My best friend—the only person I’ve managed to keep close ties with for decades—outside of family, of course, is John. Our friendship began in third grade. He called me names, pulled my hair, and then asked me to be his girlfriend. We shared the same bus route—an unfortunate diesel fume-infused ride that lasted about an hour. Interestingly, John and I each lived about three miles from our elementary school, but under the banner of building character, filling our young lungs with exhaust, and killing our small backs with a shock-less bouncy ride, our mothers insisted we ride the bus. Every day. Even though I’m still slightly bitter about having to take the bus for the entirety of my elementary school career, I can now honestly say I may never have befriended John in such a way, had we just been classmates. So thank you, Mom. With all sincerity. My lungs have finally recovered, and I got a best friend out of the deal.
John was my first kiss. We regularly staked out the giant school tires during our recesses for some smooching exploration. By fourth grade, we finally moved on and had somewhat of a bitter breakup. To get back at me, he dated one of my best friends and I dated one of his. This continued on all the way through sixth grade. Since we were still stuck on the same bus route, we inevitably made up, and though we were precocious kids, we finally matured enough to handle a boy/girl friendship. We’ve been going strong ever since.
By seventh grade, we were inseparable. By that point, we had both tired of being with the same
friends classmates for eight years, so we shunned everyone and spent most of our free time together. Our families were acquaintances, so it wasn’t a big deal when he came on a family vacation with us or that we all took sailing trips together.
In high school, we hung around different friends, so we didn’t spend all that much time together, but we always looked out for each other. We both hated our hometown and wanted to get out, bad. By senior year we had figured it out: We would move to San Luis Obispo and be roommates.
My parents, and his parents, understood. Even as conservative as my parents are, they didn’t freak out over John and I getting a place together. They understood we were like siblings.
I can’t imagine having gone through that first year of college with anyone but John. We adored SLO, got accustomed to our classes, and because our livers were still pickled from our high school experiences, we didn’t do the typical Freshman-party scene. He surfed. I biked. We had a blast. We screened each other’s dates, sizing them up to see if he/she was worthy of the other.
Unfortunately, that was the only time we managed to live together. By our second year, I had to find a short-term lease because I transferred up to Seattle, and by the time I finally came to my senses and moved back to SLO, he was locked into a new lease. But we still hung out.
We’ve managed to lead remarkably parallel lives. We’ve both crossed coasts, had adventures in Europe and Central America, raced bikes, skied in exotic locales, broken hearts, and had ours broken. We just manage to have all of these adventures at different times, so we rarely overlap, though we do compare stories.
We’re so alike that when we’re talking to each other, we tend to drop the “I” personal pronoun and substitute in “we.”
“You know how we are so sensitive to people like that…”
“We could never live in a place like that, you know how it goes…”
I think it’s because we’re so similar we could never actually be a couple. It would become a creepy combination of feeling like I was dating myself and someone who has become a sibling.
Because of John, I know that men can be sensitive, insightful and empathetic creatures, who listen really well. Countless men I’ve encountered contend such traits are not wired into their chromosomes. I disagree. One of the most manly-men I know is also incredibly transparent and aware—at least with me. I realize not everyone gets to see him the way I do. But he’s given me a standard for the types of conversations and openness I should be able to have with a man. Because I know, underneath the façade and bullshit tough exterior, men process and analyze, too.
When I look at the things I’m most grateful for in my life, John’s friendship is at the tip-top of my list. If I ever get married, and was the type of girl who’d have bridesmaids (I’m not), he’d be my man-of-honor. Seriously. And I’ve threatened him with this.
I also frequently remind him to respect me, the elder, because I'm a whole two days older than him.
I love sharing this journey with him. So, dear friend, if you ever read this, know I love you with all my heart.