True Story Sis: I Got Kicked Out of My Best Friend's Wedding

Here’s What Happened

“I don’t think you should come,” she said flatly, emotionless.

I was driving. Holding my phone against my ear, I glanced behind me, where a long, ballet-pink dress (not blush, though that shade was painstakingly considered) lay on the backseat inside its plastic cover. My bridesmaid dress. 

And yet all of the sudden - even though I paid for it - somehow it no longer felt like mine.

I turned back around, finding my voice. “I think that might be best,” I said slowly. 

“Yep,” she agreed, brusquely. She continued, “We bought the shoes, so if you don’t want them, if you could drop those off at my bedroom door that’d be great.” She paused, only for one ruthless beat, as though waiting for a reply but then quickly changing her mind. “I have to go.” 

And without another word, she hung up on me.

Fortuitous, or Foreboding

Sometimes people say things like, “I never thought this would happen,” or, “I can’t believe things came to this!”

Here, not so. I can absolutely believe that this could, and would, eventually happen.

We were an unlikely pair of friends from the start. She and I both happened to answer the same ad for a row house in the city, and the bedrooms we chose happened to be next to each other upstairs. Not just next to each other, but mine accessible from her side by way of a private door that only she and I shared. I remember thinking when I met her, This girl doesn’t smile much. To me, that means someone is hard to read, whether intentionally, or not. Maybe I should tread carefully with this one

She would later tell me that, meanwhile, her first thought meeting me was, We’re going to be best friends. I’ve just met my next bridesmaid.

As we got to know each other, I came to admire her decisiveness, drive, and straightforward self-advocacy - completely unapologetic. She was drawn to my calmness, appreciated the peacekeeping demeanor I brought to our house dynamic, and later admitted to learning many lessons from my patience. Together, as opposite as we were, we also seemed to draw the best from each other: senses of humor, social gatherers, hosts, inclusivity. We celebrated each other’s victories (job changes, new boyfriends and loans paid off) and cried for each other’s losses (family troubles, health scares, horrible bosses and shifting friendships). “I’m so glad you’re my best friend,” she’d tell me, many times. We were yin and yang: complementary, solid, unstoppable. So opposite were we, that our friendship alone seemed an impressive accomplishment.

A year of rooming together - sharing house, clothes, lipstick, time, and life - flew by. We hosted: friend dinners and Christmas cookie parties and a massive Easter brunch and a sizable Fourth of July day drink, managing to squeeze friends in the dozens in our tiny house. We schemed all the weekend plans: moving house, engagement celebrations, hikes, going away parties, and trips to church. Our friend groups started overlapping, as we all relished each other’s camaraderie. I watched her get engaged, to a wonderful guy who treated her well. (I screamed - to her delight - when she showed me the ring.) And when she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, in the “portal” between our bedrooms, I said yes, without hesitation. It was the best of times. 

...and as the great prophet Charles Dickens would add, it would, sadly, soon become the worst of times.

A Nuclear Ending

No matter how fun someone is, how many great memories you’ve crammed into one year together...by nature of being human, it just doesn’t stay all fun and games forever. I started noticing the red flags. Her frequent, and flagrant, temper flare-ups. How quick she was to find offense in what others said or did, how angry she’d get in response. How abandonment issues and fearing being taken advantage of seemed viable justifications for any reaction. My eyes would widen with horror as I watched her come home and fly into a downright fitful rage over the last fight she’d had with her boyfriend, or parent, or coworker. “Venting” came to mean horrible names flying out of her mouth...sometimes about her own family, other friends. Would she ever say these things about me? More than once, I’d wonder as I tucked myself into bed at night, to the sound of her FaceTiming another friend or sibling to continue the vent stream, Definitely don’t wanna end up on her s**t list….or I’m screwed.

Here’s What Happened

“I don’t think you should come,” she said flatly, emotionless.

I was driving. Holding my phone against my ear, I glanced behind me, where a long, ballet-pink dress (not blush, though that shade was painstakingly considered) lay on the backseat inside its plastic cover. My bridesmaid dress. 

And yet all of the sudden - even though I paid for it - somehow it no longer felt like mine.

