I cherish my friends, as you probably do too. As every girl knows, there are a special few in whom you can confide and trust completely; who know you through and through, and can tell you when you're screwing up and you know they're right.
Most importantly, these are the special few who feel secure and confident and whole in your presence -- and vice-versa -- so you can tell each other, "You're beautiful", "You're talented", and "You're lovable", which are things everyone needs to hear sometimes.
If you're a guy, it may not be clear what this means; but in female relationships, I think there is often a sort of jockeying for position which happens when they first get to know each other; and in these early stages, before you really know and trust each other, it's hard to relinquish power for many women. Telling another woman she's beautiful or talented or loveable would mean giving her the upper hand. Not all women are like this, but insecurity in general seems to be an epidemic which rides in the double-X chromosome pairing; and the neurotic behaviors that manifest as a result are often the things we as women hate about each other.
So, this is the story of how I met my five closest friends.
Lucian and I met in high school, when I was in 10th grade and she was in 9th, standing at the school bus stop in our neighborhood. She was really shy and I was really outgoing; I'm sure we would never have become friends were it not that a mutual acquaintance of ours was objective enough to see we might just hit it off, and clueless enough to not notice we were avoiding each other. Here's the problem: Lucian and I, with all our style differences, were wearing the same jacket. In high school, it's a crime and an embarrassment to see elements of your own wardrobe on a stranger; and compulsory to see them on your closest friends.
Like in seventh grade, the popular girls used to come into the bathroom and turn their backsides to the big mirror and ask each other, "Does my butt look okay?" (I'm serious, they really did this!). But you'd never, never ask a girl from outside your own clique their opinion of your ass; I'm sure that would break a number of the laws of cliquishness. You might, however, offer your opinion of theirs, if your clique outranked theirs.
Sigh. I always seemed to be in the lower-ranking cliques, or worse -- without one at all.
Anyway, very importantly, the jacket issue forced Lucian and me together, because regardless of our differences, it was not really a cool jacket, purchased at Kmart; and it forced us to acknowledge that we shared a similar feature: Relative unpopularity.
From there, it's a funny thing... I really don't remember how we got to be friends. I remember the things we used to do together, like sunbathing at the pool in my apartment complex, or riding her little scooter around together, or singing campfire songs in harmony. But I don't remember really becoming friends; it just sort of happened.
After 17 years, we've maintained a relationship which has survived so much change and heartache, and yet we still understand each other; it's kind of like how I imagine marriage might be, many years down the road.
I love telling the story of how Amber and I met. It was my first year of college, and I had just recently cut off and bleached all my long blonde hair and gone "alternative." In the primarily Christian middle-class white Republican suburban community from which we hail, my new look was wildly unpopular; and I had adopted somewhat of an attitude in defense.
Amber, I was to learn, had been a punk in the early eighties; she'd had pink hair, snuck into gigs, and lived on the streets of Hollywood just for the hell of it. She was pretty much over it when I met her, and was going the opposite direction: growing her hair out, going a little more natural.
I was waiting for a friend to get out of class, and I was sitting on a big rock outside the door of his classroom. There I was, looking like a freak, sitting on a rock. What am I going to do but pout and try desperately to look cool? Along comes Amber: Confident, sassy, wise, no-bullshit; even from the first time I've ever seen her face. And she stops in front of me and starts laughing. Let me tell you, that can put a kink in the "cool" act right away.
I looked up at her, and she says the magic word: "Smile!" I had been called out. I started laughing, at myself and at her audacity. I liked her right away. Again, I really don't remember how we became friends after that; I just remember lying on her bed listening to bands: The Cure and Love & Rockets, and oddly enough, Yes. I realized later that I had seen her before, in a story in the local Camarillo newspaper during Christmas one year. She was talking about buying a Christmas tree flocked purple. Just my kind of girl! To this day, we share a love of all things sparkly, share clothes and jewelry, and revel in life and love and the dark side of things.
Ah, Shelly, the prodigal daughter. We met when she was in high school and I was in college, and she was taking advanced placement classes at my school. She walked into my photography class, spotted the only person in the room with purple hair, and sat herself down next to me! We kind of looked at each other a little bit throughout class, and when it came time to choose a locker-mate, I turned to her and said, "So, wanna share a locker?" That was that.
