I was recently asked why all my closest friends are guys… it stumped me for a while. I get along with girls, I like being a girl, I like nail-polish, pink and Grey’s Anatomy. I also absolutely adore most of the female friends I DO have… so why the lack of them? The easy answer is that I’m pretty mannish, What with my husky voice and flat chest… the longer answer is perhaps Because I peaked in the first year of high-school and have struggled to compare to them ever since. My Best Friends, since 1996 have been twins, Lucinda and Fern Gray.
This was a friendship to rival all others, and like Frodo’s “Precious” ring it was forged in hell-fires of Mordor – so it too couldn’t be broken. Our version of Mordor hell-fire was actually the Fish River Canyon in Namibia. Scorching 40 degree days where we either hiked over soft beach sand or ankle twisting boulders. Lulu and Fern’s dad, Bob was the hike leader and me? I was the hike straggler. THEE worst hiker on that squad from school. My first friend in the Gray family was their younger sister, Vicky. She was 8. She walked at the same pace as I did. I was 13. This didn’t help the boys to mock me less. (Neither did the fact that they would put giant rocks into my back-pack when I wasn’t looking… which I carried for 15 back breaking kilometers. Twice.)
But, by the end of the 5 day hike… after finding a dead-guy (true story) and promising myself never to venture into a Namibian desert again (which I adhered to until the next year when I canoed down the Orange river. A much better way to enjoy a desert. Just add water.) after all that, there were two little girls who I saved a seat for on the bus and who I looked for in any crowd. But those two girls were popular and didn’t like me, so I settled for Fern and Lulu instead. Ha.
Fast Forward a few weeks and we became inseparable. Hanging out around eachother’s swimming pools, loitering in shopping malls wearing high-heels and make-up, speaking on the telephone for hours and hours, even composing songs with the buttons (remember telkom’s R7 infinite call package?) Fern and I were bullied into stealing cigarrettes at a houseparty from the adults by the older kids. The rationale was that the adults wouldn’t suspect us. We created a diversion and in a grand sweep that makes Tom Cruise’s drop to an inch above the floor in Mission Impossible look like hopscotch, we acquired a single Benson&Hedges from a rouge box.
Clutching our forbidden trophy we considered the risk we’d just put ourselves under and decided that it outweighed the fear we had of the older kids. So, hiding behind the dog’s house – we lit it up and puffed our way through our first ever cigarrette. We didn’t cough, because we didn’t inhale. But the next morning we were certified ‘addicted’ in our minds. We spent the better part of that day hunting for more tobacco. Which (i’m ashamed to say) included picking up stompies from the trash.
The first time we got up the nerve to buy cigarrettes in a real shop, we had devised the best plan about pretending to forget the name of our mother’s brand and calling our strategically placed friend over. The owner of sweets from Heaven must have been convinced, what with our pound of make up on, psychedelic bell-bottoms and limping in platform shoes. Of course we weren’t going to try and smoke them ourselves. And try we did. Endless hours of head-rushes, daring eachother to walk around ‘that tree’ and back, through the dizzy-ness. We were ‘grown ups’ now.
And then there was the Backstreet Boys. We knew every trivia fact, dance move and song lyric. I’ll take the bullet here and say I was the worst. But Lulu was ever the loyal bestie and even liked AJ because I’d shotgunned the hottest one, Nick Carter. She even obliged with posters of AJ on her bedroom walls (lime green walls, that we’d painted ourselves).
Other than the out-of reach celebrity crushes, there were also the out-of-reach high school crushes. An everlasting and endless chain of poor unsuspecting adolescent boys who’d once bumped into us in a corridor, or perhaps glanced at us strangely one time in Hall and we’d convinced ourselves that they were our soulmates. Little did they ever know the reams of paper that got wasted with us practicing our future signatures with their last names, or writing out star-sign numerology, or just writing eachother letters recounting every time we saw them that day, how they walked, talked and even that time we thought we saw them but didn’t. We made nick-names up for each of them so that the CIA spies couldn’t decipher who we were referring to. As if our constant staring wasn’t a dead giveaway.
So obsessed were we with talking to each-other about how much we loved boys, forever whispering, giggling and running off alone, that some of the ‘kinder’ kids in school had begun to speculate that we might even be lesbian, for each other. This information only surfaced years later, but I like to pretend that it’s for THIS reason that the boys never liked us back. (Further pretending that high-school boys would honour lesbian’s wish to be left alone by males and not be turned on by them.)
No, we were neither lesbian nor boy-magnets. But that was ok, all the more time to search for fairies in the bushes. And ‘bushes’ is not a metaphor. We’d sit in a circle of milk and sugar (a concoction we’d invented, and were convinced would work) and coax the fairies to reveal themselves to us. Surprisingly, this never worked – although Lulu and I did manage to weave a pretty involved lie, that had Fern side-eyeing us for a day about us meeting a fairy named Niamph down by a stream on a camping trip.
Best Friends For Life. A sentence girls will say, and hug, and mean. But then as the time goes by, you forget to even accept their friend requests on Facebook. But I got to rub Fern’s pregnant belly. I got to hold her little baby Jessica as she was still mewling at a few days old. Jessica is now a feisty almost 9 year old. I also sobbed giant tears as I stood at the altar in a bridesmaid’s dress watching Lulu walk down as the most beautiful bride I had ever seen in real life. She’s now pregnant with her first baby. A boy. eep!
Yesterday was their 30th birthday. Mine is around the corner. When we wore braces, and beached eachother’s hair with lemon juice in the sun in our matching bikinis, I don’t think even we knew that’d we’d really be friends for life. But here we are. In our LIFE.
Ladies. Here’s to friends that laugh at your jokes, that rewatch Dracula Dead and Loving it or Biodome with you and still cry with laughter at every line. Here’s to friends you can sit on the phone with for hours, who will be there after months of silence to catch you with your broken heart before you fall to the floor.
Raise your glasses together, or in memory of them. Here’s to real BFFs. The kind that know you. The kind that love you enough to mock you. Girls. Who rule the world? No. Still China.
*high five for BFFs and Girl-Friends*