When I first came upon this title on a Facebook feed, I stopped in my digital tracks. Did I really want to read about and wallow in the breakup of “besties?” Since childhood, I’ve had best friends who were closer to me than sisters or spouses. Best friends can be another kind of “significant other,” and when you lose your best friend, the grief can be as debilitating as a death in the family.
However, when such a relationship comes to its often mystifying end, no one brings you a casserole, sends you a sympathy card, or takes you out to laugh about how you’re better off. You’re left floating alone on your wreck, drifting out to sea on an undertow of dread that you are somehow defective, otherwise your best friend wouldn’t have dumped you. And the truth is, now you are defective–because your best friend dumped you.
Women’s mountainous friendships are given cultural mole-hill status. Therefore, we speak little of our losses and aren’t sure how to handle ourselves, let alone comfort a friend who’s going through it. When you lose a best friend, you’ve lost the very person who would’ve helped you put your shattered self back together. You’ve lost the chum who would’ve helped you comprehend the incomprehensible. The research, Gaby tells us in the introduction, shows that when a best friend erases you, you find yourself “without context, possibly without worth.” You suffer “ensuing depression and isolation.” And that is why this is such an important book.
Remembering the lonely aftermath of bestie-loss, I ordered the book. I’m glad did. I kept company with twenty-five awesome essayists confiding about best friends loved and lost. I’m grateful to the brave Nina Gaby for putting this nerve-rattling collection together. Lindsey Kemp curdled my blood with “The Hate Note.” In “A Snowball’s Chance,” the candid and kind Penny Guisinger swept me back to my days as a young mother trying to balance parenting, partnership, and friendships that “sparkle.” Melody Breyer-Grell in “Just Say No” let me hang out in the dog park sharing snarky comments and puzzling over what could’ve gone so wrong. I read them all, and if you ever loved and lost a best friend, so should you.
The collection helped me understand that these losses really are as tragic as they feel, and yes, I am inherently flawed, but so were my friends, and so are we all. Like any good literature, DUMPED increased my store of gratitude and wisdom, helping me forgive my dumpers, forgive myself for getting dumped, and forgive myself for having dumped a few in turn.