I get canker sores like nobody’s business. If I have a glass of orange juice, I will pay dearly for the next week with a welt on the inside of my cheek, the back of my tongue, the underside of my lip. Wherever it ends up, it is guaranteed to be a spot that will be hit by every single chew, every spoken word, every subtle expression. It’s always there, always pulsing, never letting me forget that it’s lying in wait to take all the joy out of my next meal.
I have one now, and I’m a little bitter.
When I was little, however, my affliction was bloody noses. Much like my canker sores, they would arrive at the most unwelcome of times, and far overstay their unenthusiastic welcome. One in particular ruined a playdate with my then-very-good-friend, a fellow kindergartener named Casey. We were at my house when the bloody nose struck, which was unusual because we didn’t often play at my place. We had cats, and Casey was incredibly allergic to them. Casey was allergic to cats, into playing tag, and together we would pick on our little brothers and wrestle in the grass. Casey was also a boy.
How adorable is this?
At the age of five, this didn’t matter at all. The only difference between boys at girls at that point (at my school, we didn’t get into the boyfriend/girlfriend thing until around the fifth grade) was that girls occasionally had ponytails and the teachers yelled at us for hanging upside down on the monkey bars when we were wearing skirts. For obvious reasons.
Casey and I were great friends. We played blocks in school and roller skated together at various birthday parties. I went to his house often, and he was the first person to try to explain the logic behind hunting to me (at five years old and animal OBSESSED, I was horrified). We even talked on the phone, our little kindergarten selves, about what I’m sure were very important and intellectual matters.
Then the first grade happened. Suddenly everyone was aware of the “girls rule, boys drool” (and vice versa) mentality. It hit me like a brick–I hadn’t received the memo everyone else seemed to have read over summer break. Precocious girls of six and seven were beginning to smuggle makeup into school, shoved inside their Trapper Keepers. Wearing pink was considered “babyish”. And Casey stopped returning my calls.
In high school I feel in love with When Harry Met Sally, the movie starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as adorably neurotic almost-friends, almost-lovers who meet time and time again over the course of their lives. And I learned the quote Collegiate-Aged Harry so eloquently says over greasy diner food to his new acquaintance: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
Now, as we all know (if you’ve seen the movie), Harry and Sally do in fact become friends. And then the sex part gets in the way, and then they fall in love. So I’m not entirely sure what the movie really does other than prove Harry’s initial thesis, but I’d like to pick the part in the middle and focus on that. The friend part, I mean. As little kids, we have no idea that there’s any difference between us. Boys, girls, black, white, whatever. Then, as we begin to learn about the world, we start looking at each other differently. We notice blondes and brunettes, short and tall. We notice that someone talks funny, or dresses strangely. For a long time, we focus on those differences, and we may or may not be able to be friends because of them. We lose that childhood innocence and we become wise to the ways of the world.
But I like to think that once we become “wise”, we become educated as well. I like to think that we will be able to see those differences not as hindrances, but as points of interest. That being different doesn’t mean being separate.
I may have gone a little off-topic there, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m glad that after the divisive days of grade school, I was able to have guy friends again. It’s nice that now I can hang out with guys with no pressure, with no one singing K-I-S-S-I-N-G in the background (of course now that I’m married, people do that a lot less anyway). I’m glad to have guy friends that are just as close as girl friends, and I’m glad to be one of many proving Harry’s line of thinking to be incorrect.
But I do miss the innocence a little.