You were the one who let me borrow your push-up bra, who coached me through my first make-out, who made matching puffy-paint T-shirts for the home basketball games with me, who instructed me in the right way to put my liquid eyeliner around the lower lid of my eye without letting it goop in the sides, who taught me all the inappropriate slang from the rap song ‘Play’ by David Banner, who introduced me to the fizzy, warm taste of Mike’s Hard Lemonades, and who told me I was fat when I ate three slices of Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza in one sitting.
You were the best and worst thing that ever happened to me.
When I needed someone to cry to about my failed geography quiz, the pimples on my chin, a fight with my mom over sweatpants, or the guy that told me my curly hair was ugly—you were there. You were the one who taught me I was beautiful, but also how to be more confident. You put mousse in my hair and blush on my cheeks. You pulled snug T-shirts over my chest and borrowed my black nail polish. You listened to me rant and rave about the cute boys on my bus and you snuck me alcohol at an outside trampoline party.
You knew me before I really knew myself. You helped me feel sexy. You also made me very aware that my boobs were smaller, my butt was a bad type of bigger, and my hair wasn’t long and straight like yours. Sometimes you made me feel stupid: when I didn’t know the lyrics to a pop song, when I didn’t know anything about sex, when I was scared to kiss a boy. Sometimes you made me hate myself: my closet of baby clothes, my Target-brand gym shoes, the stuffed animals lining my nightstand.
You were the friend I got caught sneaking out with at a seventh-grade sleepover. That was the night you and I planned our future marriages and nose piercings and you got grounded for a week and me for a month. You were the friend that went to the high school football games in a belly shirt, that flirted with the ninth graders, and that encouraged me to kiss a boy at a bonfire, this one with a girlfriend.
We wrote songs about how we hated our teachers. We gossiped about girls. We obsessed over guys. We painted toenails and shopped at the same stores. We went to the movie theater hand-in-hand and imagined that all the boys were staring at us.
You were one-of-a-kind, middle school best friend. You introduced me to a new crowd, gave me friends, gave me headaches. You were the friend my mom hated. The friend I eventually hated. You kissed my boyfriend when I was out of town. You laughed at my jean skirt with the patch on the left pocket. You talked behind my back. But you were the one who taught me how to handle boys, angry moms, seventh grade stresses, drama, and crappy friends. You were a good friend and a terrible friend. But I’m still thankful for you. And how you taught me to be strong.