We met twice a week to develop and print photos, until the fateful day that she was headed out of class to buy tickets for a Skinny Puppy show in L.A.
"Hey," she asked, "Wanna go see Skinny Puppy?"
"Holy shit, Skinny Puppy is playing!? Yeah I wanna go!"
"Well come on, I'm going to buy tickets now!"
We took her little blue Buick Opal to the record store and bought ourselves tickets. And let me tell you, that was an excellent show! From then on, we lived a weekend regimen which went like this: Saturday evening, she'd come over to my place where we'd spend two hours in the bathroom putting on makeup, then drive an hour to L.A., chugging coffee and blasting tapes. We'd head to the big goth club of the day, Zombie Zoo, and dance the night away; then mingle and eat potato knishes at Canter's Deli until 4 or 5am with friends; then dash home and try to get inside before the sun came up.
We slept together in my bed or hers, snuggling and purring; and in the morning she would head off to her job at the fabric store and that would be it until class that week.
It was Shelly who first moved to San Francisco, around 1991, and when I moved here 6 years later with Ashley, she was the only friend I had here. Our relationship now is so different, though; we don't go to clubs anymore, and the pursuit of pleasure no longer really comprises our time together. Though she's younger than me, she's my guru. She searches for knowledge and ideas, and for spiritual meaning, and she assimilates the things she learns into her belief system. Yes, we all do that; Shelly, however, is relentless and persistent and has made this acquisition of understanding her raison d'etre. She is the wisest, most soulful and loving person I know. Time we spend together is now very introspective and warm, and we learn things about ourselves every time we sit down together.
Now it's time for That Fuchsia-Haired Chick, wheee!
Silly, fun, delicious and delightful Gina, my partner in crime. Like I said, when I moved to San Francisco, Shelly was my only friend here. While she lived here, Shelly was close friends with Gina. When I moved here, Shelly was just about to move to Portland, Oregon; so she did an important thing. She brought together Gina and me. And like the priest joining a couple in holy union, she (in a manner of speaking) put my hand in Gina's and blessed us as her two best friends, to carry on without her, supporting each other. Believe it or not it worked, we hit it off right away.
Gina and I never went through that phase I described earlier of resisting or fearing sharing deeply with each other. Our first "date" was dinner and coffee, where we talked about everything... all the things nobody but our closest friends and lovers would know about us. It turned out we had a lot of these secrets and traumas and historical details in common, so we were always equal.
We can be stupid and fearful and screwed-up and goofy together, and we give each other support and love and friendship which only girls can share. It took a while, even after sharing our most intimate details, to really get to know each other; but now I'd call her my best friend, and in fact she is sitting a few feet away from me as I write this.
"Hi!", she says, feigning a Texas accent.
"I just finished writing about you," I tell her.
"Uh-oh!", she laughs in reply. We're going to eat pancakes after this.
The person to most recently join my beloved circle of pals is Stefanie, who hails from the Stuttgart region of Germany. Stefanie was hired as a design intern at Soohoo design, where I worked, about two years ago. Soohoo was a small firm with only six of us, and I had failed to develop relationships with any of the others outside work. The only other women were my boss, who is a decade older than myself, and the production manager, who was a prissy uptight girl I really could just barely tolerate.
When, one morning, I came in to work to find we had a new member, I was overjoyed to see another woman on board. I went and introduced myself right away. She was tall, elegant, beautiful, exotic, and when I looked at her portfolio I saw that she was also an extraordinary designer. I immediately started inviting her over, taking her out, bringing her to meet my other friends. I felt like I had waited a long time for her, somehow.
We ended up working together, alone in the same office, for about a year; we'd listen to CD's, and get frustrated at the clients and each other, and teach each other software and computer tricks, and share design ideas, and talk about boys and insecurity and relationships and work. She reminded me so much of myself; we have the same style and the same neurotic tendencies.
One thing I really love about her is that she is more aware of herself than most people; like when I said before, how we rely on our friends to tell us when we're being dorks (thanks, Amber!) - Stefanie always knows already.
She's so independent, and secure with her insecurities. She's vivacious and lively and moody and incredibly talented; she's very... complete. She manages to have the same needs and fears and desires as all the rest of us, but look brilliant and kick-ass doing it.