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When I was 14, I had a best friend, who I'll call Lily. Lily had moved into the neighborhood partway into 9th grade, and I considered myself lucky to be the one to befriend her first. Lily had the potential to be friends with much more popular people than me. an inexperienced 14-year-old who looked 11, tops. Lily had already kissed a boy.

Lily got herself a boyfriend right away. He lived in a big house on the beach, just him and his mom. The year was 1980 and I didn't know any single women like his mom. Her house had waterbeds, a spiral staircase and a pool. Lily might as well have been dating Hugh Hefner.

I was the epitome of the third wheel that year. I don't know if Lily's mom let her go swimming at his house or to the Fourth of July Fishing Rodeo because I was with her or if Lily just let me tag along because she felt sorry for me, but there I was. All the time. They would go together for about two years but I was there for probably 98% of the first one.

I'm going to go way back now and tell you that in the 80s, our equivalent of social media was talking on the phone and writing notes. Houses typically had two landline extensions - one in your parents' bedroom and the other usually in the kitchen or some other common area. So you would call your friend and stretch the phone on the long cord to your bedroom or a closet so you could sit talking for however long your parents allowed. (Most parents had either a 30- or 60-minute limit, depending on how many kids they had.)

The other way we spent our evenings was writing notes to school friends that you could pass to them the next day. It's how you knew if people liked you: they wrote you notes. It took time, commitment. "Write me a note" and "write me back" were phrases we repeated them multiple times every day. W/B/S at the bottom of a note meant "write back soon." LYLAS meant "love ya like a sis."

We also had this oragami-type way of folding notes. I can probably still demonstrate it if you need me to. Then you wrote "To:" and "From:" on the outside.

One night during my freshman year, I started writing a note to Lily, and I got honest about how difficult I found life, how insignificant I felt, how I desperately wanted a boy to like me.

The thing about notes scrawled out on blue-lined notebook paper is that it feels more permanent, like it's really expunged from you when you write it. It also means you have a lot of time to think about what to do with it next.

I decided to deliver it to Lily.

To my relief, I got a note back from her that said she felt many of the same insecurities that I did. She told me she had no idea things had been so difficult for me. She told me she loved me and would always be there for me. LYLAS.

It was the most comforting, secure, and unconditional love I'd ever felt from anyone up to that moment in my life.

It was the love of a girlfriend.

When I was 18, I moved out of my dad's and into my boyfriend's. I lived with that guy for two years, finally finding my way out by getting an apartment with my brother. That lasted a couple of years until he got serious about a girl and I became the third wheel again. I was waiting tables at the Oak Court Mall Chili's (back when that was a classy place) and a girl I worked with - I'll call her Sunny - had just graduated college and was looking to move out of her parents' house. We rented half a duplex on North Parkway at Crosstown.

It was barely 1990 and already an economy where you could make more slinging drinks than putting your college degree to work (Thanks, Reagan) and Sunny stayed at Chili's, the two of us carpooling to work from midtown.

Sunny was beautiful, with long blonde hair and perfect teeth. The house we rented was a two-story, with the bedrooms and bath up a set of stairs that were so steep, my queen-sized box springs wouldn't fit. I slept on a mattress on the floor, while my box springs rested up against the dining room wall, ruining the effect of the table Sunny's mom had painted with vines climbing up the table legs. The place did not have central air and Sunny took the room with the AC unit, since she suffered with severe allergies. When I listen to Don Henley "End of the Innocence" I can still smell the Paul Sebastian hair spray and Georgio cologne as we got ready for work.

Sunny and I spent that summer trying to extricate ourselves from some pretty toxic codependent relationships. We were just barely into our 20s. We didn't yet know how to have non-toxic relationships. We were only just learning about life and love. We hardly even knew ourselves yet.

It was an extraordinary and intimate journey to take with a friend. We lived together, worked together, had mutual friends. We cried, laughed and supported each other as we walked our path. It was impossible not to become emotional soul mates.

The love of a girlfriend.

Sadly, many of us - often under spousal or societal pressure - cede our girlfirendships when we move to that Married And Family phase of life that's been assigned to us.

Our children's lives begin to suck up all our time. People move away for job opportunities. Society dictates that spouses and children come first, and our girlfriends fall down the list somewhere below people our kids play baseball with and other PTA moms.

I can tell you that I spent a lot of years without a full-time best girlfriend. And it is lonely.

Because girls can boast from now til the end of eternity that "I married my best friend!" but I'm here at this advanced age to tell you that I've seen a lot of even those partnerships fizzle. Love that man with your whole true heart but he will never replace your best girlfriend. It's a different role, and we shouldn't let society tell us it's less important.

Lily and Sunny aren't the only girlfriends who have made an impact on my life. In my 50s, I relocated closer to where I grew up, which has allowed me to rediscover old friends again. I've started opening myself to friendships with local folks I've met. Sometimes there are people right around you that love you and have your back. Those are your new girlfriends.

Because it's become glaringly obvious to me that having a best girlfriend with me when I needed her most has probably saved my life more than once.

And I would bet you my next paycheck that if I picked up the phone and called Lily or Sunny and said, "I need you," they would 100% respond, "I'm here."

Dedicated to Daisey, Kelly, Phaedra, Beth, Shelley, Susan, Mary, Penelope, Augusta, Ansley, Gina, Alayna, Carmen, Ashley, Sara, Sonja, Tammy, Debbie, Jerry, Shawn, Sunni, Laci, & a host of amazing girlfriends I've made at JLGC.

If you are reading this and are feeling alone and in need of a girlfriend - reach out to me. I will be there for you. If you are in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call 988 for immediate help. I care and I'm glad you're here.


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