When Is A Friend Not A Friend?

Let me ask you a question about friendships…is there a line that can’t be crossed?

What would you do if a friend acted in manner so egregious, so counter to your own value system?

Have you ever said to yourself, I can’t be friends with someone like that, and end the friendship?

It happened to me.

I met her at the gym; she overheard me talking about my obsession with all things Chanel and we became friendly.

My tugboat man coined the phrase “friend not friend” because all we did was shop together. We never went out for dinner as couples and we never socialized together with our husbands. She had been to our house, but had never invited me to hers.

She was a “shopping friend.”

That means we’d meet every couple of weeks or so and drive in one car to a mall, either Fashion Valley in San Diego, or South Coast Plaza in Orange County.

Whoever didn’t drive bought lunch for two; that was a fair trade.

That was the only thing we had in common, even though we learned that our kids attended the same elementary school at the same time.

She’d been a working mom throughout their entire childhood; I’m an ardent advocate for the stay-at-home-mom situation.

She had a tough childhood: was unwanted, abused by a stepfather, and forced to travel around the country with her migrant worker family.

She managed to graduate from college and has been married to the same man for about forty years, the only man she’s ever slept with.

He just happens to be a millionaire, which is an amazing rags to riches tale.

Her inner fortitude and drive to extricate herself from poverty are admirable qualities and I’m sure that somewhere in there is an explanation for the way she acted the last time we spent the day together.

On this particular day, it was her turn to drive. Since she never had new clothes when she was growing up, she became a compulsive shopper, and always bought something, no matter what the cost. I’m more of a browser, and fairly thrifty except for that one (or two) Chanels.

After six hours at South Coast Plaza, we were on the highway heading home.

Looking out of the passenger window, I spotted a little puppy walking in the weeds parallel to the freeway.

I pointed and said, “Oh my gosh, do you see that? Pull over, pull over, there’s a puppy right there. You stop and I’ll run out and get it before something terrible happens.”

She wouldn’t stop.

She would not stop.

She flailed a hand about —  you know, in that way, that universal sign of blasé dismissal — and said, “Oh, someone will help. It’ll be fine.”

“No it won’t. We have to help. We HAVE to. Get off the next exit and let’s go back. ”

She refused to stop the car, no matter what I said.

“How could you say you love animals but you won’t stop to help a creature in dire need of assistance?”

I was powerless. I hate feeling ineffectual, useless, helpless.

I’m sure she endured all that and more growing up with her dysfunctional family but it would seem that she might have felt more of a kinship toward another helpless creature, not apathetic indifference and total lack of compassion.

I was silent for the remainder of the ride.

By the time we got back, it was getting dark. I thought about jumping in my car and driving back to where I saw the puppy but I didn’t even know the exactly where we had been, which is the reason why I hadn’t called CHP or animal rescue. It would have been impossible to locate. All I know is that it was somewhere on the 405 South from Newport Beach.

That was the last time I saw this friend not friend. She went on a vacation soon after that and when she returned, I heard she started going to another gym.

I’m haunted by the vision of that puppy that I couldn’t help.

Of course I couldn’t be friends with someone like that.

Everything I needed to know about her true character was revealed, and for me, that’s a non-negotiable area.

A deal breaker. A heart breaker.

Have you ever had to end a friendship?