Editors: Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger
Friendship ends. This is the dark secret of life, because it is one of those crucial moments where we feel most alone and most unlovable. No one else must go through these kind of transitions in life from sharing secrets whispered in the dark to avoiding eye contact and Facebook stalking. My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends was an eye-opener for me, therapeutic with the universalization of something that is often a cloistered, secret agony. In thirty-five essays real women open up to share their experiences. Some are the bad friends who dumped good friends and lament it. Some are the good friends who were wrongly or mysteriously left behind. Some were a bit of both, whereas time and changes shifted what was considered stable ground under others. Split into several sections, the stories range from losing childhood friends, to adult friendships, to the strain and break of friendships under pressure when life drastically changes with the arrival of children and the transformation of the married, adult life. It’s not all doom and gloom, although you will most certainly want a box of Kleenex present. Some friendships are salvaged in the end whereas others learn from these experiences and move forward with that knowledge.
Time for a little truth or dare – I’ve never made friends easily. Partly it’s my prickly personality combined with an irritating naivety and partly it’s just the way of things in life, especially early life. Three of my closest female friendships ended badly, with only one of them being a loss that I actually mourned. The other two are the stuff of vengeance dreams and bad moods. I felt isolated for these experiences. Alone. Everywhere I went there were women, shopping, hanging in groups, sharing life experiences. Except me. It wasn’t something that I wanted to address or even admit to – this deep flaw that must be solely mine. So, when browsing Facebook, of all places, and randomly running across the link to this book, I did some secret guilt shopping on my Kindle. Could it be that there are other people out there like me – who don’t always get along, who are too needy sometimes and too aloof at other times, who have a scattered past of wrongs and conversely being wronged.
Not all the stories are relatable, of course, and naturally we are more attracted to some people than to others, but all of the stories are honest, heartfelt, and moving. I liked the fact that those who had wronged friends spoke up as well and talked about this emotion from the other side. As much as we (ok me) would like to think that I was quite innocent in all life’s misadventures, that certainly isn’t a fair representation. We’ve all hurt as much, if not more, than we’ve been hurt and this collection of human experience is what makes life complicated and friendships, specifically the issue of forgiveness and the capability to move forward, essential experiences.
My Other Ex was both comforting and inspiring. The bad experiences of been done wrong in the past are addressed and there is commiseration and healing in knowing that we are not the only ones. Forgiveness is expostulated as is letting go – some motives and events you will never understand. I’d always understood these ideas intellectually, but never emotionally. How can you get over something so deep? Yet each woman’s story comes from a mature prospective, a willingness to see everything circumspectly and to open both the beautiful and the ugly elements of life to the inspection of hurting strangers (i.e. the readers). It helps to see that you’re not alone, to see that just as women are a community of enemies sometimes, they are even more deeply a community of sisters first, each struggling. It’s the beauty of their admission and the sharing that is healing, and inspiring. I’ll admit, I might have gotten the courage to send one overdue email from reading this collection, and regardless of effects, I feel a sense of closure from this inspiring community. Highly recommended.
- Frances Carden