Emily Gould is used to a bit of controversy but the last week leading up the release of her book Friendship is one she will never forget. Emily, currently and author and co-owner of indie e-bookstore Emily Books is the former co-editor of Gawker.com. Dubbed the ‘Lena Dunham before the world was ready for her’ Gould has this week endured a public snub from GIRLS writer Jenni Konner, a vicious 11,000 word essay from book blogger Edward Champion in which he describes her as a ‘mean, manipulative, and myth-perpetuating’ and, to top it all off, has just lost her job.
But something tells us, she’ll be a-ok. We caught up with her to talk about her new book and hear what it feels like when your friend divorces you…
“Lying on the kitchen table sat a?note with my name on it. ‘Emily,’ it said. ‘I’m done. It’s over.’ It’s the sort of thing people leave their jilted lover when?they want a no-strings, quick escape from a relationship. Except, this wasn’t from a boyfriend. This was from Grace – my friend and confidante of almost 15 years. In four little words our entire history was totally erased.
Grace and I had been best friends since we were 13. We used to pass notes in class and store them in a notebook, spent every weekend at each other’s houses and hung out after school. Even university didn’t separate us and we’d catch up every holiday, bursting with news and gossip. Yet things changed when we began working. I was lucky enough to be one of those 20-somethings who suddenly had early career success, becoming editor of news website Gawker. My life in New York was a whirl of work, dating and social media.
Meanwhile, Grace had been pursuing further education, studying for a PhD and travelling the world for her research. We kept in touch through letters or, later, email. I was busy and therefore erratic with my replies, but I still valued our friendship. It’s difficult to maintain any sort of long-distance relationship to its true value but, on paper, we were still just as close – exchanging stories and anecdotes from our latest pursuits. Except, I found myself increasingly unable to relate to the replies she sent. I didn’t know what life was like in Europe (where she was busy researching) and if I’m honest, had little interest. I’d never met her boyfriend or her new friends – I didn’t feel like I fitted in her life. And, I suspected, she probably felt the same about me.
When, in 2010, she said she was coming back to New York for a couple of days, it was inevitable she would stay with me. I was excited – I knew it would be the perfect time to put aside all those niggling feelings that I’d had about ‘us’. But when we got together, the conversation didn’t exactly flow. While she was immersed in academia, I was going full throttle in the world of media. She didn’t know what it was like to have a boss or to work a 9-5 job. She couldn’t relate to me when I spoke about anxiety over being fired, or the uncertainty of knowing if you’re on the right path in your career. We didn’t relate on dating or politics or even our views on Twitter. Sometimes, when you don’t see?an old friend for years you can simply pick up where you left off, but for us it wasn’t like that. Life had literally and figuratively put oceans between us.
While I knew we’d irrevocably grown apart, I was still crushed when I read the note she left me. And I felt angry that?she hadn’t wanted to talk to me. Maybe she found me too selfish or dismissive or maybe I didn’t listen enough – she didn’t go into detail about what it was exactly. But I would have liked the chance to have my say. In walking out without so much as a word to my face, she denied me the opportunity to reflect. But, if I am honest, what hurt the most was that it was over.
And I still feel sad about that now. When you break up with a boyfriend there are protocols – you know the signs you’re in a bad relationship, and you know what to say to break it off, or how to behave afterwards. When it comes to friendships there are none. What constitutes a friendship divorce – how do we divide?our emotional assets?
What’s more, in a friendship break-up there’s no support cavalry running to your aid. Break up with a boyfriend and it’s wine time with the girls – weekends away, nights out, teary 1am Skype calls and plenty of cat memes. When the end of a friendship arrives, it’s private and quiet and provokes insular emotion that nobody really talks about.
It impacted more than breaking up with a boyfriend, because we had ‘been together’ for longer and shared more. The lingering pain lasts longer when you break up with a friend. No matter how much it hurts in the moment of a romantic relationship, a few years down the road it’s unlikely you’ll regret it. Break up with a friend and you can end up with a hole in your heart where that friend used to be – there are stories and memories only she can share or remember with you.
But I do believe it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be the end forever. People can change and go through a period of losing a friend, but then find a way to get back together. I hope that someday I’ll run into Grace and we’ll see each other and we’ll smile and hug, and everything will be OK. I hope we can begin again and see the value of the friendship itself, instead?of the circumstances that were once surrounding it. If not, that’s fine too. Sometimes friendships end for a reason.”
Read Emily’s full article in this week’s Grazia. Her book Friendship is out this week.