Crusher Erin, 16 (well, almost—her birthday’s next week), and crushee Marissa, 16, have been study buddies and best friends since seventh grade. They believe they are basically the same person; we believe that they are equally wonderful and charming, at the very least.
SUBJECT: Friend Crush
Marissa and I met in grade school during a really intense after-school academic program where we were friendly, but not necessarily close. We really bonded after getting into the same middle school, and over time, she became my best friend and my sister from another mister. One evening after school, her mom took us out to dinner at the restaurant around the corner, and she “adopted” me into their family. I literally call her parents my parents, and I love them like my real parents.
We’ve been friends for more than four years, and we’re together much every second. After school, we relocate to a classroom. Sometimes we have dance parties, sometimes we do our homework and listen to music. She makes me laugh so much. We’ve proven to multiple people that we are the same person. (It’s actually scary—sometimes we think and say the exact same things.) Last fall she went away to another school for a semester, and I caught myself crying on several occasions before she even left. She’s smart, she’s gorgeous, she’s funny. She motivates me and inspires me and she’s such a good person. I love her so, so much.
ROOKIE: Why did you decide to nominate Marissa for friend crush?
ERIN [crusher]: She was about to leave our school for a semester. I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice if I got this published for her as a going-away present? While I was writing it I realized how…I mean, I’ve always realized how good of friends we are, but I realized how important she is to me. Even rereading my letter yesterday, I was like, I’m not sure this captures enough how important she is to me.
Have you ever told her that you feel that way?
Yes, but probably not as strongly as it needs to be emphasized.
What about her do you love the most?
She’s fun to be around. Friendly. Hardworking. Really studious. Really smart. Woodsy. Talented. Kind of crazy. She’s full of energy and really exuberant. She’s also really confident—and even when she’s not confident, she can fake it. She helps me and pushes me. Sometimes when I’m feeling really lazy and want to procrastinate, she’ll procrastinate with me, but if I really have to get it done, she’ll help me through it and will make sure I stay on track.
How old were you when you met her in the after-school program?
I think we were like 11?
What was the program like?
It was basically like a second school, in a sense, but we were learning more complicated and challenging things. Like, we read the Odyssey.
When you were 11?!
That sounds intense.
Yeah, it was.
Do you remember what you thought of Marissa back then?
She was obviously really smart, because it was a really competitive program. The people she hung out with were also really smart, so I was a little intimidated.
When did you finally feel more comfortable around her?
When we applied to the all-girls independent school we both go to now. I think just being in the same environment, and [both] being new to that environment, made me comfortable.
Are you from the same part of New York? Or were you coming to school from different parts of the city?
We both commute into [Manhattan]. I live in Brooklyn and she lives in Queens, but actually she lives pretty close to me. She’s like 30 or 45 minutes away on the train. I can get off [the train] at a stop that’s literally a half a block from her house.
What are her parents like? You said in your letter that you love them like your real parents.
Her parents are really welcoming. I slept over [at their house] last weekend, and we had a kind of Palentine’s Day event. Her dad and mom gave me a card, which I wasn’t expecting. It said: “You feel like a daughter to us, and you’re Marissa’s sister.” And she gave me some chocolate hearts. We went shopping and bought matching dresses. Then we took this really convoluted route to get home because we had time and thought it would be fun. And when we got home, we watched Jeopardy. We had dinner with her parents, then danced around a little bit and took a bunch of pictures on Photobooth and then went to sleep at like 12. In the morning we made heart-shaped pancakes for her parents and ate breakfast with them. And then we side-by-side online window-shopped.
When Marissa was gone for a semester, what was that like?
It was weird, and this is kind of cheesy, but it was like a part of me was missing. I’d spent so much time with her for four years up until that point. I was happy that she was in a new environment and that she enjoyed it a lot, but it was kind of empty here. I had to separate myself more from her, which I guess allowed me to branch out in my other friendships and make stronger bonds with other people. But I didn’t get to talk to her as much as I usually did, because she was in the country and didn’t have great reception or internet access.
When she came back, had anything changed between you guys?
No. We picked up where we’d left off. Sometimes I look through my phone and look at pictures of things that happened while she was gone that I could have sworn she was here for. It felt like she was in the memories.
Your letter says that you’ve proven to multiple people that you and Marissa are the same person, and I was wondering if, right now, you could prove that to me.
OK. So today, completely unplanned, she came into school wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, a green cardigan, we have the same school skirt, which we both hate, but we both wore it. And we were both wearing Docs. But I had a white-and-black striped sweater and was wearing a green shirt over that. And I walked in and realized that we were basically wearing the exact same thing. And that happens kind of a lot. And then during an assembly today, I was thinking something and she said it out loud.
