In the middle of my teenage years, I made a new best friend.
She was the girl who sat on the back seat of the school bus, even though she was only a second year. She carried her books in a designer tote, wore a diamante tummy-bar and had chunky highlights in her hair. House Slytherin, if we were at Hogwarts. She decided to befriend shy, polite me. And it made me so happy.
Some poor soul was ejected off the back seat to make way for me, and we started hanging out with a group of older, cooler friends at the weekend. She introduced me to the world of £3 Topshop thongs, parents’ drinks cabinets and flirting with boys. We were inseparable, like Serena and Blair but with Boohoo wardrobes rather than Chanel.
It was exciting, rebellious. I felt like Sandy becoming part of the Pink Ladies squad in Grease, except with no Danny Zuko in sight. But the fluttering butterflies soon turned anxious. I started to notice things about her, and myself, that didn’t sit well in my boring, unpierced tummy.
I would lie to my mum about our whereabouts, pretend to puff on a cigarette-end that my friend handed to me in the school toilets, and watch and do nothing as she walked out of Claire’s with pockets full of plastic rings.
I’d hear her repeatedly tell lies to our friends and families. Did this mean she lied to me too? She’d steal things from shops and family members. Did she even want that hideous Miss Selfridge denim choker? And she’d skive off school to hang out with the smokers, because apparently that was the cool thing to do. But why would she throw away her education when she had such a sharp mind?
Growing up, I had been a good girl who was terrified of disappointing my mum. Of course, that didn’t stop me from rolling up my school shirt, caking my face in makeup, fancying the pants off every member of Blue (the 1D of their day, I promise) and accepting alcopops from my favourite aunty at Christmas. But generally, I was a good kid.
In a way, I envied my new friend’s naughtiness, and was attracted to her fearless attitude. But it just wasn’t a long-term lifestyle I could get with. The constant lies, the total lack of respect for our parents, the vulnerable situations we put ourselves in – I had had enough of my Sandy-gone-bad phase.
Maybe I was more of a Frenchie, returning from going down the wrong path with some questionable hairstyles. I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Was it because my new best friend was a bad influence? Was breaking up with her the right thing to do?
I cut her out, cold turkey style.
I ignored her texts, sat at the front of the bus with a loser sign on my head and offered no explanation when mutual friends asked what had happened. How could I say, ‘I just don’t feel good around her anymore’?
We’d still hang out with the same group of friends, but I’d literally not utter a word to her or even acknowledge her presence. It was more awkward than Taylor and Katy in a broken-down lift. I felt so cruel, like I was now a worse person than the one I was while I was friends with her. But once I cut the cord, I just couldn’t go back. It was awful for a while but I was free from all the lies and drama.
I hadn’t the courage to tell her how I felt about not liking our behaviour together. She must have felt so confused and hurt. She might have been a bad influence but deep down she wasn’t a bad person – just another girl making mistakes and learning from them. I carried on making my own mistakes too, but I did them on my terms, with only myself to hold accountable.
Time went on. Blue split up, Anthony Costa released a solo single and I stood my ground. We both soon found other friendship groups and moved on to college, attempting life as adults. Looking back, I had every right to end my friendship with her but I wish I’d had the guts to tell her why. We don’t have to stay friends with every person we meet, but we do need to treat them with respect and kindness.
I’ve made many friends in the years since breaking up with her, and have kept only a handful of the best. Friends have phased me out, and I have phased others out. Most come to a mutual, natural end. But with each one, I try to give the friendship the respect it deserves, no matter how short-lived.
Not even Sandy-gone-bad would ghost a friend she didn’t want to hang out with anymore. So I’ll never do it again, because that’s how a real Pink Lady behaves.
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Image: Hailey Hamilton