What Christmas Is Like When You've Fallen Out With Your BFF From Home
The Debrief: I simultaneously dread and half hope that I will bump into her at every turn.
Going home at Christmas is about sleeping in your childhood bedroom and going to the pubs you used to blag archers and lemonades in when you were underage as an adult. It’s a chance to revisit your own beginnings and reminisce. As Rebecca Solnit writes ‘the desire to go home’ is a ‘desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars.’
Home for me is a smallish town just on the commuter belt cusp of zone 6. It’s where all of the ‘lines’ that now map my life come together: former flames, family dramas, unauthorised late nights, desperately concealed early mornings, make ups, break ups, opening the letter that told me I was going to university and, perhaps above all, the friends who I experienced it all with. Home, wherever it is, is where everyone knows who you were before you became the person you are now and calls you out on your bullshit as a result.
This week, as I planned my short trip home next week, I picked up a red envelope which could only mean one thing: a Christmas card. The only people who usually send me a card at this time of year are my grandparents who dutifully check in with me every November to find out whereabouts in East London I’m now renting because it changes often. So I was pleasantly surprised when, upon opening this card addressed in unfamiliar swirling script, I discovered that it was from an old pal now based in the States.
After reading the card I felt like I’d been given a handwritten hug. No more emails, no texts or seasons greetings WhatsApp, I decided to buy some Christmas cards and send them out asap in an attempt to make Christmas great again. And then, my heart sank and I remembered. It wasn’t from the one person I was secretly hoping it would be from: my ex best friend.
Christmas is supposed to be the theatre of our very best bits. We’re on show for everyone else to see: our families suddenly become perfect, our friendships more fun than ever. We’re all full of good cheer and it’s the season of heaving boozing and naïve optimism. We’re all on our best behaviour at Christmas, you’re not supposed to be bad, sad or mad over the festive season. It’s the time to let bygones be bygones, put the things that annoy you to one side and project good cheer at all times.
Because of this the fact that I haven’t spoken to one of my oldest childhood friends in years is the thorn in the side of my festive spirit. She effectively ghosted me seven years and one month ago, my repeated attempts to get in touch have been ignored. I have tried to wrap the problem up in my mind and place it to one side but, however hard I try to move away from it, however happy and fulfilling my life becomes, I just can’t shake the feeling that somehow there’s a best mate from home shaped hole in my Christmases.
I was awkwardly reminded about the gaping hole three Christmases ago as I had dinner with my boyfriend and parents in our local (totally inauthentic and inexplicably fancy) Italian restaurant. I didn’t notice her until she walked past me, exiting the restaurant as I ate my main course. Eyes down, she swooshed past with a mutual friend I had once known. It felt worse than bumping into an ex: ‘how could she just ignore me like that?!’ The break up of a female friendship is less of a hot, quick pain. It’s a slow, cold and creeping anguish which never really goes away. Your heart heals but you never really get over it.
No matter how old you get as far as I can tell your most authentic self is still you at 17, turning 18 when everything you felt was the most powerful it would ever be. Just as the world is opening up to you your sense of self crystallises around a few formative moments that will never leave you: losing your virginity, getting drunk and throwing up everywhere, defying your parents, having your heart broken, leaving school. You almost remember the people who were by your side during all of this than you do the events themselves. For instance, I remember speaking about losing my virginity to my best mates at length better than I remember the sec (if you can call it that) itself.
I don’t really remember why we fell out nor do I particularly care. I’m sure it was a complicated concoction of hurt feelings, misunderstanding and cheap vodka. What I know is that every Christmas I think about picking up the phone, begin to type in her name and then stop myself. This absurd ritual takes place in a house which can be no more than 1 kilometre from hers, not even a five-minute walk away. From Christmas eve until I leave the suburbs I simultaneously dread and half hope that I will bump into her at every turn.
Years may have passed, boyfriends, jobs and rented flats have come and gone. Flared jeans have gone and come back again but I still feel the loss of one of my oldest friends. What they don’t tell you when you’re growing up is that one day you’ll look back on it all nostalgically – even the teenage quarrels, even the mistakes. They don’t tell you that these are the relationships that, despite coming at a point in your life where there’s far more experience in front of you than there is behind, will make the biggest impact. They don’t tell you that you’ll never have this much time with your friends again, that you won’t be able to spend hours on the phone into the night and knock about with purposeful aimlessness for days on end during school and university holidays causing trouble and testing boundaries. Even if they did, you’d be so busy rushing towards adulthood that you wouldn’t listen anyway.
This time next week it will be Christmas day. For the three or four days I’m back at home I’ll be walking the tightrope of wishing to see her and hoping I don’t. There’s no place like home and no time like Christmas to reminisce. But, then again, sometimes it’s better to let wounds heal, reflect on how much has changed since you were 20 years old, chasing the wrong boys, drinking Jaeger bombs until you were sick and look to the future.
You might also be interested in:
Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating