For my seventeenth birthday party I had a little hoo-rah with a handful of friends. We decided we just wanted a slumber party and kept things pretty simple. There was nothing particularly “birthday” about the whole thing, but that night Lindsay, Tara, Ellen, Cara (there were others – but memory fails me), and I all piled in front of the TV for the much anticipated Saturday Nigh Live. The point was not to be mainstream, in fact, we thought we were anything but. However, the musical guest for that evening was Counting Crows, headed by their lead singer Adam Duritz, and there was no way we were going to miss his appearance on stage.
I remember being huddled together in the dark around the television, some on the floor, a few of us on the couch. We cheered along with the in-studio audience as the host announced the band and the cameras panned across the stage to the instrument set. Duritz was first to appear, shoulder-length brown-mop dreads dangling emphatically in front of his eyes as he appeared from behind stage. His walk was heavy and I imagined that his Doc Marten eight-eye boots made a hollow, hard-hitting sound as he moved across the stage.
The band kicked off with “Mr. Jones,” a huge hit at the time (their first album, August and Everything After was released in 1998). Occasionally, one of us would comment, but mostly we were mesmerized.
“Do you see that long underwear he’s wearing under his shorts? Oh my God!” Lindsay said. Long underwear was, of course, the trademark of the grunge movement. She was completely enamored.
“He looks like he’s having a seizure,” I remember saying. And he did – he still does – when he performs he bounces up and down so much that one expects him to begin foaming at the mouth. It took me a few years to realize the difficulty of his situation but I finally deciphered that he wanted to move his body and feel the music so he had to move around, but his lyrics are so quick and rarely stop, that he couldn’t move his lips away from the mic very often. This resulted in an odd stage presence (which was confirmed a few years later when I saw him live at the Gorge Ampitheater) where his head and mouth seemed almost tied to the mic, while the rest of his body seethed and danced to-and-fro.
But I still thought he was cute; we all did. Though, what strikes me most about this memory is not our fleeting infatuation, but the intricacies of the friendships I had with each of the other girls there. In high school I often felt like my friends excluded me, and even senior year I had to invite myself to a couple of concerts that this group otherwise would have left me out of completely. Those experiences made me very sad but stayed with me and I continued to learn from them as I meandered through even deeper friendships in college and beyond.
Tara and I were friends by association and I never felt fully included by her. I knew her through Lindsay and actually, since Sarah had similar successes with boys, the two of them shared that world which was still largely unknown to me. I remember this being a sore spot for me, but when it came down to it, I always had trust and intellectual depth in my friendship with Linsday and I cherished that. When I think about Tara now I think about how she decided she wanted to have sex and went out and orchestrated the whole thing. It was some guy from the Community College and he gave her strawberries and chocolate and let her drive his Jeep. That was about all it took for her, and he didn’t love her, nor she him, and they didn’t last. But she got to drop “The Big V” from in front of her identity so that was that.
Ellen and I always seemed hot and cold. I never felt like I really knew her and I felt the same way about her parents. I just couldn’t find a way in. We argued once over gas money for all the rides I gave her to school and our friendship was never the same after that. I remember the how her lips grew thin and taught as she threw the dollar bill and change down on the floor of the main hallway at Wilson High School, cursing my arrogance. My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding, how could she be so angry at me when I was doing her the favor? Our misunderstanding was deep, though it stemmed from something petty. On a surface level though, we had fun. We had music and cigarettes and neighborhoods in common and that was enough. She thought Jole Brandon, my eternal high school crush, was also attractive and he was untouchable to us both so we had that in common as well.
It stings a little to think that even between the girls I invited to my own birthday party, there were edgy elements in our friendships. We did not cuddle on the couch or cry in front of each other (well, a few times Lindsay and I cried). We did not kiss on the cheek or make each other more beautiful just by being together, the way that movie star teenage friends do. Were our friendships more realistic because of this? Or were they sitting on the fence between shallow and deep? Why were we competitive and how much of our own pain did we let each other see?
I know the other girls knew about my depression. I know they knew I thought was fat. I know they knew I wanted a boyfriend more than anything (they did too!). I know they knew I wanted to do drugs, so we all did them, together. They knew I shoplifted two Cadbury’s Eggs from Fred Meyer grocery store one time for no good reason at all. And I knew about one’s bulimia, another’s cheating on her boyfriend(s), and a few of their losing-my-virginity-stories.
Some Recent little publishing successes:
WNC Woman Click on “The Nature of the Blog”
The Dabbling Mum
Tomorrow’s Child Magazine, an essay titled “Inner Peace and Patience: On Guiding Adolescents” (No link availble yet)