny emails.Of course, you have other friends, droves of them.

But just like the woman wailing for her demon lover, it’s her you want. Back. Her and no one else. You lie in bed plotting and planning confrontations, reunions, the murder of the mutual friend who you are sure has played a major part in the split.

And here’s the funny thing. Only your Main Man is puzzled at the  intensity of this post-traumatic-stress disorder. He stares with total incomprehension as a spasm crosses your face when Mukesh sings `abhi tumko meri zaroorat nahin, bahut chahne valey mil jayenge.` He knows you have a penchant for melodrama but this is too much.

But your girlfriends all know. “She still hasn’t contacted you?” they ask, a worried crease twixt their eyebrows. “Go tell her all what the other woman said about her, ” hiss the earth mothers. “If she won’t make up, she won’t make up, ” say the pragmatic ones shaking  their heads in pragmatic fashion. “Move on. ”

And then, one fine day, you wake up. It’s not the crack of dawn  and the sun is streaming in brightly through your Chantilly  lace curtains. Something is wrong… no, make that something is  right. That piece of lead that was lodged in your stomach all these days? Gone.

Gaga is on FM and she is warbling, `No, I don’t want to be friends …caught in a bad romance.` You have moved on. And you reach for the phone.

This ran in TOI-CREST of 29 June 2013.

Related Links:

Feature: Unlikely Friendships

Feature: Friendships that fade away

Feature: Passionate Friendships

Feature: Women Who Bond




BFFbreaking upFeatureFeaturesfeminine perspectivefriends

Sheila Kumar • June 29, 2013

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