It suuucks getting older. The metabolism slows down, hangovers are death knells, and you can only shop in Forever 21 ironically.
Oh, and you lose friends. Have you ever had coffee or Skyped with someone who was once a good friend but you haven’t seen in years? After the initial thrill of catching up is over and you’ve gone through the list of mutual friends who’ve gotten fat, there’s then this staid awkwardness in the air. As you’ll sip those last dregs of coffee and bring up a few cutesy “Remember when’s,” you feel that those fuzzy-warm feelings of friendship past are there but something’s just different. When someone inevitably chimes that they’ve got to run, you’ll both promise to catch up more often and make nebulous plans to hang out again soon. And it’ll never happen.
I’m thinking about this because of this recent iVillage article, “Is it Normal to Lose Friends as You Get Older?” No need to sift through Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen’s “socioemotional selectivity theory.” Duh, yes, it’s perfectly normal to lose friends as you age, and it doesn’t need a fancy name, it just sucks. As we age, we change, and it’s up to you or your friends to either accept it or not. Here, five reasons why we lose friends:
1. The New Circle
This is when your friend has seemingly wedged in your spot with someone else or a new group of friends. It’s like in Bridesmaids when Maya Rudolph’s character replaces Kristen Wiig with that hot, rich bitch as Maid of Honor. Even though you were best pals since kids and she still thinks fondly of you, here’s her new BFF who’s undoubtedly cooler, skinnier and prettier. You’re jealous and possessive and would rather crawl inside your own spleen before you hear another one of their inside jokes explained to you. This competition for your friend’s attention has left you lonely at first, then too tired to salvage it, and then finally you buck the friendship all together because you don’t want to waste your time with someone who doesn’t like you as much as you like her.
The bright side? You’ll find a replacement friend, ‘cause girl you’re amazing just the way you are (Thanks, Bruno). And whatever, and you no longer have to wear that taffeta seafoam green monstrosity for her wedding ceremony. Woop.
2. The Lifestyle Change
Or when someone adopts a new outlook that completely conflicts with yours and you can no longer keep up with their changed ways. And it’s not just going bat shit crazy off the deep end like Lindsay…
For example! A formerly close, former non-believer friend finds God. Good for her. Seriously! But you, raised on the church of please and thanks, can’t help but feel uncomfortable as she would openly pray before meals, that she no longer touches alcohol, and would more than occasionally update her Facebook status with motivational psalms. You’re just not the type to ponder What Would Jesus Do before a drinking party, and you’re pretty sure she didn’t either before she accepted Lord and Savior. You sincerely don’t have a problem with God, you just have a problem with your friend faithfully devoting herself to a lifestyle that is entirely different from your own, and until very recently, entirely different from hers. You are around a changed person—she might as well have picked up a crack cocaine or turned Republican or joined the circus—it’s that weird. You realize that she has very personal reasons to convert and it fulfills her in ways a sectarian life could not, and if you tried harder to understand her it wouldn’t hurt at all. But it was such a jolting change that you weren’t prepared to accept and have never been the same since.
…that was a weird example.
The bright side? Different strokes for different folks, yo. Maybe one day you’ll open up to her new lifestyle change and get invited along to her church’s singles mixers.
3. The Radical Lover
Or, the Yoko Ono factor. I’m probably fucking up the story, and there are probably a billion other reasons why The Beatles broke up, but I imagine them all happy and eating crumpets and selling records until John brings in this screeching, peace signing, “artist” to their sessions. Soon enough, everyone’s like, “Why is she here all the time and what the bloody hell is this screaming banshee shit? What happened to John??” Losta discontent and old bottled up emotions surface, and whoops, internal collapse of what was then the coolest band in the world.
Basically, this analogy (poorly) explains when your friend has fallen madly in love with someone (you feel) is definitely not the right person for him. You desperately want the couple to break up, but each day he’s falling deeper and deeper. Worse, his new lover is jealous and insecure of your bond and demands that he spends less time with you. Your friend, being a whipped dickhead, agrees because she might be The One. As happy as you are for your idiot friend who has found love, you can’t help but feel you’ve been replaced.
The bright side? After awhile you kind of accept it and can live with it. Sure, there’s always going to be this toxic person who comes first in your friend’s line of loved ones, but how sweeeeet will the “I told you so” dance be when they break up? (Erm, good luck. They probably never will. Move on and like buy them something useless on their wedding registry.)
This one’s probably the most obvious and common. Move house/leave for college/job relocation. The built in distance automatically makes regular contact either highly inconvenient or physically impossible. New area code, new life, new friends. Before you know it, you’re back for your 10-year high school reunion and you’re stunned how you and your friend could possibly get so bloated and wrinkly at the same time.
The bright side? You saved money on the obligatory birthday/Christmas presents. It’s a recession, ya know. And when you’re back for Thanksgiving, you’ll have that wonderful awkward moment of bumping into your old friend at the grocery store. We all love those.
5. YOU Change
Here are a few of the following things my former best friend and I LOVED as kids and are now semi-embarrassed about: Barbies, Sailormoon, Spice Girls. When I grew out of them, I could no longer play with my fellow Barbie-Sailormoon-Spice Girls-obsessed friend because we kind of lost the foundation of our friendship—yeah, that sounded a little dramatic. I found new friends who liked my new obsessions: Dawson’s Creek, AIM, and cute junior high boys. And when Dawson’s was canned, and AIM floppy disks etherized, and when the boys got all pimply and greasy, I lost my friends who I had all that in common with. Then I liked tennis, emo music, and cute high school boys, so I hung out with friends who liked those, too. Then I stopped liking those things as much and liked drinking, partying, and cute college guys. Then I dropped all that and liked traveling, writing and cute European men. Ad infinitum.
So besides a consistent (and pathetic) love for dudes, that’s a lot of new interests to keep up with! Can you blame anyone who might become exhausted by my flightiness? Someone friended me for who I was, not who I became. Like, it’s not my elementary school friend’s fault that she didn’t like emo music. Obviously there are exceptions and if we made the effort we still might be best buds. My mom has been best friends with her childhood friends since well, childhood. But I’m guessing the trick is to accept and grow with change.
The bright side? Time makes fools of us all. Years from now, you can bond over how dumb your crush was from high school over episodes of Dawson’s Creek.