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  • Writer's pictureDana Starr

That's What Friends Are For

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Valley of the Dolls.jpg

Her little 12-year-old body really was as light as a feather, and as stiff as a board. In my memory, we raised Melanie Brooks high in the air with only our fingers and our chanting. Of course, that's not really what happened in that overgrown backyard 42 years ago. What really happened was a bunch of 12-year-old girls, wearing training bras, sitting on sleeping bags and scratching our mosquito bites, were trying to freak each other out at the slumber party and it worked. We started with a rousing session on the Ouija board. That was followed by ghost stories, and then the inevitable conversation about sex.

We were 12. It couldn't have been much of a conversation. I do remember that it had something to do with French kissing. Melanie gave us a demonstration on her arm. I, of course, knew all about French kissing. I had read my mom's paperback copy of Valley of the Dolls which she kept in the nightstand next to her bed. I was full of knowledge, and I shared my knowledge with Diane, the much-younger girl who lived on my block. I have no idea what I told her, but I have always had a tendency to embellish so I'm sure it was juicy.

All I know is the day after giving Diane The Talk I was informed that I could no longer be her friend. Apparently, I freaked her out to such a degree that she told her mom what I said and her mom was forced to lay down the law. This was upsetting. I loved to go to Diane's house. I don't know how to describe her house except to say that her mom was a hoarder. They had everything. I mean literally everything. Piles of books, old prom dresses, wigs, dog toys, Hostess cupcakes, old TV Guides, miles of yarn, and dried-out Play-Doh. If you could think of it, they had it.

Diane even had her own house in their backyard. It was a small, pink playhouse full of miniature appliances and a kid-sized table and chairs. There was just one problem. The playhouse was just as junky as their real house. I didn't care. I loved it. I wanted to put on one of the old prom dresses, hang out in the playhouse, have a tea party and talk about sex.

That's what friends are for, right? Well, if I can't hang with Diane that's okay because I still have Laura. She lives right next door and she's 17 and I'm obsessed with her. She is a cheerleader, she has a driver's license and an old Mustang, she has long, blonde hair and she is the homecoming queen. She is supposed to be watching me and my pesky little brother while my parents are at work. She is kind of watching us and kind of not, but mostly she is talking on the phone. I worshipped her. I wanted to be her.

I also wanted to be Donna Parker. Donna was not a real girl. Donna was the star of all the Donna Parker books I owned. She had a pesky little brother just like mine. She also had adventures and a crazy best friend named Ricky. She got to travel to Canada and Hollywood and do activities. She liked headbands and she was very well groomed. Donna Parker books were not as racy as Valley of the Dolls, but sometimes I just wanted to read about a wholesome girl who made good grades and didn't swallow handfuls of colorful pills.

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I'm lucky because I've never lacked friends; however, in high school I was mostly interested in hanging with my best friend. We were the Laverne and Shirley of Seminole High School. She was a little older so she learned to drive first, and then I learned by driving her car. She could blow cigarette smoke out of her nostrils, and she taught me how to do it. She introduced me to Kiss and Aerosmith and nacho cheese Doritos. She was a lifeguard in the summer, and I thought that was the coolest job on the planet. She spent hours in the sun, and always smelled like Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil. She had a killer tan and I wanted a tan too, but I didn't want to sweat. I took the easy way out and bought a tan in a can. The results were horrendous.

She and I didn't see or talk to each other for over a decade, but we have the kind of relationship where that really doesn't matter. We reconnected through Facebook, and it was as if we had never stopped talking. We picked up the conversation right where we left off. I love that about her, and she still has a killer tan.

Girlfriends are just the best, and girlfriends don't have to be girls. One of my very best girlfriends is a guy. I call him my brotha from another motha. I'm old enough to be his mother, and we don't have one thing in common other than our mutual love of chili cheese Fritos, but he makes me laugh so hard and he gets me on every level. We met at work and became fast friends. The job is long gone. He is still around. He has promised to take care of me, and bring me chili cheese Fritos and trashy novels when I'm in the nursing home.

One of my youngest friends is actually 80-years-old. I call her young because she thinks young, she dresses young, she talks young, she acts young so she is young. I also met her at work and I knew she was going to make my life interesting. She would always say, "It's better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission." She was with me when I experienced the closest brush with death I've ever known. We were on a small commuter plane headed to Albuquerque when alarms rang out, and a recorded female voice calmly instructed the wet behind the ears pilot to pull up immediately. I wasn't upset the first time I heard the announcement, but by the seventh time I was crying and holding her hand in a death-like grip as we plunged toward the earth. Thankfully we landed safely, and as I exited the plane on very shaky legs she was laughing so hard she actually wet herself. She thought it was fun.

I still go to slumber parties with my girl's group, The BSWs. The girl's names have changed since I was 12, but we still tell ghost stories and talk about sex. I've only mentioned a few of my friends. There are more. Like the friend who babysat me during my nervous breakdown several years ago. I'm sure that was loads of fun. Young, old, boy, girl, real or imaginary, friends make life interesting and weird and funny and worth living.

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