Several years of receiving unsolicited dick pics on WhatsApp, Insta DM, and everywhere else I exist (virtually) had inadvertently desensitised me toward the passive-aggressiveness of blocking someone. And then, it happened to me. A friend I had shared everything with — from a loofah to my deepest, darkest secrets — was suddenly reduced to a display-picture-less contact on my phone, and out of reach.
The thing that nobody tells you about turning 30 is that along with your skin, body, and hair texture, friendships change, too. But most importantly, what sees a massive shift is your priorities. At the precipice of beginning my third decade on this planet, I seem to be more worried about the balance on my PPF account than the birthday dress itself. And it’s a feeling that many of us might find hard to shake down. Growing up can take a little getting used to.
Maybe the reason why turning 30 feels like such a monumental moment is because it really is. Getting there is typically preceded by a long list of challenges, even if sometimes, cliched. And going through the motions for three full decades can seem like an achievement. Subliminally, it proves that you have gone through the unsure teens, intrepid adolescence, and stressful (if at times, hugely rewarding) years of ‘adulting’. You made it through the heartbreaks and bad matches on Tinder, toxic bosses, and duplicitous colleagues; through that really patchy patch of your life when a zero-balance salary account was at a rounded-off zero on the 30th of every month; through the nosy neighbour, bad roommate, shoddy accountant, an unethical vet who screwed up your cat’s catheter, and that awkward office fling you wish you never had. It testifies that you made it through it all, and is a testament to the fact that you, in fact, made it.
And so, it hurts a bit too much when you have to accept that some of the friends you made on this journey, won’t be seeing you on the other side of it. Or that they’ll remain relegated to a ‘friend’ on Facebook (which you hardly check) by the time the mid-life crises come roaring. Truth is, a breakup with a friend can hit harder than splitting with a romantic partner, and mainly because pop culture doesn’t prepare you for it the way it does for a fuckboy.
So you adapt, emulate, and (try your best to) move on from a friendship that didn’t, unlike you, stand the test of time. The holy quintuple of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance is as applicable to unfriending as it is to de-coupling. You go through writing it off as ‘just some drama’ to ‘how could they do this?’ to ‘should I write a letter?’ to ‘nobody loves me’ to ‘this is probably for the best’ — depending on who you are — rather quickly. And in between all of that, there are long, snarly WhatsApp texts, watching a chick-flick alone with a tub of ice cream, deleting images on Google Photos, signing up for a dance class (in the hope of making new friends), reconnecting with an ex-compatriot, and funnily enough, rebound friends as well. But by the end of this difficult, heart-wrenching and transformative experience is a learning that’ll probably be more helpful than any BFF you ever had. And it is this: friendships don’t need to be old, intense, or, equal to the sum of shared experiences to be true.
We attach a lot of value to relationships and experiences rooted in time and nostalgia. I mean just look at the food space — unless a recipe has been unearthed from the dogeared pages of your grandmother’s cookbook, it simply doesn’t add up as a compelling enough story. The shibboleth of ‘friends for life’ tries to perpetrate a similar construct, where a good friendship must also necessarily be venerable, mired with all the tropes of a lengthy friendship. But a new friend can be like a cruffin — totally satisfying and legendary, even though it was created only in 2013 by a Kate Reid of Lune Croissanterie in Melbourne, Australia.
At 30, neither I nor my ex-friend needs to be reminded of the one humiliating ‘scene’ we had in high school, the piece of clothing they borrowed and never returned, or the secret I couldn’t keep. Maybe both of us have more to derive from the people immediately around us and synced into the life we have built today. Like, the equanimous office colleague — who might not be as close to you as your erstwhile bestie — but helps you navigate time-pressed projects better; the girl you met just three years ago and mostly played Ludo with through the pandemic; or someone who DMs pasta recipes or gel nail paint mood boards, without saying anything much else at all. Friendships that have been stripped of the heavy albatross of expectations and life-long commitments that are being mindlessly extended because of a pinky promise made more than a decade ago; and friends who are seemingly less zealous, and yet more ardent, stable, and — like the cinnamon sugar on a cruffin — in your life, just the right amount.
The fact of the matter is that at 30, my life has vastly different needs than it did even a few years ago. And you and I both know what they say about friends — the ones in need are the ones, indeed.