Today Lauren Bjorkman writes an honest post about how hard best friends can be. Even when you love them.
An incident from my own life inspired the friendship and betrayal story in Miss Fortune Cookie. Here it is:
I spent most of my childhood aboard a sailboat. The shock of returning home to Palo Alto and entering the 7th grade nearly killed me. Not really, but my first experience with mascara went horribly wrong. And other things went worse than that. After a bumpy start, I made friends with a girl that wore a back-brace up to her chin for scoliosis. I’ll call her W— to protect the innocent. Despite the brace, she was always cheerful, kind, and funny. We both had jobs delivering newspapers. We both loved movies and Swensen’s ice cream. She called me short stuff.
The summer between middle and high school, my dad and I weren’t getting along, so my grandma invited me to live with her in Pasadena. W— and I wrote letters to each other. By hand. On paper. Sent in envelopes with stamps on them. I’m that old. In the letters, we kept up our usual teasing banter. I may have gotten too extreme one time, though. I may have called her egg nose. *cringe* I regretted it afterwards. Blame my unhappiness about fighting with my dad.When I returned to Palo Alto for school in the fall, W— kept making excuses for not hanging out. We didn’t have a single class together. Not long after that, she moved out of our shared locker. I knew she dumped me because of my letters. Embarrassed, I let the friendship fade away.
That same year I met a new girl in European History. At first, it didn’t seem that we had much in common. But there’s an indefinable part of friendship that has nothing to do with mutual interests. She was fun. Full of life and light. We both liked to cook and we both LOVED to eat. I still remember the decadent strawberry blintzes she made the first time I came over. We’ll call her L—. Later we realized we’d both had lost our mothers, and that drew us closer together.
Fast forward to sophomore year. My science class was so boring that I was always on the verge of screaming and jumping out the window. Luckily I made a new friend, B—, that taught me to play a new game called dots to pass the time. Weirdly, B— happened to be friends with W— and L—, and one day she invited me to join them for lunch. When I agreed, I worried about potential awkwardness with W—. But no. W— didn’t gush over me, nor did she ice me out. Being with her reminded me of my past evil self, and what I’d lost because of my overly witty insults, but the group suited me. I felt like I belonged.A sidebar on friendship: The term “best friend” irks me, and here’s why. After W— and I “broke up,” I never again had a best friend in the traditional sense. I might’ve considered L—my best friend, except she had W—. They spent a lot of time with each other and went on family trips together like traditional besties. I had another close friend, but she also had a close friend that wasn’t me.
Sometime during junior year, B—‘s parents went out of town, and she threw a boys + alcohol party. I was supposed to sleep over after the party. It started out fun, but after drinking too much, B— kissed her best friend’s ex. Screaming, crying, and throwing up ensued. I wanted to leave. My dad would’ve freaked, so I called L— to rescue me. Before I fell asleep at her house, we shared details about the deaths of our moms, and our friendship got more serious.
Our lunch group didn’t survive the devastation after the party. Throughout that year and the next, I hung out with L—, W—, and others that came and went. After graduation, L— and W— went to Europe together. It made me jealous, but not freaky, stalkery, crazy jealous. I felt sure my friendship with L— would continue into college and beyond.It did. We both went to UC Davis, hung out a lot, and took trips together during college and afterwards. But when L— got married, she asked W— to be her maid of honor. That’s the problem with the best friends model. Someone is always second best. Usually me.
At L—‘s wedding, I decided to talk to W— about what had happened between us the summer after middle school. During the reception, I sat down next to her. “I’ve always felt bad that I wrecked our friendship with my obnoxiousness,” I said. “I’m really sorry.” She looked at me quietly for a long time. Then she looked at the floor. “That’s not how I remember it,” she said. “When I met L— in 8th grade, I didn’t want her to meet you. I thought you’d take her away from me.”
!!!!!I’d felt guilty for years for hurting W—‘s feelings. But she’d “broken” up with me to keep me from meeting her new friend. To be honest, it was slightly flattering that she considered me a threat. Of course, that also meant she chose L—over me, which was slightly less flattering. Oh well.
Moral of the story: Anyone who tells you that they were happy in middle school is either aberrant, demented, or lying.Epilogue:
I still exchange the occasional email with W—. We had breakfast together after our last high school reunion. She’s charming, funny, and easy to talk to.
L— and I and our families settled in small town in New Mexico so that we could keep hanging out. L—‘s daughter and my son are freshman at the local high school.I love L— immensely. Though L— now calls me her best friend, I don’t like the term, though, and don’t use it.
Lauren Bjorkman studied Mandarin at UC Berkeley and UC Davis. On her honeymoon in China, she learned to pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her husband and two sons. She is also the author of My Invented Life. laurenbjorkman.comMISS FORTUNE COOKIEMeet Erin. Smart student, great daughter, better friend. Secretly the mastermind behind the opular advice blog Miss Fortune Cookie. Totally unaware that her carefully constructed life is about to get crazy.
It all begins when her ex-best friend sends a letter to her blog—and then acts on her advice. Erin’s efforts to undo the mess will plunge her into adventure, minor felonies, and possibly her very first romance.
What’s a likely fortune for someone no longer completely in control of her fate? Hopefully nothing like: You will become a crispy noodle in the salad of life