How I finally found my hometown bestie
It’s Besties Week! We’re kicking off the release of our first HelloGiggles book, A Tale of Two Besties, with an epic celebration of friendship and stories about friendship. Read an excerpt of the book, buy a copy, catch us on our cross-country book tour, and share your photos from our events by tagging us @hellogiggles #ATaleofTwoBesties.
In the meantime, join the party right here. All week long, our contributors will be sharing stories, essays and odes to their very own partners-in-crime. Read, laugh, cry (because you’re laughing so hard) and share with your bestie!
My hometown isn’t really a town. Walnut, a tiny place in Illinois, is part of a network of small communities connected by two-lane highways and cornfields. So when I say “hometown,” I’m not just talking about Walnut. I’m also talking about Manlius, where I went to high school, and Princeton, where I waited tables, and all the other outlying towns where my friends lived. In a town about twenty minutes from my Walnut lived a girl named Helen. And that distance is why it took me 13 years to find my hometown bestie.
I’d always been a bit of a quirky, dorky, out-there kid. A little hyper, a little restless, and very imaginative, I’d never quite fit in with the Walnut crowd. I had great friends, including best friends (Mindy Kaling is right when she says it’s not a title, but a tier) who I love to this day. But I’d known all the kids at my grade school since I was six, and some even longer. As we all grew into our own people, gaps in interests were more pronounced even if our friendships were still close. For most of my childhood, I hadn’t found someone who I just clicked with on all levels. And in a pool of about 50 or so kids your own age, it’s not likely that someone will turn up out of the blue.
But then, one day, she did. Helen and I both played trumpet in our middle school bands, which were rivals but fed into the same high school. When our basketball teams played each other, the bands teamed up and played together during half time. Helen and I ended up next to each other one evening, and she happened to ask me about a note. I answered her, and introduced myself.
“I’m Helen,” she said. And we’ve been friends ever since.
It really was that simple. We didn’t hang out on a regular basis, seeing each other at pep band performances and school dances. But when we got to high school, we ended up in the same Spanish class and became inseparable. Despite the fact that we do not look anything alike, people started mistaking us for each other simply because we were always together, two halves of one (very loud and quirky) whole.
Finding someone who got me completely and mirrored back so many of the interests I had was like finding a little island in a big ocean. Helen listened to the same music I did,watched old black and white movies with her totally amazing family, and liked the same foods and stores I did. She gave me something to aspire to when she amazed me with her creativity, wit, charm, and always on-point style. Helen was a partner in the struggles of high school and finding myself, which is something every teen needs.
Helen was more than just a friend from the very start. She has been a sister, a partner-in-crime, a sounding board, and a champion. She’s also been a rival, as we both tried to find ways to be our own people despite our hometown assuming we were the exact same. Over the past fourteen years, we’ve weathered first boyfriends, first breakups, first cars, first jobs, and first apartments. As I’ve moved around the country, Helen has been a pinpoint of stability, a constant despite whatever elements of uncertainty I’m facing.
Helen and I haven’t lived in the same town for years now, and at this point live halfway across the country from each other. But whenever we do see each other, most often around her parents’ table over wine when I’m back in town to visit, I’m reminded of the overwhelming sense of relief I had when I realized she was my person. As we laugh, swap stories from our distant lives and speak in the language of inside jokes that no one else can quite keep up with, I’m swept up by the comfort of being with someone who has known me since I wore my black eyeliner to thick and favored sweaters with thumb holes, yet loves me all the same. And as we say good-bye and drive away, I inevitably think about how lucky I am that the girl next to me in pep band fourteen years ago happened to ask me a question.