This Ship Isn't Going Down Without a Fight
By Ashlee Gadd
Ever since I was a little girl, there’s been a hole in my heart where a sister should have been.
I possess both the bossy, protective energy of a big sister, and also the clingy desperation of a little sister. It’s admittedly an intense combination that—for most of my life—I’ve channeled straight into female friendship. I guess you could say I love hard. And I really want to be loved hard in return.
Like a goldfish you bring home from the county fair with the best of intentions and then flush down the toilet a short while later—I’ve learned the hard way across my twenties and thirties that not every friendship stays the course. Such is life. This is only a tragedy if you make it such.
To be clear, I absolutely played a role in each friendship ending. I am not a perfect person, nor a perfect friend. At the same time, and while I can’t say for certain, it seemed to me that I always took the friendship breakups harder. For example, I cried. A lot. Once, for two weeks straight, I replayed an entire friendship in my mind every night while I fell asleep, like a nostalgic home video playing on a loop. If I were Taylor Swift, I could have written entire albums about some of these friendships ending. There was certainly enough material.
After two friendship breakups unfolded in the span of one year, I became convinced that 1) I must be the world’s crappiest friend, and 2) I must be an easy person to leave. The latter was the greater sting. Because I so badly wanted to be the kind of friend you didn’t give up on. I wanted to be the kind of friend worth fighting for. I wanted to be—dare I say it?—the kind of friend who felt like a sister.
For the longest time, I showed up to most friendships equal parts desperate and hopeful—like that pitiful little bird in Are You My Mother?—determined to find a match, to find someone to fill the sister-shaped hole in my heart.
In reality, my life has played a lot more like a movie titled: (S)he’s Just Not That Into You.
I can’t even tell you when our friendship crossed the threshold from “good friend” to “best friend.” It wasn’t unlike one of those romantic comedies where all of a sudden the guy realizes that the girl next door is actually the love of his life, and not just the tomboy he’s been teasing for more than a decade. And yeah sure, maybe she gets a makeover, and maybe one night they’re squished together in the backyard treehouse when the moon catches her face just right and there is A Moment. But we all know underneath that moment are years and years and years of memories stretching a foundation under their feet.
If I had to paint you A Moment for Katie and I, it would be the day she confided in me that she was “always the bridesmaid, never the maid of honor.”
I don’t even remember the context for this conversation. I don’t remember if we were talking about friendship, or about weddings, but I remember the words toppling out like a confession.
Did Katie have a sister-shaped hole in her heart, too?
The very next day, I ordered us best friend bracelets, as if we were in the 4th grade and not in our mid-thirties. I found a blank card and wrote, “If I was going to get married tomorrow, I would ask you to be my maid of honor.”
And then I slipped the pale pink beaded bracelet in the card, along with a polaroid picture of the other one on my wrist.