Friend breakups can be just as life changing — in some cases, arguably more so — than a breakup with a lover. Yet, often we don't take them as seriously as ditching a crummy boyfriend or girlfriend. To counter that, Jamye Waxman's new book How to Break Up With Anyone teaches readers the fine art of breaking up with, well, anyone. The title is self-explanatory, but the content is eye-opening: We're so used to thinking about breakups in terms of significant others that we forget how many people we break up with in our lives. From bartenders to fitness instructors to family members, we break up with more people then we may originally think. But arguably nothing is more devastating than a friend breakup.
Waxman is a famous sex educator and media consultant who explores the complicated fields of human sexuality and relationships. Basically, if she's giving you advice, you're going to want to listen.
Reading Waxman's book got me thinking of some of my favorite literary characters (because I'm always thinking of my favorite literary characters) that could really use a friend breakup. Just like us, sometimes book characters don't quite know how to kiss an unhealthy friendship goodbye. The characters below are in terrible friendships and they need to take Waxman's advice ASAP.
Mark Renton and everyone else, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Let's be clear: Renton is hardly a paragon of morality. As a heroin addict, he's not winning any awards for good judgement. However, I do think that he's a tiny bit more stable than the rest of the Trainspotting gang, and probably has the best shot at living a somewhat normal, drug-free life — if he can ditch his psychotic, heroin-addicted friends, that is. After all, Renton does try multiple times to sober up. Maybe if he had some better influences in his life he wouldn't keep turning back to drugs. At the very least, Renton, stop hanging out with Sick Boy. Seriously, the man is a sociopath. He holds imaginary conversations with Sean Connery, for goodness sake. How can you trust him?
Olive Chancellor and Verena Tarrant, The Bostonians by Henry James
I'm not exactly sure whose side I'm on in this battle, but I do know these two would be better off without each other. On one hand, Olive is controlling and totally needy, basically forcing Verena to become more involved in the feminist movement (though, in her defense, that is where Verena's talent lies). But on the other hand, Verena leaves Olive high and dry when she needs her the most, and she does it for some guy! Didn't anyone teach her about chicks before dicks? It's probably best for the both of them if they go their separate ways.
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Unpopular opinion: Tom Sawyer totally sucks. While the Tom of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is more of an over-imaginative little scamp, the Tom of Huck Finn is manipulative and borderline cruel. He peer-pressures Huck to torture poor Jim, who has been Huck's loyal companion for the entire book, while knowing the whole time that Jim's actually a free man. And don't get me started on that whole fence thing. Huck, you're a decent young man who doesn't need to be bossed around by some snot-nosed brat like Tom. Go find a less selfish friend.
Jane Bennet and Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice
I hate, hate, hate Caroline, and can't believe that Jane put up with her for as long as she did. She's snarky to Elizabeth, tries to convince Jane that Bingley doesn't care for her, and then is the worst when Jane tries to visit her and maintain their friendship. Caroline Bingley is a prototypical mean girl who doesn't deserve a friend like Jane, who should have ditched her as soon as she started being terrible to Elizabeth. I get that you want to get into the good graces of your future husband's sister, but she's just not worth it.
Andrew Price and Fats Wall, The Casual Vacancy
Poor Andrew is a perfectly nice, awkward teenager who has the misfortune of being best friends with a sociopath. Fats Wall is, in my personal opinion, nothing better than a would-be Holden Caulfield who goes looking for trouble because of his own banal existence. I'm not a fan. Andrew, however, is a good kid who's just trying to save himself from a bad home life and escape the shadow of his cruel but popular best friend. I read this entire book waiting for the moment that Andrew would wise-up and leave Fats behind.
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Moveable Feast
I can't comment on the men's actual friendship, because I sadly was never invited to any of their parties, but their friendship in this Hemingway novel isn't exactly healthy. The Fitzgerald of A Moveable Feast is a drunk who gets Hemingway into all sorts of trouble, forcing his "friend" to clean up his messes. Again, I'm not saying that this reflects the real Fitzgerald, but if I could sit the Hemingway of the novel down I would tell him that this Fitzgerald guy is a no goodnik who he needs to drop, STAT. Ernest, you can do so much better than some drunk who happened to write an amazing book.
Dorian Gray and Lord Henry Wotton, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Now, don't get me wrong, Dorian is not without his flaws. He's vain and selfish and a little too willing to murder people for my liking. But I don't think he would have turned out quite as vile without the influence of Lord Henry. Lord Henry takes Dorian under his hedonistic wing and teaches him to value beauty and pleasure more than other people, which sets Dorian on his self-destructive path. Again, Lord Henry didn't force Dorian to become a monster, but without his influence Dorian may not have taken his life to such extremes.
Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, Pygmalion
Technically Eliza does break up with Higgins, but I'm not entirely sure if he realizes he's been dumped. In Pygmalion, Higgins "molds" Eliza into the perfect English lady, but is violent, harsh, and treats her more like a project than a human. Friends don't order you around like you're a mixture of a servant and a trained dog. Reader, if this is how your friend is treating you, pull an Eliza and ditch him/her. But make sure they take you seriously; by the end of the play Higgins is still making Eliza errands lists, and doesn't seem convinced that their relationship is kaput.
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