You’ve known her for ages. Grew up together, in fact. She was there when you had your first period at summer camp and wrapped toilet paper up in your underwear because you had no idea what else to do. She held your hand when Bobby Weaver kissed you and then told everyone you were a prude because you didn’t know how to use tongue. She knew what to say when your mom told you to stop crying over a stupid little hamster.
There’s not a single person in the whole world who knows you the way she does. Every single secret. You share everything and trust her with your life. Best friends forever.
As you get a little older and distracted by bras and earrings and brand names, you hardly even notice it at first. Everybody has bad days, so you let it slide. Shrug it off. It’s just small things, here and there. Words, mostly. Sharp and a bit mean, but you can take it. Or the strange expression that tells you something’s wrong, but she denies it.
She’s always been there for you, so this will pass.
But then she starts getting a little weird around your other friends. Saying bad things behind their backs. Sometimes behind your back. And then that guy you really fancy comes over — and she starts to make fun of you. Right in front of him. Even though she can see the red rising in your cheeks and the desperation in your eyes begging her to stop. When he walks away, totally unimpressed, she just laughs. Right in your face. You wish she wouldn’t. She swings her arm over your shoulder like a real chum, and you start to believe she’s probably right. He’s probably too good for you. She’s your best friend, after all. She’d never lie.
Senior year, when all the other girls get asked to the prom, you wait, hoping against hope, that he’ll ask you. You start to believe that it’s going to happen soon, that he’s just waiting for the right moment. That he’ll be super sweet and there will be a single rose and a note with your name on it. When she comes to tell you the news, that he’s just asked the most popular girl in school, she sees the wet rim of your eyelids and tells you was a fucking baby you are.
Seriously, you didn’t really think he was going to ask you?
Years later, you’re still hanging out together. She takes you out for a salad, no dressing. It’s what pretty petite girls order. She hardly eats anything. This makes every spinach leaf expand and sink like a rock in your gut. It’s fine, she says, pushing her nearly full plate to the side. Eating less takes, like, tons of discipline. You’ll get there.
You walk away, psychologically bloated. You don’t get far before she suggests you pop in for some frozen yogurt. But what about, like, the discipline? Oh, a little bite won’t do you harm. Come on, it’s yogurt. Healthy stuff.
You love it, and it makes you infinitely happier than any salad, no dressing. For a few minutes you giggle and remember summer weeny roasts in the back yard and the firecracker that burnt your hand.
When she stops at the window to admire that tight strappy dress, you look down at the drippy remains of your waffle cone. The white chocolate mousse turns to bile and you feel gross. Oh, well. Maybe next year, huh? she says, poking at the squidge that sits just above your jeans.
She keeps nattering away, all the way home, but you feel dark and detached. She’s so thin and perfect. Nothing to worry about. But you. The salad. The yogurt. The dress. You stop listening and stare at the leaves for a minute.
Go on, she says, knowing. You’ll feel better. So you do. You wretch your shame out into the neighbor’s bushes. Your mouth is full of stinking acid, but she pats you on the back, just like a good friend should. You’re so pleased to have her support.
Years go by and the two of you still see each other all the time. But, to be honest, she really confuses you sometimes. It’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to tell if she’s really telling the truth. She says one thing, then another, making you feel stupid for believing her in the first place.
Go on, just one more glass. Then, you’re so pathetic when you’re drunk.
Other times she really insults you – saying you’re still fat, your acne is disgusting, you’ll never be pretty enough to get a boyfriend. But true friends are honest, right? Guess you’re pretty lucky to have such a reliable companion. She’s always stuck around, after all. No one listens like she does.
Plus, she gets the whole food thing; that you’re super healthy, but sometimes when you eat too much or have two big slices of your grandma’s carrot cake, you have to get rid of it.
It’s healthy, right? She says it is. It’s like you can eat whatever you want, but without feeling guilty or ashamed. Ice cream and brownie sundaes are your favorite, and you don’t even have to worry now because you can enjoy them and then go for a little walk and purge your guilt out into the weeds somewhere. Right?
But just a quick question: who is she?
Honestly, where did she come from?
You already know.
You just haven’t said it yet.
She’s that voice in your head. Your shadow self that uses all the heartache and failures you’ve ever faced to build a false memory of what an idiot you are.
How stupid your ideas are. How big your ass is. She brings her sisters over — guilt, regret, and depression — and they conspire against you, crafting webs of lies that persuade you that there’s nothing you can do, no way out, no use trying. Apparently they know everything. At least that’s what she said.
She’s not your real friend. Not anymore.
But, somehow, even though now you know, you’re still desperate to please her. You nod your head vigorously, agreeing when she says you’re just an average waste of space. In fact, you hang on her every word, swallowing every sermon, accepting the gospel truth of her judgements.
But she’s not your friend anymore.
There she is. Always in your head. Reminding you of when your ex said stretch marks disgust him and pubic hair is gross. There she goes, comparing you to every airbrushed image, every magazine cover, every Instagram success, everyone else’s filtered life. Reminding you of the insults. Reliving the failures. Replaying all the reasons why you aren’t, can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t.
She’s not your friend anymore.
It’s time to say goodbye. Shut the windows. Lock the doors. That voice in your head, your constant companion, that evil soul destroying succubus, is no longer invited. Time to delete.
She’s going to freak out when you stop answering her calls. She going to show up and try to knock down your door, screaming up a shit storm. She remembers every insecurity, every screw up, every dirty deed you’ve ever done and she will try and burn your life down around you by bringing them up and trying to pile them on your head.
Go ahead. Peek out the window and see what a maniac she is. Watch her writhing in pain. Because the truth is, the great big fat ugly truth that she knew all along but never told you, is that she needs you.
She is the insecurity. She is the failure. She is the all the reasons you thought you were never good enough. She is the reason why you left the party early so you could heave up your pizza shaped regret into the spare bag you kept in your car just in case.
She’s not your friend anymore.
You may miss her a little. Think about re-friending her on social. Have a quick peek at her digital claims. You may even think you need her. Her opinion. Her company. Her approval.
But you don’t.
Because you don’t need anyone to make you feel bad for eating anything, ever.
Because you don’t need anyone to tell you you deserved to get dumped.
Because you don’t need anyone to hold your hair while you throw up six cupcakes out of shame.
Because you don’t need anyone to tell how utterly stupid your dreams are.
Because you don’t need anyone to remind you how hideous you are in the morning.
Because you don’t need anyone to pick your soul apart every waking moment of the day.
Because she’s not your friend anymore. Never really was.