In July, I got a text from my 22-year-old cousin that said her brother, who is nine, received his first love letter. He had been hanging out at the county fair in the small rural town where they both live. The letter was delivered to him by a girl from his school, but it was from a girl about his age whom he didn’t know and had never even seen before: Mary Goldenberg. In the letter (written in pencil, on both sides of one piece of paper—I have photos of it that I now cherish), Mary Goldenberg explains that she is visiting from out of town. She’d seen my cousin at the fair and developed a “secret crush” on him. Cute, right? Sure, but what follows are the clearest words that have maybe ever been strung together as declarations of infatuation: “I like the way you walk and talk and dress and act.” I like the way you walk and talk and dress and act! It still leaves me almost speechless in its simplicity, directness, and radical nerve. Mary Goldenberg ends the note by telling my cousin that her favorite ride at the fair is the Tilt-a-Whirl, and that he should meet her at the picnic table near it at 7 PM (he’d be able to recognize her by her white shorts and “bleu” tank top). My young cousin was thoroughly freaked out by the letter and her invitation. He did not meet anyone at the picnic table or the Tilt-a-Whirl. At first, this made me sad, but then I realized: Wherever she is, Mary Goldenberg is going to be just fine. —Lena
One bright day in May, we (Lola and Gabby) were driving on New York City’s West Side Highway, discussing affairs of the heart. Lola was talking about how her romantic life seemed divided into periods of babes and periods of darkness. She was in a period of such pitch-black darkness, with a no-babe horizon, that she wondered aloud if her babe days were behind her, like those of Miss Havisham, the crone in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. Miss Havisham is jilted at the altar and spends the rest of her life wearing her wedding gown, shut inside her mansion with her molding uneaten wedding cake—and to Lola, this sounded like a prospect worth celebrating. She suggested that she should buy herself the kind of satin sash they give brides-to-be at bachelorette parties, except she’d be a Spinsterette—a bachelorette in reverse. It would be a Miss Havisham sash!
Moments later, we saw her: MISS HAVISHAM HERSELF. A ghostly older woman was standing in the traffic island wearing a long white gown, her head draped in a veil of white and blue streamers. “Oh my god, it’s Miss Havisham!!!!!” Gabby yelled from the passenger seat. Lola hadn’t screamed that much in broad daylight in a while. Gabby immediately Google image searched “Miss Havisham,” and each result confirmed what we suspected: This woman looked exactly like her.
Gabby gives the real-life Miss Havisham four stars, withholding one star for potentially putting us in traffic danger. Lola rates Miss Havisham three stars, for making a striking impression but ultimately leaving us puzzled. Was Miss Havisham appearing to say, “No, Lola, I’M Miss Havisham. You’re just upset because you haven’t made out with someone in like three months.” Or was she a specter of glory, showing Lola that she too could one day have a bold daytime look and enjoy a solitary neighborhood stroll? Either way, In a Miss Havisham We Saw a Way to Survive and We Were Full of Joy. —Gabby and Lola
I work in an office with an open floor plan—this means that there are no offices or cubicles, and that everyone can see everyone else at all times (ugh ugh). The company I work for also employs mostly young people and is pretty laid back. If there’s a dress code, you wouldn’t know it—especially not if you observed Spandex Man. No matter the weather, Spandex Man bikes to work, snugly encased in a full bodysuit of white, skintight spandex. (The suit unzips down the chest, has no sleeves, and ends in a pair of long shorts.) After alighting from his bike, Spandex Man strides into the office each morning, helmet still on, cycling shoes clacking on the floor…wearing only the spandex leotard thing. He then spends up to an hour walking around in his stretchy naked-suit, wandering past my desk to get coffee, leaning over me to chat with a coworker who sits close by, his junk clearly defined and separated from me by a literal millimeter of stretch fabric. Imagine glancing up from your work to see two globes of man-butt sauntering past you, knowing just a few atoms of heroic fabric stand between you and a male coworker’s genitals. Imagine if a woman wore something like this to her office, even for one second. Spandex Man, after he finally changes into his work clothes, stores his spandex suit in the coat room, and not a day has passed that I didn’t walk by it without thinking of destroying it. “Soon,” I whisper as I walk past its limp form. “Soon.” —Krista
The Ultimate Diva
I was driving around Ojai, California, with my friend Shaun, and as we passed a bus stop, he asked me if I saw the lady sitting on the bench. I said no, and he replied, “OK, we’re turning this car around.” (This is one reason I love Shaun and why some day I will maybe review HIM.) We circled back and there she was…an elegant elderly lady wearing a white fur coat, white leggings, and red boots. Her white hair was long and parted down the middle, and she had on hot pink lipstick and vintage-looking red-rimmed sunglasses. She was the ultimate diva. I looked at Shaun and shouted, “ARE WE SEEING MY FUTURE GLAMOROUS SELF RIGHT NOW, OR WHAT!!!!!” —Marie
Little Boy at the Drinking Fountain
After a long walk around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, I stopped at the bandshell for some water. As I approached a drinking fountain, an adorable little red-headed boy ran ahead of me. I thought he was cutting, and a thirsty child, so I said, “Go ahead!” But: He was rushing so he could hold down the drinking fountain’s button for me! In the cutest voice he said, “Drink up!” and kept pressing the button while I sipped. When I said, “Thank you!” he just stared at me. I imagine that he was hanging around the fountain waiting for people, so he could help them hydrate. My first impression of him was, What a cute little boy!, then, Psshhh, this kid’s rude!, then, finally: He’s the sweetest li’l guy in the world! —Kelly
Flossy green, cotton-candy pink, and sea-foam blue—Holly’s hair seemed to be a different shade every time I saw her. A pixie!, I thought when first spotted this overall-wearing dreamboat in my high school’s cafeteria. Our friendship began months later via Facebook, when I sent her a message saying, “You like Daria and Tina Belcher. We should be friends.” I remember her smelling of sugar and tobacco, with a hint of rabbit (she had two as pets). Before we’d go out, she’d always ask, “Is this a body glitter kind of night?” I don’t know why she even posed the question, because we would both know the answer before she even whipped out her jar of clumpy glitter gel. Holly also made the best vegan Indian food ever; I can still hear her saying “Enough with this pretentious fine dining!” as she cooked it for me. On the weekends, Holly carried around lemonade bottles filled with whatever fermented beverage she’d made in her closet. A dreamy Cocteau Twins song plays in my mind whenever I think of Holly, aka the Coolest Girl on the Block. —Mads
Walter is easily my rudest friend. One time, when my mom was visiting me in San Francisco, I was talking about how I was going to hang out with him later. She said “Oh, is that your friend who is always so mean to you on Facebook?” That is Walter. Every time I say something that has a potential fallacy in it, he is the first to publicly and brutally point it out. He is also one of the most loyal friends I have, and always remembers my birthday. Sometimes I think he would rather be the one making fun of me than have anyone else do it, which is actually supremely cute in a totally messed up way. He enjoys throwing theme parties, which is why I have depicted him in a straw hat. —Caitlin D.