The Best Friend Episode

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A year before I married my husband, I asked my co-worker Lisa to be my maid of honor. I would’ve liked to say she was my best friend growing up, or that we were even all that close since we met at my first real full-time job.

But that would be a lie.

I have a hard time making friends. I always have. It wasn’t for lack of trying — at least early on.

Girls, especially, were hard to make friends with. This is why I’m ridiculously forgiving of the girls my son, 15, knows, and their crazy drama.

Girls go through a horrible trial by fire that doesn’t really ever end until they’re past their 30s. They learn early on not to trust appearances, that a best friend can easily turn on you to join up with the more popular squad by the time everyone reaches middle school. Or worse, that all your so-called friends can abandon you when you need them the most, during the hard times.

You never know who your true friends are until those times.

Growing up, most of my friends — and I could literally count them on my two hands — were boys. With boys, what you see is what you get, and most of them only viewed me through the friend filter, as I was never a bombshell. (Although, looking back, I wasn’t a dog either.)

So it wasn’t a surprise that when my time came to marry, I wouldn’t have a soul to pick as my maid of honor. All my friends from high school, all three of them, had disappeared off the face of the planet. I was a military brat, too, which rendered friends from elementary school null and void.

I looked around at my workplace, where I hung out the most. About a year prior to my engagement, Lisa joined our office as an administrative assistant. Lisa was a former beauty queen contestant, tall, willowy, beautiful, and charming in that exacting Libra way I tend to be fond of (I married a Libra). She was also easy to be around.

Every so often, we’d all get together for lunch outside the office. At work, she would be the first to help me out of a minor jam in the middle of my deadlines as the editor of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii newsletter.

Much to my shock, Lisa agreed to be my maid of honor, despite her feeling both delighted and shocked herself. I’m sure she wondered why I asked her when surely, I had other, older friends to call on. Nope.

With that admission, she kindly guided me through the minefield of a mostly traditional wedding. She even threw me a G-rated bridal shower up in Hawaii Kai, with a cooking foodie theme, everyone sharing their recipes (kind of prophetic, considering my latent interest in baking, I’d say).

She made a wonderful maid of honor, and even more amazing, would remain one of my dearest friends through the many more years to come. When it was her turn to get married, she invited me to her wedding at the lavish Moana Surfrider on the edge of Waikiki.

When I visited Hawaii last year for almost two weeks, I spent two separate days with her. Almost every time I’ve gone back home, she’s been available to hang out. Read: She makes herself available.

We still keep in contact, through the births of our children, through health scares, her back-to-back cancers, my husband’s, my own bout with depression when another friend, Terri, died of liver cancer. In fact, we’re supposed to talk on the phone today — Lisa is an old school princess; she hates texting, LOL.

To this day, I still feel a twinge of shame about my wedding day. I wished I had a lot of friends there to celebrate with me. I wish I knew what it was like to be like Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King.

Remember that infamous best friends episode on Oprah’s talk show? Still hurts me to think about.

Not long after this show aired, I found myself at a church acquaintance’s house for a Pampered Chef or Silpada Jewelry party. I remember sitting opposite her and her best friend as they reminisced about their fun camping adventure, just them and their roster of kids. I wanted to scream at them. I wanted to run away. I wanted to hole up by the Pacific ocean in a tiny little one-room shack with my ’80s Walkman, my crochet afghan, and my 20 cats, and wait for the next lifetime.

Instead, I just sat there trying to smile, counting the minutes until I could reasonably leave. These two best friends, sisters in Christ, would split up in two years because one of them was toxic to the relationship — a status that made me laugh and cry at the same time.

Back in the late ’90s, I honestly thought I’d found my own best friend via a soap opera message board. We corresponded through email. Intense, intimate emails. Almost met IRL several times. We were even born on the same day. But she couldn’t continue our friendship when she was dealing with her own heavy issues. She hurt me more than I could ever express, more than those girls who claimed to be my friend then wrote in my yearbook or said to my face how much they secretly hated my guts. I trusted her. I believed in her. I gave her my entire heart, and she—

I’m too old to try to get to the bottom of my friendship issue. Maybe I’m better off with strangers who become acquaintances, not too close, not too much. Maybe I’m just a touch-and-go kind of person. Maybe none of this matters, the labels, the talk show brag books, as long as I gave 100 percent, as long as I did love.

 

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