Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women
by Nina Gaby

She Writes Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-631-52954-2.
Reviewed by Judy Alter
Posted on 03/09/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

Until I read this book, I would have told you I'd been dumped. But in these pages the distinction between friendships that just fade away and those that involve dumping is very clear. What I have known in my life is friendships that slowly disappeared, mostly because other people moved away. There have been some where our interests slowly diverged and we lost touch, though we remain cordial on the occasional accidental meeting. The best advice in those cases is to treasure the memories. But dumped is a whole different thing. I have never been dumped.

Being dumped involves the cruel verbal confrontation or written note that says, in effect, "I don't want to be your friend anymore." In one instance here, a high school boy (must have been dimwitted) is the messenger for a group of girls: he delivers the dumpee's first kiss (rather woodenly) and then says, "F*&% off." High school girls can be among the cruelest. Dumping may also involve that sudden, unexplained silence: the refusal to return phone calls or emails, to communicate in any way. The dumpee is left, sometimes desperately, trying to figure out what she did wrong. Note that is almost always the conclusion, "What did I do wrong?" While I was reading this, there was a Facebook post, with a picture of Madelyn Albright, about how women must support women. In the discussion thread I mentioned that I was reading this book, and several women responded that they could never read it. They had been dumped, and reading the book would bring back the pain.

I believe however that they are the very women who should read this book, for insight into what happened to them and what happens all too often to too many women. Yes, there is a world of hurt in these pages, but there is also a world of insight. All women, dumped or not, should take another look at themselves within the context of these pages. Can they really share? Are they doing their part to nourish a relationship?

Most women recognize that friendship with other women is good for mental and physical health. We often enter into these relationships hopefully, feeling that we have found a soul mate, one who understands better even than the men in our lives. But too often these relationships end in disaster. Dumped is a collection of essays or short memoirs of women whose experiences with relationships with other women range from unsatisfactory to devastating, the latter being the most common. The essays are all retrospective, when the writer has had time look back at the experience, evaluate it in the context of maturity gained over the years. And yet many of them are still devastating, some chronicling the dissolution of friendships that had been long, deep, and close. The first few essays are about high school life, and there I found a thread that to me ran through the book: the dumpee thought of herself as not quite adequate—not cool enough, not attractive, desperate for friends. She is a timid, passive girl who almost wears a "kick me" sign on her back. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, she is dumped.

In the second section, the collection moves on to more mature women—indeed, it seems to move chronologically by age. But even in young adults, we as readers find that women's relationships are much more complicated than men's...and hence the dumping is much more difficult. Issues of trust and naiveté rear their heads.

In these pages there are so many different cases of dumping that my head still spins. The woman whose husband was having an emotional if not physical affair with her best friend. Realizing her marriage is over anyway, she begins a long-desired affair with another woman but tries to maintain the friendship with her former best friend, only to meet with solid rejection. Or the woman whose ten-year-old daughter had died; one day, desperate, she calls her best friend to come be with her, only to be met with, "No, not today. I can't. I'll call in a couple of days." Of course the call never comes. The young girl who had such a close identity with her BFF that she felt she had no identity of her own; when the BFF falls down an icy hill, the girl just walks the other way and goes home. Women who dump are unbelievably unfeeling. It's a relief to read the words of one who says she has a friend who really needs to be dumped—but she doesn't have the heart to do it. It she ever did, the other woman would always take a portion of her heart.

Dumped offers no easy answer, provides no solutions for either the dumper or the dumpee. What it does suggest is to look carefully at yourself and your relationships—are you feeding off the other one too much; do you see yourself as less than desirable as a friend; are you overlay grateful for friendship. If you trust, do you place your trust in the right woman?

I won't say this is pleasant reading, but it's important and can lead each of us, as women, to a better understanding of ourselves and of those we're close to.

I have to counterbalance the concept of dumping by reminding that there are friendships that remain solid and true in spite of time and distance. Some bonds cannot be broken.

Nina Gaby is a writer, visual artist, and psychiatric nurse practitioner whose nonfiction writings can be found in several collections and periodicals. Her fiction has been published in Lilith Magazine and in two short-story collections by Paper Journey Press. Visit her blog.

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