I’m in a pissy mood today, got 3 hours of sleep because I am a raging insomniac, and need to generate some positivity here. So I am going to tell you about one of the most joy-inspiring people in my life and encourage you all to reciprocate.
The first time I met my best friend I was in fifth grade. Her name is Grace, and a more unfitting name for a human being you could not have. She is neither delicate nor tactful nor anything remotely associated with the word Grace. She is blunt, oblivious, outrageous, critical and impulsive. Basically the polar opposite of me. The first clear memory of her is when my best friend’s parents went to pick her up (she was the best friend of my best friend’s little sister… got it?) She was wearing a tacky hat shaped like a brain and she took us to an emu farm. Emus are fucking terrifying, for the record, especially when you’re standing in the middle of a circle of them. We used to spend weeks together at our mutual best friends’ place, and we all played together a lot and naturally fought a lot.
She totally embarrassed me one night while I was, on a dare from all three of them, standing shirtless at the foot of the bed screaming out ‘‘The 12 Days of Christmas’’ (in June, naturally.) She was obliged to guard the bedroom door while I did the deed, and she thought it would be hilarious to open the door. My friend’s father saw me standing there and shouted out, ‘‘I see someone in a brassiere!’’ Instant mortification. For life. ‘‘GRACEY SHUT THE DOOR!’’ still makes us collapse into hysterics.
Perhaps for this reason, I wasn’t overly fond of Grace. I thought she was an emotionally immature pest and she though I was a pretentious Bible-thumper. We were both right.
And yet, somehow, we came together. It took another 6 years though, when she was a Sophomore in High School and I was a Junior and we were both in band camp (she played the clarinet, I played trombone.) I had to bunk with her. I wasn’t thrilled. We bonded over something unusual one evening when everyone else fell asleep but us – our feelings about our body shape. I’ve never been the idyllic pencil thin variety of woman and neither has she. I lamented that we weren’t born during the Renaissance, when such full-figures were in vogue. She thought this was hilarious and maintains that our friendship began with late-night discussions about ‘‘naked ladies.’’ We talked until the wee hours, and by then we knew something amazing had just happened. I realized the emotionally immature person who frequently embarrassed herself in public was not emotionally immature, just totally unconcerned about what other people thought and unwilling to change herself for anyone. She realized that the pretentious Bible-Thumper was not pretentious, just really emotionally confused and introverted and deeply concerned with doing what was right.
From that point on we were basically inseparable. She loved me, I don’t know why. We just, I don’t know how else to explain it, we just fell in love. We wrote poetry to one another during classes, drew one another silly pictures, discussed the mundane minutia of life with tedious detail that was captivating only to us. It was an incredibly unlikely but completely perfect union. I had experienced friendship before – cherished friends – but nobody like Grace. With others I was the mature one, the wise one, the one taking care of others. Grace took care of ME. We got to know each other so well that people started assuming we were sisters. Hell, I even had people who had been seen us around from elementary through high school ask if we were related.
Her way with me just amazed me. On the surface I was a neurotic, hyper-conservative perfectionist but she saw me not for the facade but for what I really was, and she loved it. She understood why I thought and felt and did the things I did, and she never judged me for it, she just loved me. She never failed to tell me how adorable I was, or how sweet or weird or funny, or how outraged she was at people for mistreating me. She was my backbone at a time when I didn’t have one.
And she never let a silly thing like tact get in the way of our friendship. My god how pissed off she could make me (and others.) The girl just said whatever was on her mind, she just let it fly without thinking. And for every time she made a comment that smarted, she made five that enlightened. She was the only person willing to tell me when she thought I was acting like the jackass, the only person willing to say to my face that my boyfriend was a dick, the only one who would say exactly what she thought of my parents. Incidentally, when I emancipated at age 17 and things fell apart rather quickly, she was the only one who stuck around. I know I changed during those difficult times, I know I wasn’t easy to love. But she stuck around and when I finally got back to me again, years later, she was the only friend left, weeping with joy. Grace refused to deal with anyone else’s drama but mine. I don’t know why, she doesn’t know why. I was her exception.
She opened my mind. I was a conservative, not so much judgmental of other people so much as myself, and she helped me become more comfortable with everything about myself just by nature of feeling free to be herself. She was a child raised with polyamorous parents and a bisexual, Wiccan mother. Despite this, she was terrified to come out to them – she was terrified to come out to me, even. I remember being mildly awed, but I already had a gay close family friend I’d known since I was 6, so mostly what I felt was just flattery that she’d trusted me with her secret. Eventually she did get up the nerve to tell her parents. Her mother said something along the lines of ‘‘no shit’’ and her father, the man whose approval she always seeks, muttered, ‘‘Just don’t let it get in the way of your studies.’’ (btw, what her Dad said is my top favorite coming-out reaction ever.)
I once thought I was in love with her–like romantically. This moment of angst lasted approximately one day, and for some reason the only one I felt I could discuss it with is her mother. ‘‘I think I’m in love with your daughter,’’ I said. She sighed and patted me on the back. I was 16 years old. ‘‘Grace was supposed to be born a boy. She confuses straight girls. You’ll work it out.’’ And I did. Being a teenager is confusing, being a teenager who has never been truly loved or taken care of by a friend is even more confusing. Sufficed to say, I’m pretty damn straight. It’s for the best though. We would probably murder each other if we ever had to live together. We’re the bickering sort.
Currently my best friend is 24, she lives in Chicago and is the audio equipment manager at the Field Museum. She loves movies and wishes to be a director. She is still fiercely independent and practical and bullshit-free, but she’s grown up a lot. She still loves me. She is the sort of person I can go months without seeing but nothing changes between us, ever. It’s like no time is lost. She knows me perfectly.
My best friend is getting married in three weeks to a girl I don’t know super well, but what I know of her, I like a lot. She is Mexican, so I may be slightly biased, as she plies me with tortillas whenever I come over. I call her the tortillera which means both ‘‘tortilla maker’’ and ‘‘lesbian’’ in Spanish slang. If Grace thinks she is worth it, then she is worth it. Her future wife is an independent and funny and sweet woman. I am supposed to make a speech at their wedding and I have no idea what I am going to say. Grace ran into the same problem at my wedding. She said she felt like she was the one giving me away to my husband. She said she feels deep peace knowing that I am safe with him and he will always take care of me. We may be best friends, but we’re accepting of life’s changes. She isn’t the one who is going to be there to lick my wounds, my husband is. She’s not the one taking care of me anymore, but I know we will never stop loving one another.
And she’s the reason for my username, by the way. She never failed to tell me, ‘‘Olives.’’ That is short for Olive you. Olives, Gracey. You’re my favorite fried ‘‘n.’’*
*Inside joke. Typo. You’re my favorite friedn! We’ve got a million of 'em.
Alright kids, go wild. Who’s your best friend?