I have a made a number of great friends in London, which is quite admirable given my personality. No no, I’m not truly snarky all the time (just on this blog), but it has taken me many years to figure out how to live in an extrovert world. I used to be quite
shy reserved, and wouldn’t tolerate many people other than my parents, grandparents, and the odd aunt or uncle. Apparently, most people couldn't tolerate me either. I was what my mother calls ‘a charm-free child.’ Thanks, Mom…
This being the case, I didn’t have many childhood friends. If it weren’t for pre-arranged friendships, I might not have developed the social skills I have today. One of these friends was my cousin, who was 2 years younger than me, attended the same school, and provided me with a ‘lower-ranking’ individual to
torture play with. She has always been like a sister to me, and I swear I really did not push her down that advanced ski run (no matter what she says to the contrary).
The other is my good friend, Zoe. Our parents were friends, so we were forced to play together while they ignored us in favour of adult conversation. I loved to go over to her house and play because she always had the coolest toys and the awesome board games my parents refused to buy me because they were big meanies (okay, actually it was because I was super competitive and a sore loser, and they had long since given up playing games with me*). But as with any friendship between little girls, we were in a constant power struggle. Most of the time she won. That was okay, though, because she brought me out of my shell and had me trying things I'd never tried before.
Things like crossing the street by myself. We were about five years old and playing in her front yard when she decided we should go to the park. "The small park around the corner?" I asked. Nope, that wasn't what she'd had in mind. She wanted to go to the big park. This made me nervous. The big park was a whole two blocks away. "Won't we have to cross the street to get there? Are we even allowed to cross the street on our own?"
"Sure," she replied, "I always cross the street." She gave me a disdainful look that plainly said 'you're a big baby if you don't come with me'. So I followed her lead, and we went to the big park. We were happily swinging away on the swings when her father marched up in a fit of rage to collect us. As he carried us off, one under each arm, it became clear that we'd never been allowed to go that far, and as usual, Zoe was making things up as she went along. I resolved never to trust her again.
But a five year old's resolve doesn't last long, and before I knew it, I was duped once more. "Let's go outside and play karate," she suggested one afternoon.
"But I don't know how to play karate," I replied.
"It's okay. I'll teach you. Besides, it's just pretend." It wasn't pretend. Hmm, I thought as she began high-kicking at me, this probably isn't going to end well. The great Karate incident of 1987 ended in a bloody nose (mine) and tears of pain (mine) and guilt (hers). Turns out 'playing karate' was a synonym for using me as a punching bag. To be fair, I should have caught on by the first punch, and put a stop to it. But I didn't.
Over the years I took my revenge in many ways. I once got her to eat an entire jar of pickles, with the predictable, stomach-turning results. I would speak French to her, knowing full well she didn't understand me. I broke many of her aforementioned cool toys (purely by accident), and I even puked in her beloved Sneaky Snake box (that one was entirely unplanned).
Somehow though, we remained close through adolescence (braces, frizzy hair, acne and all) and into young adulthood. We've offered each other dating advice and career advice, and I was thrilled when she flew out to attend my wedding. Now she has a wonderful new food blog called 'Runny Yolks are Better', which I encourage all of you to read.
Neither of us ever learned proper karate, but it doesn't matter. I know she'll always be there to punch me if I need it. After all, it's what
karate kids friends are for.
*I'm pretty sure even my husband hates playing card games with me, but he's nice enough to ignore my fiery temper.