Today is my best friend’s 30th birthday. Her name is Dawn Clayton and I’ve known her since middle school, but we didn’t become friends until our Junior year in high school after several years of hating each other with a passion that burns only so heatedly in the pubescent hearts of 14-year-old girls suffering PMS.
Both Dawn and I were somewhat nerdy in middle school: she played the trombone, I played the clarinet and twirled the rifle in the marching band. She had won two or three county spelling bees, I had won three county public speech contests. She wore glasses, I wore braces and my hair was fashioned in the likeness of tumbleweed. Yet, at that early age she had already begun to see that there was life outside of academic performance and God’s approval, something I wouldn’t learn until ten years later when I finally pulled the tampon out of my ass and got a life.
We began high school taking several of the same classes. She had lost her glasses, I had lost my braces. But my mission in high school was to earn a scholarship to college and the only way I thought that could be done was to frown, take things personally, and perform perfectly on every test and paper assigned in every class. Dawn sat behind me in Sophomore Honors English, and every time I got less than a perfect score on a test she’d whisper to the girl sitting next to her, “Watch her pout because she got a damn 98 instead of a 100.” And then they’d laugh and roll their eyes, ripping my heart out by pointing out that I was two points shy of perfection. I know I’ve pointed this out before, but do you see more clearly now why I needed a good bonking?
During our Junior year, however, both she and I became unbearably infatuated with two boys whom we loved deeply yet ultimately couldn’t have: her Terry Francis, my David Smith. I don’t even remember how we figured out that we were both suffering these intense high school crushes, but one day in AP American History we became best friends, President and Co-President of the V Club, Virgins.
I was probably proud of my virginity in a different way than Dawn was. My virginity was my key to eternal salvation, a component in my journey into a Mormon Temple Marriage, one that would result in Goddess-hood and my own planet in the afterlife. If I had sex I would lose my planet.
Dawn was one of the only popular girls in school to have saved herself past her 12th birthday, something she had every right to be proud of considering that most of the girls in our class were walking petri dishes of STD’s. She wanted to be in love when she lost her virginity, and I loved her for that. She may not have understood my whole planet situation, but she understood that it was important to wait. Plus, I was a fantastic designated driver.
We were virtually inseparable for two years, talking on the phone before and after school, taking walks in the neighborhood park to lament the fact that Terry Francis, an officer in the Navy, might get stationed somewhere very far away or that David Smith was going off to Caltech and might get stationed on Mars. We got to see James Brown perform live on the bluffs of the Mississippi River (I drove home), we traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida to party after graduation (I drove to the clubs), and we both received acceptance letters from the colleges of our choice.
One of my favorite memories is how we used to make fun of my first boyfriend, Ryan. She had dated him a few years before I did, and she had become privy to some information I would never have allowed myself to privy to, the size and specifications of Ryan’s small penis (the story is that she happened upon it once while at a picnic, nothing too naughty). While I was dating Ryan he found out that Dawn and I had maybe talked about the fact that they had dated briefly, and after a date one night he hesitated as I was getting out of the car to go inside.
“Wait,” he pleaded with me. “Get back in and close the door. I need to ask you something.”
“Okay.” I had no idea where he was going with this.
“Um…” He stammered and could barely find words. “Has Dawn ever told you about, uh, anything? You know, things or whatnot?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied.
“You know, ANYTHING?”
And then I pretended that I had a small idea of what he was referring to and confessed, “Oh, gosh, no. Never. We don’t talk about things like that.” But of course most of what we talked about were things like that.
I immediately went inside, called Dawn, and told her about the whole conversation. “Anything?” She laughed. “Ha. Anything like HIS PENIS IS THIS SMALL?”
Even today I’ll ask her, “Remember Ryan’s small penis?” It never gets old.
Dawn lives in Denver now. We haven’t seen each other in a few years, and I’m dying for her to meet Leta. Leta would love her huge smile and silky hair, her infectious laugh and heart that is the size of a continent. I imagine one day Leta asking to go visit her pretty Aunt Dawn so that she could hear the story about Terry Francis and David Smith one more time, how she and Mama used to drive around listening to “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” with the sun roof open.
I know her father has called her today and said, “Happy Birthday, Baby Doll.”
Happy Number Three Oh, P.M.