One of the best things about being a bona fide grown-up is the ability to choose our friends.

 

In high school, friendship tended to be a situational thing. If you were into sports, you played field hockey and generally stuck with the jocks. If you were a burnout, you’d hang out with other kids who wore Pink Floyd T-shirts and bummed cigarettes from each other by the bus shelter. If you were bookish and unpopular, you joined the student newspaper to meet like-minded nerds, played trumpet in the school band and whittled away many a lunch hour reading plays in the library (slowly raises hand). In high school, the people pool was so small that our friends were essentially selected for us.

 

University changed things. Suddenly, nerds were cool and up was down and the playing field was level and there were thousands of diverse and interesting people happily willing to be your friend. Some of them had even heard of Pavement!

 

Adulthood broadens the friendship base even more. You meet people at work, at social events and through other friends.

 

Of course, it takes effort to maintain a friendship, and once you reach a satisfactory level of friendship saturation, it’s time to stop watering the weeds.


There are two ways to end a friendship. There’s the ever-popular “friendship fade” where you just drift apart and lose touch, sometimes for no particular reason. Some friendships just reach their logical conclusion. You’re hanging out with different people. You don’t have anything in common anymore. Your priorities have shifted. Often, both friends realize this simultaneously and slacken the rope.


There is also the “friend divorce” — a far more dramatic end to a friendship. The end can come in an argument, a vicious phone call or a curt email, quick and violent. I have had two messy friend divorces in my lifetime. After the guilt faded, I felt freer and happier and was better able to focus on the friendships that I most value.


Initiating friendship divorce proceedings does not make you a bad person. And it certainly does not mean that your soon-to-be-divorced friend is a bad person. But if you find yourself spending time with someone who is toxic to your well-being and the time that you spend together exhausts more than it buoys, it’s probably an act of kindness to you both to cut them loose.