- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

CHICAGO (AP) — Friendships blow up and fade out all the time. Sometimes it’s a fight. And life changes — a move, a marriage, a baby — can get in the way. Then there are those times when you just look at your friend and realize you don’t really have much in common anymore.

Some say losing a friendship is a particularly traumatic event for women — a theory explored in a couple of recent books that have inspired wider discussion of a topic sometimes seen as taboo.

Women “have an expectation that romantic love might not last. But the idea is that friendship is made of much stronger stuff — that you’re friends forever,” said Elissa Schappell, co-editor and contributor to the new book “The Friend Who Got Away,” a collection of essays written by 20 women who lost friends for various reasons. “There’s almost no vocabulary for talking about it when it falls apart. That’s where the shame of it comes from.”

As Miss Schappell’s co-editor, Jenny Offill put it, “the giddiness and Golden Age of friendship” sometimes doesn’t last.

In some instances, the damage done when friendship ends is so severe that some compare it to the end of a marriage. That was the case for Karen Eng, who, five years ago, ended a relationship with a friend that she found too draining and dramatic.

She wrote about it in another recent book of essays, which she edited, titled “Secrets and Confidences: The Complicated Truth About Women’s Friendships.”

Mrs. Eng says her husband — whom she describes as “a supersensitive, New Age guy” — did not understand the importance she places on friendships. It’s not as if he doesn’t have close friends of his own, she said. In fact, he has a core group of male friends he has been close to for years.

“He loves those guys. He’s always happy to talk to and see them,” she said.”But nobody feels bad if one of them doesn’t call for a couple of years.”

There are those, however, who do feel the need to reach out to friends they had written off.

Amalie Young was so troubled by a 2001 breakup with one of her best friends, who lives in Oregon, that she sat down a few months ago to write her a letter — in part to apologize for, as she sees it, being too controlling with her friend.

“I tried to make it as much about me — that I hadn’t been a good friend,” said Miss Young, a 30-year-old former reporter who recently finished culinary school and is looking for a job in New York.

Her friend wrote back a few weeks later — and they’ve since spoken on the phone.

“The weight of not speaking to her was lifted,” said Miss Young, who hopes to visit her friend this summer. “The door’s now open to communicate.”

Miss Offill said several people who have read “The Friend Who Got Away” have told her they would like to reconcile with a friend.

“A few people,” she said, “are even sending the book to the friend they’re no longer close to as an olive branch.”


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