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Surviving The O-J Friendship Dilemma

What to do when you discover you are not your best buddy's favorite friend.

There she was, one of America’s silver screen sweethearts, Ms. Julia Roberts, beaming with that famous toothy smile of hers.

She gushed about how important her friendship with Oprah Winfrey is. “I consider you my BEST friend,” she said while on Oprah’s show.

In response, Oprah smiled, nodded, and Aww, I love you too ‘d. The friends held hands and then continued on with the interview.

But here’s the problem: Oprah didn’t respond to Julia Roberts with “You’re my BFF, too!”

That’s because the #1 slot in Oprah’s heart is already taken by Gayle King—the woman tied so tightly to Oprah’s hip that tabloids had nothing better to do than fabricate stories of their lesbian love affair.

And there we have it: Oprah and Julia are ranked differently on each other’s friendship hierarchy list. In their honor, this common phenomenon is something I have called the O-J Friendship Dilemma.

And uh oh. It’s AWKWARD! (And heartbreaking.)

It Can Happen To Anyone

I recently found out that I’m my best friend’s Julia Roberts. I cried myself into a puddle of tears and boogies when reality set in. But when you’re devastated, heartbroken, and confused you can’t help but break out the “ugly cry”.

And one of my co-workers (I’ll call him Joe) recently learned that he is someone’s Oprah. He was stuck between guilt and ambivalence about having been selected as a groomsman of a childhood buddy whom he hadn’t felt close to in about a decade.

In an ideal world, love is fair, equal, reciprocated, and unchanging. But the hard truth of life is that your reality (Yay, we’re best friends! Let’s ride a tandem bike together and pedal off into the sunset!) is not always the same as other people’s reality (We were close at one point in time but dude…I just don’t feel the same way anymore. I’m so SO sorry.).

Friendships are what they are. And while there’s always room and time for things to change, you never have complete control over where you rank on your friends’ lists.

Now What?

Are we doomed to a lifetime of sorrow, regret, or guilt about the state of our own O-J Friendship Dilemma?


I believe that you can live in the sobering reality of your O-J friendships without it destroying you. Here are two ingredients that helped me do it:

  • Full acceptance (by way of gratitude): Sure, I’m my best friend’s Julia Roberts…but time cannot erase my gratitude for all our memories made, nor all the ones we have yet to make. We hang out just as often as we used to, and our friendship feels just as easy and simple as it always has. So no matter my rank on her list, our hilarious and supportive friendship remains unchanged.
  • Perspective (again, by way of gratitude): My life is full of love from so many sources—my family, husband, friends, kitty babies, and the Love that ties me to nature, animals, strangers and enemies. I feel whole.

As for Joe being someone’s Oprah…well, he’s still navigating his way through the complexity of it all. And while they may never wind up with the same rank on each others friendship hierarchy list, there’s genuine love and care there.

Your Turn: Have you ever had to endure the O-J Friendship Dilemma? How did you get through it?

Read more of this writer's PG-13 antics at A Brave Life .

Copyright Kimberly Eclipse