Sweater Friends


I’ve recently come to equate all of my friendships with sweaters. I know it probably seems like a weird analogy but bare with me because it fits very nicely (pun absolutely intended).

So this started a few weeks ago with the minimalist bootcamp and then came to a head when I was digging through my wardrobe and the multitude of still un-unpacked, un-sorted boxes looking for something to wear to dinner with my bestie. I found that my ‘oh hell no‘ piles were growing a lot faster than the others and I looked at the way I’d been separating them into

  • Maybe If I can’t find my faves
  • I like you but I don’t really want to wear you
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve outgrown you
  • I don’t want to be seen wearing you in public

and finally

  • What the hell was I thinking when I bought you?!?

and, while I was still separating and searching for something I really loved (& being reminded once again of why minimalism is so damn attractive) it hit me that this is pretty much the same way I go through my contact list when I’m feeling social.

I start with my besties (handily pre-organised into a starred contacts list) and then (on the rare occasion they’re not available) work my way down from there. I know that probably sounds a little callous but I don’t believe for a second that everyone isn’t at least a little bit guilty of this. It occurred to me then that I don’t speak to a good 30% of my contact list EVER and there’s only about 5% that I talk to more than twice a month.

There are numbers belonging to names I can’t even put a face to! So why are they still there, still saved like I’m going to need them? So I idly flicked through my 300+ contacts with growing horror. Who are all these people? I’m not social enough to be able to honestly say I have 30 friends, let alone 300!

Enough was enough, I’m ruthlessly culling every other part of my life so why not this too? Thusly, I again implemented the sweater system, deleting the now strangers and sorting the rest into categories of…

Comfy, stylish and awesome.

The besties. The people that fit effortlessly whether you’re at home with bed hair and no make-up, grabbing lunch in the city after some retail therapy or chatting over happy hour. These are the staples of my metaphorical friend wardrobe and their space in it is well deserved and not up for debate.

Are still comfy but I don’t want to wear them in public.

The ‘I still kinda like you but I’m so damned embarrassed by you that I don’t want people knowing we’re friends‘ people. You know the ones, they’re the people you try to avoid inviting to group things and never introduce when you run into people you actually like.

Let’s be honest here, there’s a reason you’re so embarrassed. These are not the people you want shaping others opinions of you and are, as such, almost definitely not the people you want having an input on shaping you. Maybe it’s time to phase them out with the rest of last season’s cast offs.

Strictly trend items.

The items you bought for a specific occasion or look. The friend you go to galleries with, or the one that’s always got a hook up for an invite or the one you call when you’ve had the week from hell and just want a no holds barred binge night. They’re fun, they have their place and they tend to get rotated out pretty frequently anyway.

I’m not sure you even belong to me.

Everyone has a few of these taking up space after a friend left it behind once and never came back for it or just forgot it totally. These are the ex-partners (not always your own), previous employers/colleagues and friend of a friend’s that you don’t really have any use for. Delete and move on.

What the hell was I thinking when I bought you?

The impulse buys. These are mostly the one night stands you never called and the people you bonded with whilst too drunk to function and were out of your head before your hangover even kicked in fully. Again… Delete and move on.

You just don’t fit anymore.

These are the hardest, once upon a time they suited you wonderfully. They were cozy, made you look good and were always there, but now you find yourself pushing them to the back, looking for the faves that have long since replaced them. You’re holding on to them out of some latent vestige of sentiment but they no longer hold the same meaning or shape.

This happens, your life changes just as frequently as your style or body and some things just don’t change with you. It’s okay to admit that some people just don’t have the same place in your life or even any place at all.

The question is though… What do you do with friends you’ve out grown?

It’s not like you can just drop them off at Salvo’s or a consignment store and be content in the belief that someone else is going to take them home and love them the way you don’t anymore.It’s not like there’s any way to sugarcoat It’s not anything you did, I just don’t really want you in my life anymore.

For most, it’ll be okay, they feel the same way and you both just kind of quietly separate. Letting the friendship die a peaceful, natural death and each becoming someone the other sometimes thinks fondly of but never does anything about.

The problems arise when you’re still in their comfy, stylish and awesome category, a starred member of their most frequent contacts despite the fact that you’ve been failing to answer or reply. How do you let them down easy?

It’s not like ending a relationship where at some point the other person has given you a reason to want to hurt them. This is someone who was once exactly what you needed and they’re probably still that same loving, open person who won your friendship in the first place.This is someone who either cares enough or is, in some cases, desperately clingy enough to still be making all the effort despite you doing everything possible to subtly pull away.

So the questions I’m asking are…

How do you break up with a friend when the reason really is ‘it’s not you, it’s me‘?
Where is the natural death when they just won’t let it die?

2 thoughts on “Sweater Friends

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