Gilda was always an awkward child. She was shy around adults and new kids, but boisterous and silly around her family. Moving to a new school in third grade, she did not quickly make friends. In fourth grade, she was invited to a sleep over, which her mom did not let her stay at over night, and she was picked up at 9 p.m., much to her embarrassment. In fifth grade, she bonded with another dorky girl about their distaste of a tall, blonde, and mean girl in their class.
Their friendship slowly developed. Starting with notes, moving to phone calls, play dates, and eventually, weekend sleepovers.
She was so happy, she had a BFF! They bought matching necklaces at Claire’s, went to movies together, and gossiped about boys. Thankfully they were in the same 6th grade class, allowing their friendship to grow and blossom. Seventh grade brought different homerooms, and new friends, that eventually resulted in jealousy and annoyance. Nevertheless, they remained close and spent every weekend, summer, and winter break together. They talked on the phone for hours.
Gilda was still incredibly awkward. Studious but not totally socially apt, she didn’t have many friends. Middle school is a notoriously terrible time for girls who are not allowed to shave their legs, tower over boys, and don’t know how to wear makeup. Some girls complained that they weren’t allowed to date, but this was not a problem that Gilda encountered. She daydreamed of a hot, cool guy moving in next door to her. Every teen movie told her that they’d fall in love and she’d gain social acceptance, just like that.
Gilda’s friendship with her best friend, Katie, survived middle school, and even the beginnings of high school. They took different classes, but still spent all their time together, and knew everything about each other’s lives. Gilda was not cool, never would be, but she was falling into a comfortable zone. She made friends with other girls that she could be weird with. Boys started to acknowledge her, even if they didn’t want to date her, it was a step in the right direction, in her eyes.
Throughout high school, however, their friendship grew more distant. Gilda was a laid back but studious kid, quick to laugh. Katie was tightly wound and dated guys from her church group that smoked cigarettes and had frosted tips. Katie was type A, but somehow that did not translate to amazing grades and recognition from teachers. She annoyed the teachers by double-checking her grades and had a months-long drama with a ruthless Spanish teacher that would not tolerate the “baby voice” Katie used when asking questions. Katie was very close to her mom, in a way that she shared all her teenage gossip – the boys she kissed, the friend drama, the detailed descriptions of basically every social interaction. Katie’s dad died when she was young, and her mom did not date. As a result, they relied on each other in a way that was nice and lovely, but also resulted in the two being way too involved in each other’s lives.
Gilda and Katie had less things in common, spent less time together, but every day, Gilda picked up Katie on her way to school. Slowly, even this became a problem. Gilda, as is her nature, would pick up Katie, and they would make it to school with minutes to spare. If Katie had it her way, they’d arrive at school half an hour early, just to make sure. One day, after Katie and Gilda made it to school, still on time, but with not enough time to go to their lockers, get the morning gossip, and then make it to class 10 minutes early, Katie had enough. When Gilda got home that day from school, she received a phone call from Katie’s mom.
“You kids are so irresponsible, you can’t go to school that late, you’re going to be late, are you even thinking? You can be as late as you want, but Katie will not be late to school. She will not be going to school with you if you are going to be so irresponsible. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Gilda did not know what to say. She was in shock. Why was a 50-year-old woman screaming at her? Her parents didn’t scream at her, so why was her friend’s parent freaking the flip out on her? She didn’t know what to say. She doesn’t remember what she said, but somehow it was decided that she would not pick up Katie the next day.
Uhh, fine? Gilda thought. I was doing her a favor. She can take the bus, she can get a ride from her mom, I don’t have to drive her. She cried and told her own parents what happened that night. They were in shock, but advised her to just give Katie some space.
The next week, Gilda received another call from Katie’s mom. This time, she was in tears, crying about how she did not want to ruin the girls’ friendship, they’d been friends for so many years. Gilda, now experienced at handling this woman’s emotional outbursts, said “OK” over and over again, until she was able to get off the phone.
Somehow, these outbursts, were the straw that broke the friendship. The girls weren’t close anymore, mostly tethered by history. They saw each other at school, and interacted amiably, but did not return to their former glory. Maybe it was time for the friendship to end, having served its purpose, getting them through their most painful middle school years.
Years later, Gilda would look up Katie on facebook, and see that her life was mostly as expected. Still living in the same suburb where they grew up, spending the weekends with her mom and sister, and having very public flirtatious conversations with guys that were hot in 11th grade. Gilda would spend some time on the page, make her silent judgments, and log off.