Relationship Advice (Part One)

A strange thing started happening when I turned 30. I started making female friends. I mean some real, true female friends. It’s not that I didn’t have any female friends before — it’s just that I didn’t have many. And even the ones I did have. I only shared so much. Our friendship only went so far.

This might be a problem. When I write GET BETTER, I have to develop a relationship between Traysie’s character and her best friend from college, and I’m not sure where to start. My sample was so small — I might need some relationship advice.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe an absence of female friendships in high school and college, and a rediscovery of female friendships after 30, is as good a place to start as any. Maybe Traysie’s character is kind of like me.

Maybe, when she was in 6th grade, she had these two close friends. Jennifer and Rianna. And maybe they were in Industrial Arts together down the road at the high school and they took Industrial Arts right before lunch and they walked back to the junior high and ate lunch together every day.

And maybe their Industrial Arts teacher had said the class was going to do a unit on entrepreneurship and every group could choose to make either CD racks or napkin holders and take orders from parents and neighbors and sell their wares and keep the profits. But she had told Jennifer and Rianna that she had a better idea. They were going to get leather cords and use the jigsaw and make pendants. Unisex pendants in crosses and peace signs and hearts.

And then maybe their pendants really took off and every kid at school had to have one and they made money. So much money and they didn’t even have to con their grandparents into buying napkin holders. And maybe she was walking back from Industrial Arts with Jennifer and Rianna and feeling the magic of being ahead of the trend. No. Not just ahead of the trend — the creator of the trend.

Maybe she was walking back to lunch feeling just like the inventor of the slap bracelet and talking about what new colors and shapes they should add to their line when she noticed that Jennifer and Rianna had slowed down (or had she sped up in her excitement?) and were about ten feet behind her.

So she slowed down and matched her pace to theirs. But a few seconds later, they had sped up and were about ten feet in front of her. And then, maybe, because she was young and trusting and not self-conscious, she sped up and matched her pace to theirs again. But a few seconds later, they were about ten feet behind her.

And maybe that’s the moment she stopped trusting. Because that’s the moment she knew. She knew that they had planned this, that they had coordinated it while she wasn’t around. And she knew why, too — her parents were weird and her family was weird and friendship with her was a toxic asset. Even with her good ideas and her success, she was a nerd. She was a nerd back when being a nerd meant something.

She was a nerd before it was cool.

And maybe all this flashed through her mind in a split-second and the worst part of it was that now she was in front of them and couldn’t see them and they could see her. So even though it was embarrassing, maybe she pretended like she still didn’t get it. And she slowed down to meet them one more time and they sped up and she let it be. She walked back to lunch behind them and she knew that she was alone.

Maybe the next afternoon she stepped off the bus and the sky was clear and cold and the sun was shining and she was warm and cold at the same time, which is still her favorite feeling. And maybe the feeling filled her with hope and joy and then she was sad because she realized that this was the most beautiful day she’d ever seen but it was also so ordinary that she’d never remember it. Not even next week. And maybe, because she thought of it that way, she hasn’t stopped thinking about that day since and maybe she’ll think of it when she’s very old and it will remind her that beauty and sadness often live side-by-side.