It was not until I was eleven or twelve that I endured the death of a friendship. It was a grisly thing whose anatomy I will never forget. The friendship expired during recess, orthopedist a morning interval I’d only recently stopped calling “little lunch”, on the mottled asphalt of a suburban school.
It was not my choice to break-up with Joanna; it was hers. She said that she couldn’t possibly be seen with any girl to whom depilation was unimportant. I offered, of course, to shave my legs at home that very afternoon. “It’s too late,” she said and I looked, for the first (but not the last) time at my downy legs in shame.
Thirteen years later, a friend and I suffered another violent parting. This time, it was not unacceptable grooming but unacceptable sex that came between intimacy and me.
M had slept with my closest male colleague which was not, in itself, the fatal act; everyone had slept with my closest male colleague including Stacy from Legal, the lady who made my Rosetta rolls for breakfast and, I’ve long suspected, my sister’s Maid of Honour. To disapprove of his conquests would be to disapprove of an all-female town roughly the size of Dubbo.
I have many imperfections; laziness and rudeness among them. But, intolerance for promiscuity is not a flaw so when M confessed that she had made sweet, sweaty love to my colleague and the music of Steely Dan, I was not at all judgemental.
M went back for seconds and, still, I did not flinch. I worried, of course, a little that she was aroused by seventies soft rock but was otherwise unmoved and mildly excited that a successful coupling of two of my friends might result in their gratitude. If this turned into a bona fide relationship, I reckoned on many generous gifts for the part I had played in their union.
Anyhow. Due to poor choices in music and, possibly, my male friend’s profound if fleeting interest in every woman with a pulse, two did not become one. And this would have left me unmoved were it not for the fact that M turned from a confident scholar into a psycho hose-beast who called me at all hours to shriek, “WHY DOESN’T HE LOVE ME? WHY WHY WHY?”
Back then, I had no adult filter. I ought to have offered some blarney along the lines of, “He doesn’t know what he’s missing” or “He’s emotionally green and frightened by the vivid colour of his feelings”. Instead I said, “Well, he’s a slut and you’re a psycho hose beast. Also, any relationship that begins with Hey Nineteen is doomed to fail.”
Just as Joanna had left me to my hairy legs on the hot bitumen more than a decade before, M left me to burn in the heat of my own glaring rudeness. This was a shame, really, as she was very smart and promising and likely outgrew her psychosis as many women do.
I do not mourn the loss of Joanna and I certainly do not regret leaving my first act of leg-hair removal until I was twenty-five. Not only did I save a bundle in waxing costs but I found that stubborn hair led me to feminism very early in life; this is a useful habit I maintain.
But, I do lament the candour that cost me a friendship with M. Unchecked honesty is overrated. Friendship, however, is not.