In second grade, I spent my recesses pretending to be a horse. I did this because my best friend at the time, a freckled girl with long stringy hair, was obsessed with horses. At that time in my life, I loved figure skating. My uncle had taken me to the ice capades and that triggered my deep obsession with the sport and all of the figure skaters. We took turns, as good friends do, rotating between being horses and figure skaters during recess. It goes without saying, but we weren’t popular. We were the weird kids, galloping around the playground, neighing like horses, or jumping and twirling like figure skaters. I didn’t have much by way of friends back then, but I always had Nicole, my horse friend. We didn’t care if other kids thought we were weird because we thought we were awesome. There’s a special kind of bond you form with someone when you’re pretending to exist in an imaginary world of your own.
In fourth grade my best friend was a girl named Lindsey. She had blonde hair and cool bangs and she always wore really cool bows in her hair. She was the first person to make me a mix tape. She gave it to me for my birthday, and it had my favorite song from Tom Petty on it, but it also had Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Spin Doctors, who were bands that I was not cool enough to know on my own. Lindsey was quieter than I was, but she was funny, and we spent a lot of time laughing together. I would call her so much on the phone that I still remember her home phone number to this day.
I had some really bad experiences with friends in sixth grade, and as a result i was terrified to start junior high. The summer before seventh grade, I met a girl named Tangee. Tangee was a year older than I was, and she was the coolest girl I had ever met. She had long blonde hair and dark eyelashes that looked like spider legs, in a good way. She taught me about music. I would spend Friday nights in her grandparents’ basement listening to Alanis Morissette and Radiohead. Before Tangee, I thought all music was pop music. She taught me how to use mascara and wear perfume. The first time I ever went to the mall or a movie without a grown-up was with Tangee. Our parents would drop us off and we would shop around and spend our allowance on pointless things like fake earrings and mini backpacks. One time we tricked our parents into thinking we got our noses pierced. I don’t recommend doing that, they didn’t think it was funny.
After a couple of lonely weeks as a seventh grader, I met a girl named Karen and although she had lots of friends, she was my only friend for a while. The first time I made a prank phone call was with Karen. We called Burger King and McDonald’s and sang stupid songs. At that point in my life, it was the funniest thing I had ever done. On school picture day, there was an option to take “friend photos”, which essentially was a group photos with all of your friends. I took a picture with Karen. For my birthday, she gave me a case of flavored water, because at the time it was all the rage and only really cool people drank it. I had to carry the case of water around with me all day long, and I loved it because I felt so cool to have a friend who liked me enough to bring me a birthday present to school.
In eighth grade, my family moved and I had to start over at a new school, where I didn’t know anyone. During my first week, I noticed a girl in my Spanish class named Heather, who laughed when the teacher told us the Spanish word for “pencil sharpener” (“sacapuntas”). Maybe it was our affinity for words that contain the word “poo” in them, or maybe we were both equally lonely. Whatever the reason, Heather and I formed a friendship and she quickly became my best friend. We met up with each other between classes and had sleepovers every weekend. She introduced me to the Burger King chicken sandwich (life changing), and defended me when kids called me “Flabby Gabby”. One time, she and I ran all the way home from school together because the school bully was trying to beat me up. I had my suitcase and pillow with me because I was sleeping over at her house, so that gives you an idea of how fast we ran (hint: not fast).
In tenth grade, I met Allison. Allison sang along to cheesy 90’s pop songs with me. To this day, when I hear Celine Dion or Mariah Carey, I think of Allison and the “concerts” we would have in her room. We used to set up photo shoots in our bedrooms and take pictures of ourselves with disposable cameras. We bought binders at the store and covered them in stickers and magazine cutouts of celebrities we thought were cute. We would make frozen tortellini and eat it while we watched our favorite television shows. At school we would write each other notes and fold them up into tight, small triangles, and write things like “4 UR EYES ONLY” on them. Allison knew who my crushes were, and she would always try to arrange scenarios where I could stand by them, or be at the same party they were at. I didn’t know it at the time, but not all friends respected crushes the way Allison did.
These girls were all a friend to me at a time in my life where I really needed a friend, and their friendship is priceless to me, still to this day. Some friendships aren’t forever, but the impact they have on you is. Each of these friendships taught me something different. I learned not to care so much about what other people think, and how to stand up for myself. I learned the importance of having a good friend, and I learned how to be a good friend in return. I don’t see any of these girls anymore, but they were all my best friend at different times in my youth. One of these relationships ended badly, but the others ended simply because we grew apart and stopped hanging out. It happened naturally, like the way you outgrow a sweater or a pair of shoes. Friendships are kind of like clothes, the way that they can rotate in and out of our lives. When I buy a shirt, I never think about the fact that there will come a time when it I will grow out of it, although inevitably that day comes. Shirts and hoodies that once were favorites will get pushed further and further back into my closet until one day they get thrown away altogether. Occasionally, I’ll come across an item in my closet that’s hard for me to toss out. Sometimes I haven’t worn the item in years, and even still, I won’t get rid of it. I tuck it in the back of my closet, hoping one day it will fit me again. Thinking maybe one day it will be relevant in my life, and that I’ll want to wear it. Sometimes that’s the case, and sometimes it isn’t.
If clothes are like friendships, or friendships like clothes, it’s true that there are some friendships I can’t throw out. I’ll go through my life and rifle through the unnecessary or bad friends and get rid of them, but there are times when I come across a person who is hard to throw out. I consider it, but then decide to tuck them away in the back of my closet where they’ll remain, waiting to be relevant, waiting to be current, waiting to be needed. I used to get depressed thinking about old friends and how I don’t see them anymore, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve learned to be grateful for the great friendships I’ve been able to have, however fleeting they have been. I wish I could say that as you get older, you make more long-lasting friendships, but that hasn’t been the case for me. I have more temporary best friends as an adult than I ever had as a kid. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s pretty amazing to be connected in such a way to so many women. I’m thankful for all of the “best” friendships I’ve had in my life, short and long term. I will always have those memories in the closet of my mind, like the hoodie I can’t throw out. It’s not something I wear anymore, but it will always be important to me.