My Best Friend, My Wedding and Other Breakup Stories - Agents of Ishq

My Best Friend, My Wedding and Other Breakup Stories

By Ashwini D

Illustration by Yogee Chandrasekaran

 

I lost half my friends when I got married. It was the wedding that ended it, not my new husband or the institution of marriage or some bridal avatar I had acquired. A week before the wedding my mother fought with her sister over my wedding so my cousins didn’t come to my shaadi. Two days before my wedding, my friends and I fought and snapped and frankly, they might as well not come.

Growing up I had heard that women don’t maintain their friendships after marriage. In my experience, that’s not been the case. Most straight married men I know turn their wives into a single window clearance system for all things emotional and social. Person to go to movies with, cry over dead parent with, buy new clothes with, worry about bad haircuts with. When most straight married men need someone to actually-actually discuss their wives, they don’t have anyone. Meanwhile their wives are always texting, calling and making plans with that friend who they used to go doubles to the bathroom with in kindergarten, and triples on the bike with in college.

So colour me fucking astonished that within a year of getting married, that at age 30, my friends from college and my first job, people my mother considered my almost brothers and almost sisters were bye-bye from my life. They were gone. I stopped being told anything significant that was happening in their lives. I stopped being significant.

My friends are largely single, out of choice.  One of them, Amrita, the only one who ever talked to me about our post-wedding estrangement, was at pains to tell me soon after the shaadi that I had annoyed her with my tiny wedding. “But don’t think it’s because I’m jealous or lonely or anything.” And she also told me that my other friends had rejected me for choosing coupledom and marriage. Why I had annoyed her she wouldn’t say. I was first taken aback and then slowly enraged. I’d have never ever assumed that she was jealous or lonely. And this assumption about an assumption I hadn’t made, made me angry for years.

Amrita and I are not close any more but we have stayed in touch and somewhat fond of each other. And in the last years she has found love. And in the way it usually happens only in movies she has become soft and happy and really into PDA with her lover. A level of PDA that I would find too public and too affectionate. Which makes me giggly and also I wish there was a non-mean way of teasing her about the years of grouchiness after my wedding. Or a non-hurt way of thinking – what were her vulnerabilities about couple-dom and single-dom, that she was pre-empting with judgement and leaving me before I could leave her. Who knows.

Perhaps there is no good way in this world dedicated to marriage, to deal with your friends getting married. Anu told me an astonishing story. She had an ex-boyfriend who she became just-friends with. Then, in an uncomplicated way she became friends with his new girlfriend #2. Then those two broke up. Then the ex boyfriend got married to someone else. Anu got a call from him soon after saying sorry but his wife had forbidden him from talking to Anu or girlfriend#2. Anu was shocked. Too shocked to really say anything. As promised, he never spoke to Anu or or girlfriend#2 until… the day he split from his wife. Then came a phone call. He was calling to say he had been wrong but could they become friends again. Anu being ridiculously forgiving of human foibles took him back. Years passed and the former boyfriend married again. And believe it or not there came The Call. Sorry but his wife etc. Anu said bye bye forever and her mother heaved a sigh of relief for her being rid of a useless fellow.

I told my friend Moni this story and she laughed and laughed. She was laughing despite a painful slice of her history that I know of. On more than one occasion she has lost close (male) friends when they began long-term relationships. One friend disappeared overnight. On other occasions there have been the horrible slow freezing out. ‘Suddenly he keeps finding faults. Things he never brought up before. Perhaps he felt those faults before and didn’t want to confront me. It becomes an excuse to not have me in his life any more. ‘I am in a relationship how can you ask me for anything.’ ‘There is a problem with you and I can’t be your friend.’ I felt that was what he wanted to say but was not saying aloud. It was as if I had been just a placeholder, a nerd to hang out with until the cool kids found him.’

Moni also mentioned another, familiar way in which you lose your friend in a relationship. You still see your bestie but when you hang out your bestie’s lover/spouse is always present and ALL your conversation has to be addressed to the lover/spouse. Moni remembers getting a birthday present from a newly married close friend. The friend usually gave ugly presents and suddenly here was a tasteful, lovely present. And Moni recognised that gift-giving had been outsourced to the new wife. Just like his new tasteful, lovely décor. And in that moment she knew that the friendship was over.

Moni had laughed uproariously when I narrated Anu’s story about Ex-In-A-Loop and laughed a little more about my newly super lovey-dovey Amrita. But when I complained again about how Amrita had behaved when I got married, Moni hesitated and then also said, ‘It’s hard to say it aloud.’ Say what aloud, I asked. “Well,” she said, “Amrita may be used to being the most important person in the your life or at least one of the most important. You have often called her the sister you never had. As you are getting married, in that moment, there is no room for her to say she is feeling that all that may be gone. If she says it aloud she might be be seen as being grouchy. Anyway, the happiness of the couple is supposed to subsume everyone else’s feelings. Or she might have worried that you would see it as some kind of accusation.” Moni then reminded me, “I have never felt it with people got married but as you know I have seen them disappear when they entered relationships. And you wouldn’t feel so bad if you didn’t have friends with whom it didn’t happen. So… it’s hard to say aloud,” said Moni and looked at me.

