My Best Friend Acquaintance-Zoned Me

Friendship is complex; you don’t always get closure or the answers you seek.

I Can’t Force Her To Be My Friend Veronika Zelenina | Shutterstock

I’ve known Sophia for nearly 50 years, but we’ve only been close for less than five. There were times when I thought our friendship might start up again, but it never happened.

Something about me is dangerous or toxic to her, and I’m taking an emotional chance.

We met at Fat Camp when we were 13 years old. She was immediately captivating and was one of the prettiest girls I’d ever seen. She had long dark hair, beautiful eyes, and the face of an angel. Plus, she was an actor who appeared in The Brady Bunch and Apple’s Way — it didn’t get cooler than that.


Her fashion designer father got his big break designing caftans, and after a major sitcom star wore them on her show, everyone wanted one. Because of her father’s connections and access to sample sales, Sophia dressed in all the 1970s trendy teenage gear: Chemin de Fer jeans with their sailor pants flap, tee shirts with naughty sayings, and Korkease platform shoes.

I needed to be friends with her, so I did it the only way I knew; I upped my funny, quickly made her laugh, and became her fat camp bestie.

Overcome with homesickness, my roommate left camp, and Sophia moved in. I was in fashion heaven when she let me wear her clothes. When camp ended, she gave me a T-shirt with a caricature of a blonde starlet's face decorated with rhinestones. I wore that shirt until it was threadbare, and my mother made me throw it away.


I’d wear that shirt today if I could; it expresses my personality perfectly.

Sophia and I wrote and performed sketches for the talent show and pranked stinky campers by anonymously leaving them deodorant, shampoo, and soap. When the counselors knocked on our door for the mandatory morning run, we’d lie and say we’d already gone.

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After camp ended, we kept our friendship going with phone calls and letters. She came to San Jose, and my parents did what they could to ensure Sophia had a wonderful time. 

I counted the weeks until I could visit her. Finally, Spring Break arrived, and I flew to Los Angeles. Sophia lived in an apartment with her brother, mother, and sister in the heart of Beverly Hills. I couldn’t stop looking at the fancy mansions and wondering which celebrities lived there.


Sophia threw a party with all her children of TV stars' friends — who’s-who of nepo babies. Some were nice, others not so much, and I was as intimidated as if they were the stars, not their parents.

Since I was much more strait-laced than Sophia and her friends, my anxiety rose when everybody at the party started to get stoned and drunk. I freaked out and left the apartment without saying a word to anyone.

The air had a chill as I walked down Wilshire Blvd that night. Since I hadn’t thought things out — only reacted, I didn’t have my jacket, money enough for a hotel room, or a clue of what to do. I found a phone booth and called my childhood friend, Jan, who was living with an aging hippie named Bill but called Cosmo. They came in their beat-up V.W. van, which smelled of old weed and lighter fluid, and took me back to their pad.

The next morning, I went back to Sophia’s. She was on the phone, and without saying a word, she opened her screen door and handed me my suitcase, purse, and sweater.


She didn’t have to say anything; our friendship was finished.

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I was living in Los Angeles when I read a glowing review of a sketch show written and starring Sophia. I gathered my courage and went to the show but chickened out on talking to her afterward. I sent a card to her, care of the theater, full of apologies for my childish behavior years before, and prayed she’d contact me.


Sophia didn’t respond for a long while, but eventually (maybe two years later), she called me. We had a fantastic conversation full of laughter and life updates and made plans to get together, but it didn’t work out. I don’t remember if she flaked or I did out of fear.

From her sketch show, Sophia’s writing career took off. She wrote two iconic movies and continued her acting career in movies and TV. I studied improv, pretended to be an actress, and did sketch comedy here and there.

When my friend and her husband opened an improv/comedy theater, I ran into Sophia there as she was also friends with the couple. Sophia seemed as warm and funny as I remembered.

Sometimes, Sophia would come to my shows, which seemed like a sign we’d be friends again, but nothing. Was she still mad at what had happened when we were teenagers?


I went to The Big Stinkin Improv Festival in Austin as part of a three-woman sketch group. The festival was like an episode of This Is Your Life because there were people from my Groundlings and ACME days, my comedy mentors, and my improv teachers.

I didn’t want to go — I’m not one for bars, but some friends dragged me to one of the after-show parties. The venue was packed, and I was shocked when Sophia came up and tapped me on the shoulder.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

What? I’d been thinking if I ran into her, I’d avoid her and prevent an awkward encounter.

We found a table with my friend and her friends, and we talked and talked and got a little drunk. For the next few days, Sophia and I explored Austin, ate some great barbecue, and went shopping at vintage stores.


Finally, we were friends again, but the spark fizzled out. Over time, Sophia and I have had many starts and stops. She always seems happy to help me if I ask, but her wall stays up. In the past, if I wrote about her, I checked if it was OK, and she usually said it was fine, but she didn’t remember much anyway.

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Not all my relationships have lasted, and I’ve had friends mysteriously dump me. But that’s not what’s happened here. Sophia has remained kind, helpful, and gracious. Not that I would, but I could go to her in an emergency.


not everyone is meant to be in your life forveer… unpopular opinion?

♬ original sound - caiti mackenzie

She read a manuscript I wrote once, and she didn’t have to do that. In Hollywood, people tend to be friends with those who’ve had a higher level of success than they’ve had. However, she’s fallen quite a bit by show business standards and isn’t the flavor of the month she once was. She’s struggling now like the rest of us.


There are matchmaking apps for people looking for friends, and if Sophia and I were on one, we’d be a friendship match. We’re close in age, have a similar sense of humor, and have a lot in common, including body image issues, comedy, and writing. However, she’s on Wikipedia, and I’m not.

Sophia perches on the edge of my life, and when I try to pull her in, she dances out of reach. I remind myself that it’s not personal; her reasons for not wanting to be friends should be respected. I no longer make any attempt to cultivate a relationship with her. She may consider me toxic or below her station in life, and that’s her prerogative. It’s not up to me to convince her otherwise, nor is it her responsibility to give me another chance. I like her enough to accept her choice even if I don’t fully understand it, and if it feels like a rejection — I know not to take it personally.

You can’t manipulate someone to become your friend and expect a healthy relationship. I’ve been acquaintance-zoned, and that’s the way it is.

Friendship is complex; you don’t always get closure or the answers you seek. I’m lucky I have wonderful friends willing to overlook my flaws, failures, and major social missteps. I don’t need to beg them for admittance to their life as if it were an exclusive club.


Sophia and I will always have Fat Camp — a tie that bonds whether you want it to or not.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.