Live Through This

A Girl’s Best Friend

Man, I love platonic crushes.

Illustration by Hattie

First, before anyone else, there was Sarah.

Sarah had owl-round glasses and spotless white leather Keds. She wore them with neatly turned down white ankle socks, and I would study her out of the corners of my eyes in our third-grade class, wondering how she always stayed so clean.

Sarah was like an exotic creature to me: she smelled sweet and powdery, actually enjoyed her piano lessons, and could do a perfect penny drop off the monkey bars, landing on her feet. Sarah had a big house and, best of all, a father who felt really super bad about divorcing Sarah’s mom and so bought Sarah anything she wanted when he came to visit.

A piano in her bedroom. Pretty gold necklaces. Afternoons riding horses on trails. The world belonged to Sarah.

And she shared. At recess, Sarah would go with me to the out-of-bounds hill behind school and open the pockets of her turquoise-and-pink puffy winter coat. Inside the warm dark of the pockets, a treasure trove of Jolly Ranchers gleamed like gems—cherry, grape, watermelon. I’d close my eyes, reach into her pockets, and pick a candy. We’d lie back on the frost-hard hill, sucking the Jolly Ranchers into sharp spears that could stab your tongue, and watch geese leaving for the winter, honking above our puffs of breath.

Sarah and I lived in a private world. We tolerated the other kids at school, but they would never have what we had. Through Sarah, I learned something for the first time: girls are wonderful.

I realized that girls exactly my age, who lived just a few streets away, had ideas I, a sheltered Mormon kid, had never even thought of; parents who didn’t believe in God; knowledge about things I’d never even heard of. Unreal.

I cannot, thinking over my entire life so far, remember ever having a truly good friend who was a boy. It was like they didn’t even exist to me. In my world, boys were funny sometimes, and it was important to get them to like you, but they didn’t really matter. It was the girls I felt I had to get in with; the girls who created the complex social structure that was elementary, middle, and high school life.

Over the years, I developed a pattern: I would become rapid best friends with a girl and absolutely lose myself in her. This started in middle school. Andrea, with her glinting auburn hair and freckles on pale Irish skin, watching The Secret Garden with me over and over again in her bedroom. Rebecca’s curly red ponytail and clicking retainer; her complete disregard for the standard nights of the week for sleepovers. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday –why shouldn’t I sleep over? Kelly with her innate understanding of eye makeup and the importance of Cosmo quizzes.

Each new best-friendship completely consumed me. I would study each new girl: how she walked, what she said, where she bought her jeans. Slowly, I would begin to like the things each girl liked, and she would like all my things, and we would declare undying love to each other and then basically consume each other in a frenzy of girl-worship. It was great. Through my serious obsessions with other girls, I learned to love (in no particular order): origami, The Baby-sitters Club, Saltines, incense, vintage stores, kitschy car air fresheners, The Golden Girls, Dostoyevsky, reality TV, expensive lipstick, Nerds candy, sushi, Ani DiFranco, Nine Inch Nails, baking.

In high school I began noticing, really noticing, how beautiful my friends were. I wanted to hang out with them all the time—smell all the perfume bottles on the tops of their dressers, read every book they’d ever read, hear all the songs playing in their headphones. I wanted to be close to them. Or be them. I didn’t know which one it was. I’m queer now, but it definitely wasn’t a queer thing. I loved these girls platonically, and I loved them completely.

Sarah from my childhood turned into Sarah with a nose ring and ever-changing hair colors. She listened to Tori Amos and made wall-size collages on her bedroom wall of sulking models walking through forests in gauzy dresses. We’d drive around town for hours in her car, Sarah ashing her cigarette out the window and stopping at gas stations to buy fizzy water.

Guess who did all those things too? Guess who also liked Tori Amos and fizzy water and collages ripped from the pages of Vogue? I lost myself in obsessions with my girl friends.

With each girl, the intense friendship would burn brightly for about a year, and then…something would happen. I’d get annoyed with her; she’d find a new circle of friends; someone would get a boyfriend and lose interest. My mom was constantly asking, “What happened to Abby?” and “Hey, what ever happened to Anna? Did you guys get in a fight?” I had no explanation. We had drifted apart. We were interested in different things. But we had actually used each other up in a fiery ball of obsession.

Lots of girls go through this with each other. I mean lots of girls. Intense love, the semi-awe of a cool girl sharing all her secrets with you—it’s heady stuff. There’s a reason why they make movies like The Craft and Thelma and Louise. Female friendship can be extremely intense.

Amazingly, I managed to keep a few of my intense friendships going over the years. Sarah is still around—we even live in the same city now! We’re far less obsessed with each other than we were as teenagers, but still—it is SO COOL to have known and loved someone since she was eight years old, and to see that person as a grown-ass woman, with a job where she’s in charge and a whole grown-up life. And we still do some of the stuff we’ve always done—she still drives around with me buying fizzy water at the 7-Eleven, and we’ve recently discovered the joy of those really big cans of Arizona peach green tea. (For which I have no words, other than HOW CAN IT TASTE SO GOOD?) And Kelly is still one of my closest friends. (She still reads Cosmo and takes it seriously. I can’t get her to stop.) But the rest have just…drifted away. And I don’t think anybody really minds.

