Kgomotso Matsunyane

Death of a friendship

2007-11-29 09:40

Kgomotso Matsunyane

There are few things more sad than going through the end of a friendship. It hurts just as much as the loss of a great love, but of course, some "friends" are so toxic it's a relief to finally give them their walking papers.

My first betrayal was when I was 7 years old. The demise of my parents' marriage saw us moving to a new neighbourhood, and therefore a new school for me. In a moment of extreme closeness (perhaps a desperate attempt at a new attachment), I swore to secrecy and confided to my new best friend that my parents were divorced, an apparently unheard of phenomena in 1979 Soweto.

Mind you, it's not that couples were happier then as much as the Group Areas Act made getting a permit and a house to live in urban South Africa a nightmare for black people, so people put up with a lot more rubbish in relationships than we do nowadays.

So there I was making my best friend swear on her mother's privates (a-la mafra-waowao, a township version of "cross my heart and hope to die"). It took less than 24 hours before someone came to ask me if it was true.

I was mortified! She had promised! It had not occurred to me before then that what people say and what they do are not necessarily the same. It was the first in many lessons in life's cruel university.

I confess I've been on the dishing end of betrayal myself, and I can honestly say when I've been the traitor it is much more awkward. I would go as far as to say it's much easier to be the victim, then you can really wallow in self-righteous indignation as opposed to feeling like the proverbial snake that fed Eve the apple.

Not always obvious

The reasons for the breakdown of friendships are not always obvious. We outgrow each other, we develop new and more exciting friendships, we fall in love and have kids, we re-locate, we get married, and we get divorced.

Being friends with a divorcing couple is so stressful because one is inevitably forced to choose between the warring parties. While male friends are loath to talk about what's really going on when things go sour in their lives, women can do nothing but talk about their relationship meltdowns. This puts the friend in the middle between Iraq and a very hard place.

Money is another sure-fire way to mess up a perfectly good friendship. Shagging your friend's lover/partner is another guarantee to friendship ruin. But lately, the number one reason to end a perfectly good friendship is the Mbeki-Zuma disaster.

There doesn't seem to be a compromise on that one, both sides being equally indignant. My side? It is impossible to take seriously a man whose sexual exploits have made kanga, baby oil and delicious an integral part of our national lexicon.

On the other hand, a president who is so despised voters would rather choose anyone but him has failed us dismally as a leader.

Bottom line, not all friendships are worth keeping. Don't expect your friendships to maintain themselves via osmosis, because being a good friend takes real effort, a healthy amount of respect, and a most generous amount of forgiveness.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is a partner at T.O.M. Pictures, a TV and Film Production company in Jo'burg.

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