Telling someone you don’t want to be friends anymore can be awkward. So don’t tell them.
The rules for breaking up with a partner have long been established: Try to do it in person or at least on the phone, don’t do it over a text message or a Post-it note. Ending a friendship? That’s complicated.
Sure, if your best friend has betrayed you (slept with your boyfriend, for instance), it’s pretty easy to call things off. But if nothing specific happened and you’ve simply grown apart, things get tricky.
What do you say when there’s nothing to say? You don’t say anything. That’s when I turn to what I have deemed “The Last Supper.” The beauty of this tactic is that it happens at random, and sometimes people don’t realize it has happened until months later.
The Last Supper, for me, represents the final time I’ll see a soon-to-be former friend. Unbeknown to them, this coffee, dinner, night out, or even random run-in indicates the last time I intend to see that certain someone.
Shedding friends is not a goal of mine, but as I have realized the true worth of unconditionally loving and mutually respectful friendships, my tolerance for discomfort or unhappiness in a relationship dwindles exponentially.
One of my greatest last suppers was with a former high school friend whom I hadn’t seen for years after we moved to different states. However, we kept up regularly, our parents grew closer as we got older, and any time either of us had big news to share, we would be on the horn with each other within minutes.
So, when her boyfriend messaged me on Facebook about getting tickets to the hottest Broadway show at the time for a surprise, I didn’t hesitate. Little did we know that the meal we had before the matinee and the photo we took in front of the marquee would be our last.
Why? I didn’t feel that friendship spark. It had nothing to do with her or her partner, but in that moment I knew that we had simply outgrown each other. And, the meet-up was more stressful than fun or nostalgic. For other ill-fated friendships, last suppers have been at weddings, birthday parties or other celebrations simply because participating in one of the happiest days of someone’s life forces me to take stock of how happy or honored I feel to be part of their memories.
When I parted ways with a toxic friend from college that I clung to until my nails could no longer dig into the weak ledge of our friendship, I learned the joy of excising a friendship.
For a couple of years after school, we drank together almost every weekend, exchanged snide texts about former friends and had the occasional conversation rooted in reality. But I never felt like he was someone I would turn to in a truly hard time despite calling him a best friend.
This was before I felt comfortable shedding people from my life that didn’t bring me joy, so I had no idea how I would dip out of this friendship without having an emotionally raw conversation for which I was not equipped.
So, I got him an audition for a video at the magazine where I was working. Then, I made like Kamala Harris and waved him off into the sunset with a potential job and well wishes. We were both free.
Mariah Smith is a comedian and writer. She resides in Los Angeles, where she writes for Fox’s “Outmatched.”
Photo illustration by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times