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It's Nice to Have a Friend: An Account of Friendships Throughout the Ages

Karen is from Connecticut. She has a degree in education. She loves game shows, animals, the beach, and her family.

It's Nice to Have a Friend

I don’t have girlfriends like I used to when I was in high school and college, and that’s a shame. It might be a sign of the times, or my age, which seems to be increasing exponentially with no regard for my pleas of mercy. It may be that I am to blame for my lack of female pals. I have nothing against blaming myself. I’m pretty used to it. I understand I can be too chatty. Maybe it’s that I don’t answer texts quickly enough, or maybe I answer them too quickly. Possibly this radio silence from girlfriends is a punishment for leaving a lengthy voicemail years ago. No one’s going to check that shit. We see that you called.

It seems imperative to mention that most of these long-ago girlfriends I pine for are strapped down with bumbling (ex)husbands and/or bratty kids that couldn’t survive a handful of hours without them. I don’t blame them for that, as it seems to be the path of least resistance in our society. I have not taken a pious stand against these status symbols. I just wasn’t chosen when class was pairing up I guess. And as time goes on it seems to matter less to me. It’s just the hand I was dealt.

But, back to the friends of my youth. We had such fun. I don’t know how much of it makes sense for 30-somethings, but I can pretend. In highschool, I had a girlfriend, Jackie, who I just knew I could count on for weekend plans. These plans would generally involve watching movies in her bedroom or driving around aimlessly with her boyfriend. He became essential for having a driver’s license and a used Honda; a vital component to any weekend night. We’d jump around lip-syncing Jennifer Lopez songs and trying on way too much makeup. We would have important conversations ranking Yankees plays based on their hotness. I picked her up for school every morning. We’d share clothes. We knew each other’s orders at Chili’s and Dairy Queen. The pairing fit like a glove.

Occasionally we’d go to an all-ages dance club night. This inevitably involved trying on dozens of outfits and freezing our asses off in line outside waiting to get in. We felt so grown up. I’m not sure why we wanted to grow up so fast. It came quickly enough on its own.

I’m not exactly sure what she’s up to now, but the gossip hasn’t been complementary. She’s had a police record and a drug problem. I certainly don’t know why and how the cards end up falling as they do. Maybe there was something I could have done, but I doubt it. That thought process gives me way more power than I’d ever really have.

I remember meeting my best college friend, Kerri, with as much detail as I most remember meeting their spouses. It was on Valentine’s Day. We were both newly single. We were paired together by a mutual friend like a friend blind date, but it was really just a bunch of us girls celebrating what’s now called a Galentine’s day. We went to a bar and drank too much. We bashed our exes with a vengeance generally only reserved for serial killers. I fell on the way back to the dorms. I was wearing light colored pants and heels I had no business wearing. She didn’t let me feel stupid. We laughed and I brushed it off. It was basically friendship love at first sight. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? They called us a perfect pair, because in many ways we were ying and yang, while also being alike in some ways. She was tall and blonde, smart and kind in a chipper sort of way, and up for anything. I was short and brunette. Most of what I’d say on any given day could cut like a knife. I was(am) what you might call too smart for my own good. I was kind, but in a different way. Perennially the cat in your lap that might turn on you at any moment. Also, I was up for anything.

She and I would spend (too much) time talking about boys over AOL instant messenger, cause we’re that old. No Facebook. She was my friend who would hold my hair when I puked up vodka cranberries that I wasn’t old enough to drink, and I’d hold her hair when she puked up vodka tonics. I’d even wash her vomit off the passenger’s side door of my car the next morning.

Sometimes putting us together was like adding fuel to a fire. A recipe for calamity, also known as fun times. One time we parked the car behind an apartment complex right off the UMD campus with our purses and real and fake IDs inside, visible. Obviously since this is a story worth telling, it was broken into. Back windows smashed. I approached the car the next morning in last night’s clothes with my heels in my hand saying “what’s all this glass doing around here?” You know, a real class act. We’re sitting on the curbs calling our dads for advice, like the adults we were. The police ended up calling my phone to tell me they found our wallets by the side of the road later that same day. We drive down to the department, empty space where the windows would be, to be handed our fake and real ids. The police gave us back our face IDs. That was our luck. Another weekend the same semester, I dropped her off at the door of the bar to go park. By the time I got in she had two off-duty cops waiting to buy us drinks; the four of us passing around a goofy bowler hat that I thought was so cool.

Kerri was a true Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder. She egged me on and agreed with my decision to throw a shoe at my ex-boyfriend. She set me up with a perfect opportunity to meet a new crush. I was her maid-of-honor too. She most likely regrets that decision, but it was definitely an honor. I flew in from out of state. My flight was delayed, and I missed the rehearsal dinner. My luggage and dress got lost on the plane ride, and I missed getting my hair and nails done replacing it. I refused basically all of the food at the ceremony, because I am, to this day, horribly fussy, but I was there for her in every other way I could be, even though I knew our friendship was forever changing that day. Kerri isn’t a woman you’d have to worry about though. She excelled in law school and life. She’s happy and settled nicely across the country. I’m pretty sure I still have that embarrassing bowler hat though.

Both of these girls, now women, had the ability to make me feel like I didn’t have to “be on” in their presence. I could be who I was. Whether I was mad, sad, dopey, giddy, whatever. They don’t make friendships like that when you're an adult. That friendship breeds in close quarters, feeding on alcohol, glitter, gossip, and mistakes. When you’re in high school or college you’re surrounded by your peers day in and day out. You have ample opportunities to try out friendships and get to know people more intimately. In college you typically even live in a dorm with tons of them and eat in a dining hall with them. The people on these campuses tend to be like-minded and/or open-minded. They are open to new knowledge and novel experiences. Hell, maybe I’d still be in college if it wasn’t so damn expensive.

I’ve seen female friendships in adulthood, mostly condescendingly portrayed by film and television. They celebrate brunch and wine and lengthy discussions about pre-school choice. This is no club I wish to join. I mean, I like brunch as much as the next person, but I’m nowhere close to a Stepford Wife. For now I’ll be satisfied with my memories. They don’t leave glitter all over the place and there’s no hangover.

© 2022 Karen Michelle C