I grew up in a very nomadic family, attending 7 elementary schools. I was the perpetual “new girl,” rarely staying at any school longer than a year and a half. Being new means a lot of stares, rumors of your actions at your old school, and potential embarrassment by eating alone at lunch. It did not take long for me to have the new school process down to science.
First, identify someone to cling to during the morning. This justifies lunch with that person. Empower that individual to show you the ropes. Repeat daily until relationship yields friendship or you find companionship and/or tolerable lunch buddies through another source.
This process aided in the sheer survival that is required when entering a new school system. One wrong move and you’re no longer the “new kid,” but “that kid.” And nobody wants to be “that kid.” The secondary challenge is to then find a new and local friend of the best friend quality. These don’t just pop up, mind you, so my fourth grade self hit a road block. At that time, we had just moved away from the very best friend I ever had, a co-conspirator in all things regarding our secret society and a big dreamer. She also raised stuffed leamurs with me. Who doesn’t want that in a friend? The answer to my current predicament seemed simple in my head.
Best Friend Auditions.
I figured myself brillaint, so I sat down one Saturday and made a list of qualities that I wanted in a best friend. They must be two things: fun and know how to properly pretend. I was done with those kids that couldn’t stay in character or take a plot out to the end. This was serious business on the playground, and I was done messing around. I needed someone to commit. So the casting call went out. I began to see different girls from school and the church on different weekends and the days of the week. I would put them through a series of tests: conversation, a game of pretend, and whether or not they still enjoyed things like barbies and playdough. The Mom would always check in to see how the “date” went, and I would report back with all but actual number cards rating their successes when it came to the BFF department.
Two girls started to stand out. I began going to one girl’s house after school on Tuesdays, and I thought there was really something special. She was dramatic and had an affinity for The Wizard of Oz. She also considered herself an actress, which helped with the pretending. A second girl was also in the picture, and she was also a pretty decent pretender, though she had an affinity for pretending as if we were all puppies. I found that to be too childish and wished for more “adult” games such as house, teacher, or the latest peter pan remake in our minds. The two girls however, together, proved to be a ton of fun. Two best friends would be fine, right?
As the lovable center of attention that I am, I would dictate each bout of “pretend.” I really did have a love for Peter Pan. I felt as if that was the only socially acceptable way to be a boy, so I went with it and practiced my crowing as much as humanly possible. Plenty of singing and crowing would happen for hours if our parents would permit it. One day I really thought we had nailed the “moment” when pretending on a slide becomes a real experience in the land of make believe. That’s when disaster hit. The two girls started whispering between themselves while I was demonstrating the proper way to crow, and soon they were off on the swings playing a new game. Just the two of them. Without me.
That was the first moment I knew that girls were really, inherently and consciously mean. Two weeks later and a lot of little girl rumors about me not being cool enough and not being fun enough – and I was crushed. My fool-proof way of discovering a best friend turned tragic. I couldn’t replace The Cohort from the city before. And I wouldn’t really meet anyone comparable until I met The Best Friend of today. Sometimes life just isn’t as easy as holding auditions for perfection.