This is the first in a six letter exchange on the subject of girlhood friendships, sent between Elisa Albert and Nalini Jones. This letter is written by Elisa Albert.
Let us talk friendships. The girlhood kind.
Was there a time when it was all hearts and flowers? When sisterhood *was* powerful? It’s so unpopular for a woman to say that she has a more natural affinity with boys (traitor! Bitch! No wonder other women hate you! Change your ways!), but alas, I grew up with two much older brothers and they were who I wanted to keep pace with. I wanted adventures and conversation and music and to be taken seriously. I had this sense early on that the girls were kinda out to lunch, comparatively. Or maybe I just felt them shrinking from me.
In kindergarten I fell in love with a girl, but looking back it seems less a friendship than a proprietary sense of “she belongs to me”. I felt protective of her, and proud to be “with” her. She was very beautiful and special and she was “mine”, my friend, so I had status. Was I a five year old dyke? Possibly.
She’s very cool, still, my first friend. Incredibly creative and delicate. She had a wild laugh I can hear echoes of even now, sitting in this silent room typing about her. We remain connected, even though we have never lived in the same city as adults, and we went our separate ways in middle school. I was a ridiculous awkward dork freak and she went kind of badass gangster chick in high school, with heavy dark lip liner and plucked brows, running with a crowd that honestly scared me. Another world. I couldn’t sell my virginity; she had a baby senior year of high school. i remember going over to see her and the newborn (doula foreshadowing!?) in this seedy Hollywood apartment. I never met the guy. I worked at a giant corporate bookstore then, and brought her this ridiculous pile of children’s books, which at that moment was probably the last thing on earth she needed.
Fifteen-plus years later, when I had had my first baby and was reeling, I asked her how the hell she had done it. “I never said it was easy,” she laughed. That laugh of hers!
She lives in Austin now, and wound up opening a gorgeous store with an old family friend of mine. Small world.
I tend to mythologize my own female friendships as uniformly troubled-slash-doomed, but here, look, even as I tell you about this first friend, I realize it’s not the case. Which is not to say I don’t have (more?) than my fair share of trouble/doom with girls. More on that later.
Tell me of yours.
Elisa Albert is the author of The Book of Dahlia and How This Night is Different. Her new novel, After Birth, will be published by HMH in early 2015.