However, I sometimes still get that same ol’ omg-you’re-so-cool-let’s-be-best-friends-holy-shit-you’re-awesome feeling about new friends in my life. It happens less these days, but eeeeevery once in a while…you just click with a girl. Right away. She seems really cool and one day you share a tiny moment and you look at each other and suddenly realize you’re going to be friends.

That feeling! Man, I love falling in friend-love, and I can’t wait for the next time it happens. ♦

33 Comments

  • face6211 April 30th, 2012 7:16 PM

    This is absolutely wonderful. I love the feeling of platonic love. And I’ve always found myself to commit to platonic relationships with an intensity my love life is jealous of. Amazingly written. :)

  • Emmy April 30th, 2012 7:23 PM

    I love this. I feel the exact same way, although I usually get annoyed with my friends after several months. I’m going through it right now, but I feel terrible about dropping someone so quickly after we were so close–or at least as close a friendship as I’ve had.

  • MissKnowItAll April 30th, 2012 7:29 PM

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way. For me it was a girl named Avery. She was so mesmerizing. She was the only girl in our 4th grade class with shiny wispy blonde hair. We bonded over our love for Arthur and Elvis Presley. Everything she did was just so right. She was like a fairy and I truly did have a girl crush. I still keep in touch with her and the last time I saw her, she had dyed her blonde hair pink. We’re both straight but whenever I think of my first love, Avery always comes to mind.

  • KinuKinu April 30th, 2012 7:34 PM

    This is so awesome. Friend-love is amazing. I’ve fallen many times. I had a friend, Emerald. I miss her a lot and I wish I see her again! Jasmine was another love of mine. She was really nice and she always tried to make other people happy before she was happy. She was awesome. Annnnnnd,Taylor. She was my biggest obsession and I think I can safely say the feeling was mutual. I wish I could remember her e-mail address. We were so close. She came to Florida for the summer and went to my camp. We only knew each other for 2 and a half months but we became best friends in a matter of weeks. She gave me her e-mail address before she left and I e-mailed her a few times. At the time, I was borrowing my dad’s email. He’s had, like, 4 addresses since then…….so…….I wish I could talk to her.
    And Sarah. Wow,she was awesome. I miss all my major friend-loves. I hope I get to meet new people soon. I’m majorly deprived of friends.

  • EmilyJn April 30th, 2012 7:35 PM

    This is the best, seriously, Rookie is weirdly co-ordinated with my life atm – this came at the right moment
    Thanks

    • EmilyJn April 30th, 2012 7:39 PM

      I just realised what this reminds me of – that quote from My So Called Life:
      “Oh, you know kids. They find one person and they just can’t get enough of them! It’s like being in love, only they’re not allowed to have sex.”

  • moonchild April 30th, 2012 7:56 PM

    God this is so cool!

    For me it was pretty different, I mean, you said that you were never good friends with boys… Up until about middle school, I was ONLY friends with boys. And I was never crushing on them or anything, and I also wasn’t a “tomboy”, I was kind of girly. I’ve had four guy best friends… But now I have just a couple “GUY FRIENDS” and mostly giiiirlfriends. But for me I was friends with one boy for most of elementary school and we totally had that “lost-in-our-own-world” thing going. But it was never romantic or obsessive.

    I loved the article!

    Love,
    Gwen
    http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/

    • starcollector April 30th, 2012 8:13 PM

      Me too! I was kind of a tomboy though, but not completely. I remember being such good friends with this boy named George all through elementary school, and I even remember sleeping over at his house, listening to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on tape while we fell asleep.

  • lylsoy April 30th, 2012 8:06 PM

    This is so absolutely beautiful and true! Especially the drifting-apart thing! Sometimes when me and one of my old best friends chat we revive the whole “i miss you and love you so much”- thing and swear to meet up again, but it never happens. It’s sad, but there’ll always be another girl that I can be obsessed with xoxo

  • Sunshine April 30th, 2012 8:08 PM

    Platonic love is amazing. :)

  • starcollector April 30th, 2012 8:10 PM

    Man, I want this so bad. I think the last time I was in friend-love with a girl was when I was in eighth grade. That’s like at the top of my life-wish-list right now. SLEEPOVERS! I miss them. Why does anyone have to grow up? :(

    http://china-lily.blogspot.com/

  • Claudia April 30th, 2012 8:55 PM

    Interesting post! I really wish I had a best friend like that. I want it so bad!

  • pinky April 30th, 2012 9:05 PM

    This reminds me of a quote from Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan that talks about how the phrase “more than friends” is pointless because dating really isn’t more than friends and how there is nothing more than friendship. I love it. Platonic love is the best.