I turned back around, finding my voice. “I think that might be best,” I said slowly. 

“Yep,” she agreed, brusquely. She continued, “We bought the shoes, so if you don’t want them, if you could drop those off at my bedroom door that’d be great.” She paused, only for one ruthless beat, as though waiting for a reply but then quickly changing her mind. “I have to go.” 

And without another word, she hung up on me.

Fortuitous, or Foreboding

Sometimes people say things like, “I never thought this would happen,” or, “I can’t believe things came to this!”

Here, not so. I can absolutely believe that this could, and would, eventually happen.

giphy.gif

We were an unlikely pair of friends from the start. She and I both happened to answer the same ad for a row house in the city, and the bedrooms we chose happened to be next to each other upstairs. Not just next to each other, but mine accessible from her side by way of a private door that only she and I shared. I remember thinking when I met her, This girl doesn’t smile much. To me, that means someone is hard to read, whether intentionally, or not. Maybe I should tread carefully with this one

She would later tell me that, meanwhile, her first thought meeting me was, We’re going to be best friends. I’ve just met my next bridesmaid.

As we got to know each other, I came to admire her decisiveness, drive, and straightforward self-advocacy - completely unapologetic. She was drawn to my calmness, appreciated the peacekeeping demeanor I brought to our house dynamic, and later admitted to learning many lessons from my patience. Together, as opposite as we were, we also seemed to draw the best from each other: senses of humor, social gatherers, hosts, inclusivity. We celebrated each other’s victories (job changes, new boyfriends and loans paid off) and cried for each other’s losses (family troubles, health scares, horrible bosses and shifting friendships). “I’m so glad you’re my best friend,” she’d tell me, many times. We were yin and yang: complementary, solid, unstoppable. So opposite were we, that our friendship alone seemed an impressive accomplishment.

giphy-1.gif

A year of rooming together - sharing house, clothes, lipstick, time, and life - flew by. We hosted: friend dinners and Christmas cookie parties and a massive Easter brunch and a sizable Fourth of July day drink, managing to squeeze friends in the dozens in our tiny house. We schemed all the weekend plans: moving house, engagement celebrations, hikes, going away parties, and trips to church. Our friend groups started overlapping, as we all relished each other’s camaraderie. I watched her get engaged, to a wonderful guy who treated her well. (I screamed - to her delight - when she showed me the ring.) And when she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, in the “portal” between our bedrooms, I said yes, without hesitation. It was the best of times. 

...and as the great prophet Charles Dickens would add, it would, sadly, soon become the worst of times.

A Nuclear Ending

No matter how fun someone is, how many great memories you’ve crammed into one year together...by nature of being human, it just doesn’t stay all fun and games forever. I started noticing the red flags. Her frequent, and flagrant, temper flare-ups. How quick she was to find offense in what others said or did, how angry she’d get in response. How abandonment issues and fearing being taken advantage of seemed viable justifications for any reaction. My eyes would widen with horror as I watched her come home and fly into a downright fitful rage over the last fight she’d had with her boyfriend, or parent, or coworker. “Venting” came to mean horrible names flying out of her mouth...sometimes about her own family, other friends. Would she ever say these things about me? More than once, I’d wonder as I tucked myself into bed at night, to the sound of her FaceTiming another friend or sibling to continue the vent stream, Definitely don’t wanna end up on her s**t list….or I’m screwed.

1.gif

And her need for control. For everything. to. be. just. so. The dishes weren’t done, the floor not swept, the heating bill too high, the door not locked properly. Somewhere along the way my patience and listening skills translated to being her soundboard for all things going wrong - all. things, whether they involved me or not. As time went on I realized I’d leave her presence feeling heavy and stressed, loaded down by the blackness of her own life morass. I couldn’t keep this up. 

So I gently brought it up. I was aware of her sensitivity, also knowing how differently she and I responded to triggers. (Imagine a hot tub versus a hurricane.) I hadn’t really been laying boundaries for myself, and it was time to start. 

At first she took it. Quietly, and surprised, at watching me speak up, put my foot down, tell her “no” - but compliantly. She even asked questions to understand me better, how she’d fallen short as a friend, how we can move forward together. Those conversations that are hard, and awkward, but you have them anyway, with good faith that things will improve.