Do you think you’ll end up at the same college?
We’ve talked about it, but only in passing. Like, what if we did go to the same college together? Part of me wouldn’t be surprised.
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ROOKIE: It sounds like you and Erin are pretty serious about your studies. Is that maybe what brought you together?
MARISSA [crushee]: Our school is generally really competitive, so it’s kind of a common thread throughout our grade to be really focused on studying. But coming from the same program before we started at the same school, that gave us a leg up with the friendship.
What was your impression of Erin then?
When we were in that program, we were in totally different sections. I’d see her occasionally and I knew who her friends were, but I didn’t really know who she was. Then when we started going to the same school, she was really shy at first. So I didn’t get to know her until two or three months into the school year, when she started to open up. She is most certainly not shy around me now. She’s really, really witty. Sometimes when she’s around other people, she doesn’t let her intellectual, funny side show. But she definitely has a kind of dark humor that you have to listen in for. I really appreciate that.
What else is Erin like when she opens up?
Erin is very loving. She has a wonderful sister quality about her. I call her my sister. She’s very easy to like. There’s not much bad about her. She’s very steadfast in what she believes, which is funny because she can also be indecisive. And sometimes those two things conflict. And she’s very similar to me. When people know me, they know what she’s like, too. We’re basically the same person.
She said the same thing!
Did she tell you that today we wore the exact same outfit, down to the colors? That happens often. When we’re having conversations we’ll say the same exact things or think of the same exact references. We watch the same TV shows and listen to the same music. We’re juniors, and we’re applying for colleges, and our college lists from our counselor are identical. We hadn’t even talked about them before.
We have a very lax attitude about school. Our school has a lot of stress. Everyone else seems to be constantly running around to do something, and Erin and I don’t really indulge in that unnecessary drama. The social scene can also be kind of difficult, and she sometimes helps me see things in a different light because I can be a little bit of a pessimist. I mean, high school itself is difficult. But we go to an all-girls school in Manhattan, and it’s really stressful, and it’s easy to get caught up if you don’t have the perspective to take a step back and assess. Erin’s very gentle with other people. I tend to be very passionate, and that can translate into my being very quick to judge. Erin’s very good about letting me know when that’s the case, and reminding that not everything a person says should weigh in judging their character.
After school, we like to work together in a classroom rather than in the library, silently. We listen to music and take a lot of breaks and eat snacks. She’s a very not stressful but very focused person to work with.
She told me that you help her stay focused.
It’s a definite partnership. There are days when I’m the more focused one and help keep her on track. But there are days when I’m being hyper and she’ll help me hunker down and do the work. But we have a lot of dance parties. We like to use 8tracks because they have a lot of playlists. We listen to Indie With a Wobble a lot. We also dance to random things. Arctic Monkeys has been playing quite a bit because Erin just went to an Arctic Monkeys concert.
What was it like the semester you were apart?
I spend almost all of my time with Erin. If I’m not physically with her, I’m chatting her or texting her. I’m always in contact with her. And we have a lot of classes together. When I went away, it was difficult—I didn’t have service, and there was only internet in one building. It was hard to keep in touch. But she sent me a lovely care package. It had socks and some loose tea and a huge Big Mac Halloween costume. (My initials are M.A.C., and she calls me Big Mac sometimes.) I like to dress up quite a bit, and I’d brought a cow costume [to school] with me, too. So it worked out really well—a friend and I did before-and-after Big Macs.
What was it like when you got back?
I was really concerned that I’d missed a lot of major events or that I’d be behind or out of the social loop. And my school had done a lot of renovations, so in addition to being socially out of place I was also physically out of place. But Erin held my hand with everything. I think the day or two after I got back she came to my house and let me talk for two or three hours nonstop. So she was a great support system. She’d come and meet me after classes and make sure I was OK and sometimes she’d bring me coffee. She was exactly what I needed to get right back into the swing of things.
Can you remember a time when you’ve helped her?
Erin is very stubborn, and she doesn’t like to accept help sometimes. Like we always share snacks after school, but she’s very stubborn and will hardly let me ever do anything for her benefit. Even though, without a doubt, she’s willing to help me with everything.
Has anything about her surprised you recently?
Yeah, she’s really come out of her shell. She has a tough time in social situations and it brings on a lot of anxiety for her, but this year I’ve seen her take that on and just be really open and comfortable in big groups. If it had been eighth grade, she would have been totally silent.
So maybe people are starting to see her more like you see her?
Yeah, and I think she’s starting to see herself that way, too. I think she’s absolutely wonderful. But she’s very, very humble, and I don’t know that she’s always seen how wonderful she is. She’s a very expressive, hilarious girl with a lot of talent. She’s great. ♦
Interviews conducted by Lena.