  • Mollie April 30th, 2012 9:21 PM

    i think i’m in friend love with my roommate

  • hannachronism April 30th, 2012 9:39 PM

    Oh, hello, my life. Except I had lots of awkward unrequited friend love where I was like OMG BFF!!! and they were like, hey…

    • Ellie May 1st, 2012 12:37 PM

      Ugh. That’s really awful. I hate that feeling.

  • spatergator April 30th, 2012 9:41 PM

    This flooded me with emotions. I travelled for a minute with you, and back with my own stories. Thanks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvlhrUoybYc

  • SaraMel91 April 30th, 2012 10:02 PM

    I absolutely loved this and know the feeling well. One of the girls in one super-intense-girl-friendship told me her mom says people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I like that – I’d like to think everyone I meet has a purpose in my life, no matter how small.

  • EveyMarrie April 30th, 2012 10:42 PM

    Oh god, I do this all the time. I fall in friend-love with them, but once they’re spent, I leave them behind and it’s not like I want to, but god, I’m bored and it becomes a drag having to put up a front with people. BLEH. Platonic love is tough sometimes haha

  • emcarls April 30th, 2012 11:00 PM

    I do this too!! I love all my friends so much!

  • airaburabu April 30th, 2012 11:59 PM

    I have never felt that way. I’m still bored to death by girls and girltalk today… Seems like I’m the only one.

    • gato May 1st, 2012 12:15 AM

      yr not alone! im a girl and didnt really clicked with girl-friends until high school. as long as you’re not feeling lonely i dont think there’s anything wrong with that.

  • mayaautumn May 1st, 2012 2:33 AM

    <3<3<3<3<3
    brilliantness!

    my first ever 'falling in friend love thing' was with a boy..we were about four and best friends until we were about nine – so it was a pretty long-lasting friendship! but, yeah, we did sort of stray apart and i made 'girlfriends' and we're all still amazingly close which is great! but i can really relate to all of this – my best friend (girl) and i were like obsessed with having the same things, we were convinced we were twins and had to do everything together.
    …we still think that and still do everything together, so nothing's changed there!
    but hey, what's wrong with that?!

    also, this is one of the most bestest articles on rookie so far :) and webs basically all if this i can relate to!

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.com

  • FossilisedUnicorn May 1st, 2012 8:30 AM

    Aww, this makes me wish I had friendships like these. I find it really hard to connect with people I guess…

  • darksideoftherainbow May 1st, 2012 9:31 AM

    my bff and i call each other our platonic life partners! we even have our own special symbol. did i mention that we’re 25? yup, the need for platonic life partners never dies.

  • viva_diz May 1st, 2012 9:56 AM

    sorry, but it is very strange. I can’t understand the feelings that are described in this story. They are amazing, I know. But it is very hard to make up my mind and change friends frequently.

  • Ellie May 1st, 2012 12:33 PM

    I love this so much. So perfect.

  • HarrietIsAPirate May 1st, 2012 4:29 PM

    This is the sort of thing that kind of depresses me because I have no friends who are girls. At all!

    Admittedly I only have three friends anyway, but all of them are dudes.

    I envy the friendships that other girls seem to have, the closeness and the ability to tell each other anything at all. I’ve never had that kind of friendship and I really, really want it.

    Boys are great and all, but it’s just not the same as friendship between girls.

  • AnguaMarten May 1st, 2012 8:46 PM

    huh. i’ve never been like that. i don’t really “do” best friends, and the ones i have, i’ve had since kindergarten. the rest of my friends are people i eat lunch with, talk with, and party with, but never just hang out with. i’ve never had that intense, obsessive, new-friendlove before. honestly, kinda glad i didn’t. it’s not for me.

  • caro nation May 2nd, 2012 12:01 AM

    Pauline and Juliet.

    The catalysts for this entire reality trope.

  • Stacey May 2nd, 2012 12:05 AM

    I loved this! I know exactly how you feel. I’m still close with most of the friends I’ve gotten this close with! And even the ones I’m not so close with, it’s great to see them every now and then, talk about the good ol’ days, and then move on in our lives. Thank you for this post. Reminded me how good life is.

  • isadora May 2nd, 2012 12:07 AM

    I absolutely love this text, even though I’m tending on having longer friendships now (and with less obsession). But I still love that feeling of knowing you will be friends.

    (This text also reminds me of White Stripes’ We are Going to Be Friends)

  • Hoodfemme May 7th, 2012 8:11 PM

    Ahhhh the first girl, in elementary school. Her name was Chardonnay. She was waifer thin, with flowy soft brunette hair and olive skin for her Italian mom. We did all types of things together. When we’d fight every once in a while she would suddenly break up our friend-ship and I would mope in private because I’m tough. Then the next day she’d put us back together. it was tumultuous but we were honest friends. And then after the 5th grade kiddie-graduation dance we spent the night at her house, where she placed her hands gently on my face and kissed me square on my 10 year-old lips. We held each other all night. After graduation, I never saw her again…