But shortly afterward she seemed to reach her invisible cap for feedback. I’d check her on her bluntness (which was frequent, and had been for a long time), or worrying herself sick over something and coming to me about it, to...what, exactly? What was it she expected me to do? Fix her problems? Expand my capacities for endless griefs and complaints? 

When was enough allowed to be enough?

After a few times she started snapping back defensively at my balking. But I could not keep being a dumping ground for someone else’s mental sewage. 

So like a steady downward slope, my trust in her dwindled, as did her patience with me. She sensed me backing off and demanded things go back the way they were, as if trust were restored by simply snapping one’s fingers, as if the way things were had always been peachy and great. I’d already agreed to being in her wedding - after all, I’d bought the dress, and the shoes - but then what? Who could justify keeping a friend who retaliated without blinking, or viewed apologizing as a sign of weakness? 

I’d had enough. Surely all friendships weren’t doomed to become this exhausting, right? I knew the answer. Her list of triggers seemed to grow with each passing day as her wedding day drew near. For months I struggled with how to balance giving her space and letting the sleeping bear lie, and rightfully calling her on downright horrible behavior.  At its worst, some comments were thinly veiled with racism or aporophobia. I still had to live with her, after all. 

And then things went nuclear.

I opened my email one morning and saw one from her. Why an email, you might ask? Good question. The answer is I’d blocked her number. Don’t judge...it was only for a day and a half. Given her tendency to blow up your phone whenever she got upset, you probably would, too. 

She sent me one of those breathless messages, sans punctuation, as she did in her texts. Simply reading one of her novel-length texts (crafted miraculously into one long sentence) left you feeling rushed and anxious: 

Hey I tried texting you this today and it never went through so I’m emailing it to you. 

 I think we need to talk again especially about what I texted you yesterday I want this situation to be figured out one way or the other this week I can’t keep feeling like we’re in limbo because if you are thinking about possibly not being in the wedding I would need to know now so I can figure out my move since we’re 11 weeks out now.

 I’m still fine with you being in it if you want to be I just am concerned about our friendship because you didn’t reply to my text yesterday which makes me feel affirmed in my feeling that you plan on not being friends in 3 months. I just need to know where your head is at so I can move forward either way and stop worrying about it.

I reread. I’m still fine with you being in it if you want to be. So I was still allowed to attend, was I? 

In a few sentences I went from cohabitating happily with a close friend to being shunned and ousted from their wedding.

We agreed to have a phone call. 

 Mind you, there was zero mention of my bowing out of the wedding. That was, she’d cited frequently, her fear of abandonment talking. Where the fear came from - when she was raised by two loving parents who are still married and very present in her life - I’m not sure. But here it was, which seemed to explain away some of the worst behavior I’ve witnessed in someone close to me.

What ensued in those thirty minutes on the phone is hard to explain...and yet, at the same time, no, it isn’t. I came to anticipate the emotional whiplash from our conversations, and felt it less that day. Apparently, she had sensed my backing off and interpreted it as “abandonment,” and when she didn’t hear back from me that day, followed up in an email.

As her voice rose in anger over the phone, I remember watching a Bernese Mountain Dog, our family dog, my favorite in the whole world, walk by, and I stared right at it without seeing it. It was a nice day out, and I didn’t really notice that, either.

A default peacemaker, I’ve tended to avoid confronting people. But now, late into my twenties, I see its fruits - the kind you start to see in people who stick around, who aren’t easily scared away, who tolerate and even welcome friends who hold their feet to the fire knowing that it makes them better. Better. Grown. Learned. Self-aware. Better. 

But this time, peace could only go so far. I had shit to say, only this time, it was getting said. Calmly, respectfully. But out loud. 

She would have none of it. I realized later the part of myself that stood my ground, and challenged her back, seemed to spark such aggravation in her that I heard her voice turn acidic. Points that I thought were fair, she’d swipe aside and move on. Examples I’d cite, she’d pivot and attack the next topic, leaving the last one completely unacknowledged. I suppose it’d be pretty easy to lawyer one’s way into winning the argument that way, if fighting fair means dropping each element one by one just to start a new fire with fresh ammo. It’s hardly a game of tag if those being chased can claim any nearby object as “base” at whim. 