And as she said it, I had a painful blast from the past.

From the time I was 9, my school friend Tina and I walked to each other’s houses all the time. We went to each other’s obscure festivals that only family was invited for. I loved her and she loved me. The first time I went to a party in college, which is the first time I went to a party, she helped me pick out my clothes. She shaved my underarms because I didn’t know how. I knew her when she thought her problem was that she was ugly and brainy. I knew her later when she thought her problem was that she was too good-looking and too brainy.

At 23, Tina fell in love. She stayed in love. Three years later, she got married. In retrospect it seems like she had a plan. Job, marginally more expensive jewellery, much more expensive hair, husband, nice house. I had no plans in life but I went to her wedding enthusiastically. A week or two after her wedding when she was back at home to sort out some of her belongings, she called me. I walked over. We had lunch and were hanging out in her room, folding clothes. Then her husband walked in. I didn’t know him well but I liked him. He was kind. He walked in and did this half-joking number of how lunch had knocked him out and he needed to lie down. I smiled and he looked expectantly at me. It took me a full minute to understand that I was supposed to get off the bed and leave because he now had first dibs on that bed. Well excuse me! I mean did you lie on that bed laughing at the yoga teacher next door saying, ‘raise your buttocks?’ at 6 am? Did you lie there after your first college party telling her that you had somehow figured out how to talk to strangers without feeling like vomiting? 

Why did I have to leave? That’s what I couldn’t understand. Why couldn’t he make room for himself without throwing me out? Or nap on the sofa outside while we chatted? All this happened in a minute of rage inside my head but I left politely. Tina moved to another country and now it’s been a decade since we have been in touch. I heard that they had gotten divorced. I barely ever think of Tina now but suddenly I remembered that rage well. 

Moni had created an earthquake in my head. Tina’s husband had given me rage by pushing me off the bed. Amrita had given me rage by assuming I would push her off the bed. But what were the ways in which I had pushed or allowed my friends to be pushed off the bed when I got married? I don’t know. But I assume there have been incidents. I don’t think I started prioritising my husband over my friends but I must have done something. I had not done the other horrible thing, wanting my husband to be friends with all my friends, I hope. God, I hate that. Maybe they hated my husband and my new avatar also?

I liked Tina’s husband back then. That was pretty rare then and now. Mostly, I feel like my friends’ husbands and boyfriends aren’t good enough. And often I get those deadly, very deliberate vibes from them also – ‘she may take you seriously but no way I am gonna. Watch me not take you seriously.’

This year when I started watching Grey’s Anatomy for the first time I was thrilled about one thing. How Meredith Grey, the protagonist, and her best friend Christina Yang assumed that they had dibs on each other’s bed. They climb into each other’s beds and displace the men if necessary. In one episode, the boyfriend comes into Grey’s bedroom and says smilingly to both of them that he is going to take his pants off. It’s not a full-blown act of aggression against her, just a little bit. Christina leaves saying she didn’t want to see it. What I liked is that Meredith laughs and follows her, saying to Derek that she will come back and hang out later. He can take off his pants and be alone but she and her friend were going to continue their conversation. Meredith still took Christina seriously. Meredith also has no interest in Christina and Derek becoming friends.

Anu says that sometimes just seeing the husbands of her women friends gives her boils on the backside. Which makes her grateful for what her oldest friend Sara in the world does. They have known each other 40 years and Sara arranges things so she has next to no contact with her husband. It’s a fairly common arrangement, a version of Meredith and Christina’s and it has worked out well for years.

But this last year, Anu was extremely introspective after a serious illness. And one of the changes she made to her life was to do small things to acknowledge Sara’s husband. “I even send him birthday messages now.’ 

Anu luckily has not become a saint on this front. We grumbled at length about my close friend’s horrible husband (‘hopeless fellow’). But she did tell me about the realisation that had made things easier for her to cope with Sara’s husband. What was it, I asked?  “Just that as I have changed, she has changed. She is not who I knew when we were little. She married someone, things have changed. But she is still my friend.”

“So you send him birthday messages,” I asked.

“I send him birthday messages. It takes no effort. I don’t think it matters to him but my friend? She is so, so, so pleased. And that’s what matters to me.”

And I remembered that though I lost so many friends after I got married and Amrita gave me such a hard time back then, she is still my friend and we remember each other’s birthdays.

 

Ashwini D wishes she could do her Ph.D on gossip.

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