Jueves 26 de Mayo de 2005, Ip nº 110

Por Sara Stewart

'IT was so wrenching," author Emily Chenoweth says of her breakup. "I tried really hard to forget. I think I spent the first couple of weeks just sitting at my computer weeping."

Boyfriend bust-up? Failed marriage?

Nope - she's talking about her ex-best friend, with whom she went from being inseparable to near-strangers in a matter of months.

It's the breakup that dares not speak its name.

While female friends spend endless hours dissecting their romantic splits, watching TV shows about hilariously unreliable boyfriends and reading books with titles like "He's Just Not That Into You," they tend to downplay their rifts with one another.

But that's a big mistake, say Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell, co-editors of "The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women's True-Life Tales of Friendships That Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away," out today.

Whether it's over a man, borrowed money or simply growing apart, 20 female authors demonstrate how friend splits can be as powerful as romantic ones - and frequently, way more devastating.

"I'm much sadder about friends I have lost," says Schappell. "I think everybody has a story like that. But very rarely do people feel they can share them. There seems to be something in a friendship breakup that reveals the worst of us."

Even the normally brazen Paris Hilton was close-mouthed about her breakup with Nicole Richie last month.

Hilton's terse statement to the press said only: "It is no big secret that Nicole and I are no longer friends. All I will say is that Nicole knows what she did, and that's all I'm ever going to say about it."

Though neither party would say why the once-happy "Simple Life" partnership had soured, some sources have claimed Nicole hosted a screening of Paris' sex tape - which would definitely qualify as a breach of trust.

Of course, most friendship splits aren't quite as high-profile - but they can be just as dramatic.

In the book, Chenoweth and her "ex," Heather Abel, examine their college friendship breakup in a pair of she-said/she-said essays.

The two women - both now 33, and New York-based writers - were instantly drawn to each other at the start of freshman year at Swarthmore College. But the two popular, pretty, best-friends were shocked by the death of Chenoweth's mom that winter.

In the months afterward, the grieving Emily, who managed to look beautiful even while depressed, got all the attention, especially from boys.

"For one flushed second, I hated her," ranted Abel, who developed a subsequent eating disorder.

Eventually, the two grew distant, where they had once thought of themselves as two halves of the same person. "It was a kind of heartbreak, the kind that makes you wish someone never existed," writes Abel.

"I've never had a friendship that was that intense," Chenoweth muses now. "It did make it volatile in the way that a love relationship can be. But the thing is, lovers have a vocabulary for talking about the relationship. I'm not sure that exists for friends."

Abel, who has since reconciled with Chenoweth, agrees.

"There's a way to fight with a boyfriend - you see it in movies and books, it's kind of part of the romance - but I don't always know how to fight with a friend. How to say, 'I need these boundaries,' or 'you hurt me.'" (In other words: The Talk).

"Some people don't even bring it up because it's 'only a friend,'" says Dr. Jan Yager, author of "When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal with Friends Who Betray, Abandon or Wound You."

"People don't like to talk about it because if you describe it that way, it sounds like you were secretly lesbians or something," says 30-year-old Marcela Valdes, an East Village editor who fell out with her former roommate/best friend when the pal invited her boyfriend to move in with them 'temporarily' - which turned into four months.

The friend and her boyfriend moved out abruptly, sticking Valdes with a rent she couldn't afford. Now, when she runs into the friend, it's like bumping into an ex.

"You want to look good," she laughs. "You check each other out."

The emotional fallout can also rival a romantic breakup - as with 30-year-old Kasey Pfaff, whose relationship with her best friend imploded years ago over an ex-boyfriend.

"I still feel sick over it," she says. "Completely awful and depressed. It's like a member of my family has died."

The friendship stakes are especially high in New York City, Yager points out, as cutthroat professional ambition can leave single women highly dependent on friends outside their work circle for emotional support.

"There are no therapy groups for people who've lost a friend," says Yager. "And it goes back to the fact that we perceive friendship as optional."

Yet almost every woman will admit to permanent scars from a friendship gone bad.

"It's made me very cagey about new female friends," says Pfaff. "Trusting new people seems like folly when the oldest, dearest friends can be so treacherous."

  17/05/2005. New York Post.


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