The ’90s friendship necklace that almost broke my heart

When I was twelve my vision of perfection included owning a bra that I could call mine, all mine. The vision was only completed, however, by showing off said bra to my best friend during recess or some other aptly inappropriate time. I found that I could accomplish both through indulging in an afternoon of one-stop shopping at The Limited (actually, Limited Too, to be accurate). So, I roped my mom into taking me one weekend—she was perhaps even more delighted than I was.

My hand trembled slightly, but I remained focused as I tried my best for nonchalance. I grabbed the ugliest, whitest, thinnest Band-Aid masquerading as a training bra—and as we walked to the checkout counter I saw them. Not my boobs (they wouldn’t show up for another two years), but the Best Friend necklaces.

They were a set of two broken in half, zig-zag style hearts—one donning the word BEST, the other with the word FRIEND. Each wearer had their own necklace, but when placed together they became one heart—two halves of one whole. In my elevated state of ecstasy and mock bravado I bought them. It was perfect. I had finally acquired the training bra and, as an added bonus, I had discovered a somewhat doglike way in which to tag and identify my best friend. At the time, both bosom constrictor and bosom buddy seemed like possessions that I could collect.

Little did I know, my breasts would still develop even if I didn’t train them and my friend would still stick around even if I didn’t manage to get the word “best” around her tiny neck. As children of the ’90s we were ironically incapable of foreseeing that the zigzag broken heart necklaces we were purchasing at Claire’s and Limited Too would ultimately break our own hearts.

At the time we took the best friend themed jewelry at face value. It was super trendy and seemingly harmless. But the concept of buying jewelry that would then label one friend as superior to all of the rest was a little ridiculous, if not insensitive. In general, hierarchy amongst friends leads to superficial competition and bad feelings rooted in exclusion. Plus, our inner ’90s kid’s constant need to label and systemically categorize relationships can not only undermine their complexity, but make relationships seem store-bought instead of cultivated and cared for over time.

When I proudly presented my BEST half of the best friend necklace to chronic playmate, Christina, she squealed with delight as I clumsily clasped the cheaply made sterling silver chains together. It was official—or about as close to Facebook friend official as we could get back in the dark ages—and I felt a real sense of accomplishment. She was my best friend. I was hers. I had the other half of the heart. It was a done deal. Or at least it was for roughly twenty-four glorious hours.

The next day at school my face fell when I saw Christina had a BEST to somebody else’s best friend bracelet. I felt cheated and duped. I felt like I had been demoted—did my necklace mean nothing to her? Should I have picked the flashier necklace with rhinestones?

Christina got it. I didn’t. The necklace, though a seemingly sweet gesture, didn’t really mean anything at all. It was symbolic of the solid bond that already existed between us and didn’t need to be shouted from the matching accessory rooftops.

My misplaced possessive gift ultimately sat unworn in both of our ballerina jewelry boxes because the label really just wasn’t that important. We would still call each other after school to complain about Mrs. Boyle’s stack of math homework and to debate which bike path to take on the way to our soccer game the coming weekend.

After my brief brush with rejection and feelings of inadequacy we still had five minutes left at recess. So, Christina took my hand and we went to conquer the playground. After about 5.6 seconds I was totally oblivious and refocused my energy back into strutting my flat chested training bra stuff while playing Red Rover.

(Image via iStock)

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