In the fourth grade our teacher, Mrs. Fisher–with her flaming orange hair and clown red lipstick applied liberally outside the lines of her lips would say things like “whatever rattles your cage” and warned a dim classmate to stop pulling out his own hair otherwise he’d be “bald as a billiard ball.” (Like any of us knew what billiards were.) She was like a small town version of Lucille Ball–but scarier.
My best friend Carol and I were having an imaginary pie throwing fight at our desks in the back of the class room–during class. Mrs. Fisher obviously didn’t appreciate the disruption, and used her own brand of discipline to teach us a lesson. She ordered us both to come up front to opposite sides of the classroom and demonstrate for the class what we’d been doing. So, we did. Bashfully at first. But as experts at slinging imaginary pie and wiping imaginary cream from our eyes, the uproarious laughter from our audience…er…classmates fueled our performance to comedy gold. It was one of my first comedic performance experiences (which probably led to my studying at Second City years later), and I couldn’t have asked for a better co-star.
I think it all started with Carol. She lived down the street from me in the small town where I grew up. By end of second grade we were best friends. The first of only a few people in my life to ever hold that title. And when I look back, I realize there is a pattern to my female friendships. Carol was the first loud girl.
I spent a lot of time at Carol’s house playing and eating supper. Both parents worked full-time, and Carol’s grandma lived with them to watch the kids after school until the parents got home. All towheads, she had two older brothers, and a younger and brother and sister. They were always in each other’s business and usually slapping or punching one another without compunction, traditionally from older sibling to younger sibling. I remember lots of vain pleas for mercy followed by uproarious crying.
We didn’t play like the other kids in the neighborhood. We pretended. That was our thing. “Let’s pretend…” began most of our afternoons together. We liked to be young singles living in the city. We had apartments, cars, and impressive jobs and oppressive bosses. Other times we incorporated our favorite television shows into our pretending: we were extra siblings on “Eight is Enough” or younger siblings of the cops of “CHiPs”. Our bikes criss-crossed the neighborhood, the nearby creek and town cemetery being most frequent destinations for our adventures.
Carol was attractive because she daring, and usually flamboyantly disregarded the threat of punishment–whether at home or at school. She thought nothing of pushing down another kid who was being a dick–to me or anyone else. She was unbelievably funny–whether she knew it or not. She was my greatest alley in the neighborhood where there many alliances–most of them bigger or meaner than ours was. But we managed to avoid most of that drama and continue on with our pretending.
But it didn’t stop with Carol. It’s where it began. I’ve always been attracted to women who push back, express their feelings, are irreverent in their views and observations. These are the woman who I remain friends with today. All loud girls. Loud girls aren’t passengers. They are drivers. Obviously, they’re not quiet, but they don’t necessarily scream at the top of their lungs either. You know who they are and what they’re saying–even if they’re silent. Controlled chaos swirls around a loud girl. Nurturing and powerful, loud girls get shit done.
I haven’t seen Carol in years, though my mom sees her and her mom from time to time, but she is present and accounted for in the fondest and most innocent memories of my childhood. I love that my first best friend was a loud girl.