In what is in my opinion a great, yet surprisingly underestimated movie The Holiday, Kate Winslet talking to Eli Wallach is informed that, “In the movies, we have a leading lady and a best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.”
Now, though Kate Winslet is clearly not just the ‘best friend’ of any story, I had for a long time come to terms with the fact that, in my life, I am the best friend. And I’m sure for 50% of the girls reading this, they have come to accept this as well.
My best friend growing up was beautiful. She had long, blonde, princess hair, perfectly clear skin, was sharp as a tack, and to top it all off she was a hilarious person to be around and made every situation more fun. She was confident. She was fashionable. Boys wanted to get with her. Her profile picture on facebook got hundreds of likes. She was a leading lady. But more than that, she was my leading lady.
When I say she was my leading lady, I don’t mean she was the complementary leading lady to my best friend. I mean that she was the leading lady of my life, while I allowed myself to be the best friend. The best friend of my own life. See the problem?
When we hung out, we went to the parties she wanted to go to. We went on double dates with the guy she was interested in and his friend. I was always the wing-woman. It was my job, my duty, to be secondary to her. And none of this is to say that I didn’t want to go with her on these adventures. I was thrilled that she allowed me into her cool world, that she chose me to be the one to experience these things with. And most of the time, I had fun.
When we went our separate ways for college and I was on my own, only then did I come to understand what I had been doing myself. I had put myself on the perpetual backburner of life. I put my best friend on my own pedestal, not only making her that much taller but making myself that much shorter.
I decided to recognize myself as my own leading lady, and start living my life for myself, and not for her.
And it’s been hard. Not for me, that is, for her.
Since I decided to become my own leading lady, I have blossomed enormously. I’ve made a bunch of friends, I’ve travelled all over the world, I got a boyfriend who I’ve now been with for two years, I’ve lost weight and gotten healthier, I have the confidence to wear more fashionable clothing and do fun things with my hair, and all around I’m happier.
Yet at the same time, I could do none of this without hurting my best friend.
That’s the thing, you see. When we allow ourselves to become the best friend in our own lives, that person who we chose to be the leading lady starts to expect that level of (for lack of a better word) servitude from us. But it’s a level of devotion that we cannot physically give them unless we are taking it from ourselves.
When I took my stand, I made a promise to not help my best friend. I made a promise to make myself a priority over her. This was not to spite her, though. She didn’t ask for my constant attention. But when I unyieldingly gave it to her, it’s not her fault she came to rely on it.
Our relationship now is a rocky one. I still love her with all my heart, of course. I will never stop making jokes about her becoming my wife someday in the future, and whenever she really needs me I will of course drop everything to be there for her.
But at the same time, I know she thinks I am abandoning her. For the wrong reasons, of course. She thinks I’m choosing my boyfriend over her, when in reality I’m choosing to live and experience my own life rather than be the sidekick in hers. I know she doesn’t like my friends very much, but that’s because they look at her as an equal to me, rather than a hero above me, and she isn’t used to that comparison being the case.
For those girls who were the leading lady in someone else’s life, it is hard to fathom what I was going through. But it is especially hard not to feel attacked when the situation is righted. And the unfortunate fact is that there is nothing that can be done about that.
And of course, fixing it was not easy for me, and especially not easy for my best friend. I created the problem, and as a result I had to face the solution that I knew would hurt my best friend. And I know that she doesn’t understand what I’ve done, and that she may never understand. I can only hope that she will, someday, come to realize that I had to choose to be selfish just this once, and though it may have been worse for her, it was the only way that I could truly thrive.