Eventually, once she sensed my firmness and that I wasn’t caving, something in her snapped. The last few minutes slipped into an acrid, threatening tirade. She capped her monologue by informing me that she’d started getting mean if she kept speaking, as though doing me a kindness. She’d take time to think about her decision on my attendance at the wedding. Then she said goodbye and hung up without waiting for a reply. 

Thankfully, however, the following week was marked with complete maturity and cordial roommate behavior. Again, we still lived on a shared floor in the same house. Not a sign of passive aggression in sight, which seems to mark many un-self-aware young women. Refusing to take trash out? None of that. Retrieving her own mail and packages while leaving the rest outside? No way...after all, we’re adults, right? Ignoring me and avoiding eye contact? Now that was something she’d never had reason to do before, so why start now? No ignoring, pettiness, unusual cold shoulder phone behavior, punishing behavior, or sulking like a toddler. Not a thing. 

Indeed. It was a total peach of a week.

By then I’d long since decided that I wasn’t coming to the wedding. The friendship had a solid year and change, but was definitely, permanently, kerplunk. Ultimately, I thought about the great friends I had who loved me well, and treated me as I hoped I treated them. They were my family. But even an intelligent, DC-barred attorney couldn’t explain away the ugliness I’d witnessed over the past several months, and I had known for a while it was only a matter of time before she’d start targeting me. 

But, given the eight long weeks we still shared on our lease posed a problem: this meant choosing not whatever decision would wholly mitigate the situation, but rather whatever poured the fewest drops of gasoline on an already raging flame. I’d give her space, let her pout, and let her decide I would no longer be welcome to her wedding. Give her the sense of control, and go quietly our separate ways. Thankfully, sweet relief finally came.

...in a text message. I don’t want you at my wedding, she’d said, among other things.

This suddenly made my weird college theater roommates - yes, the ones that would leave their crusty oatmeal bowls with their orange-nail-polished fingernail clippings in them, in plain sight on the kitchen counter - seem as pleasant a housemate as Marie Kondo. Known as bridesmaid, best friend, and sister, one day. The next, and out of the same mouth: an enemy, a nuisance, a bitch. Ignored and rendered a stranger in my own house, by the same person who’d sworn lifelong friendship and a spot at her side as she exchanged vows with her fiance. 

I almost wondered for the hundredth time what I could have done differently, what could have been watered down...and then stopped myself. I had to acknowledge that once we’re asking which parts of ourselves need watering down to reach happiness with someone else...that friendship, that “we,” one thousand percent need to end.

And I thought about friendships, and the ways they shift over time. I thought about friendships at our age right now. How your twenties are a glorious and strange and messy and sometimes downright shitty time - we’re making the least money, scraping what we can from the barrel, and yet grasping with unrivaled passion and energy at all that barrel has to offer. We chase massive dreams and goals even when everything in the world it seems to constrain them. It’s a relentless, painful, and necessary tension, spurring us forward, reminding us that those scared-shitless leaps are what bring the greatest flavor out of life. How change is truly the only constant, and that truth seems to operate on double speed for a decade straight, from age nineteen to twenty-nine.

And I thought, pensively, what that meant for friendships. How, since college, I’ve moved cities, apartments, jobs, and lives, more times that I can count on both hands. (That’s two hands, ten fingers.) And how that way of living affects the friendships you pick up along the way. Which will stay? Who in your life will withstand the test of time? I thought about those few rare friendships I cherished. Those sweet, charming, cheeky friends I loved so dearly, for who they were, and how they were to me, and how they loved me so damn well, even being well acquainted with Best Me and Worst Me. 

nd I thought about those friendships that sparked, then flickered out. The ones that showed so much promise, and fun, and bonding. But in the end, they just didn’t have that special sauce to withstand the years of challenges and hurt and effort to love. 

A strange, and funny thing, I thought, as I typed away on my laptop. But you know what? I reasoned, clicking “Confirm” on my flight to Puerto Rico for that weekend, Screw it. She would be fine, I hoped, and so would I. 

 

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