met my best friend Stacy for dinner last night. 'Hi ya, Fat Ass,' I yelled across the crowded restaurant when I first spotted her.
'God, what have you done to your hair?,' she shouted back. 'You look like a soccer mom. I'm embarrassed to be seen with you.'
Then we embraced. I'm not much of a hugger. My hugs tend to be more like shoves. But I always hug Stacy with both arms and linger in the embrace long enough that it causes our friends to question the true nature of our relationship.
She pushed me out of the embrace and held me at arm's length, giving me the once over. 'Your mother gave you that sweater, didn't she?' she asked accusingly. 'It has a certain suburban sensibility.'
'And you look like a smudge mark,' I said. Her clothes, purchased at a second-hand shop and coated in cat hair, were the color of dying leaves.
Stacy and I communicate largely through insults, jibes, and teasing. It's how we express our love for each other. If Stacy were ever to greet me by saying 'You look very pretty today,' I'd spend the next several hours wondering what I'd done to make her mad at me.
We never pass up an opportunity to rub salt in a wound. I call her 'Stacy' in this column because that's the name of the woman who stole her girlfriend. When I first learned of the breakup, I did the only thing a good friend could do under the circumstances: I repeated Stacy's name every chance I got. Sometimes the only way to take the sting out of a humiliating episode is to replay it so often that you become comfortable in its familiarity.
Stacy and I have no business being friends. She's an intellectual and I'm a nitwit. She has a dark world view and I am forever hopeful that everything will turn out well in the end. Whenever we have a movie night, her first choice is Zentropa, one of the most depressing movies ever made. I usually select a screwball comedy. Once I brought over Adams Family Values, and she threw it at my head.
And, yet, from the day I crashed a party at her apartment 16 years ago, we've been friends. Go figure.
Like most good friendships, we have various qualities and flaws that balance each other out and allow us to consider each other equals. Stacy is smarter and funnier than I am, but I'm more forgiving and accepting and I make more money than she does. Other people tend to think of her as moody and high-maintenance and me as sunny and easy-going. But Stacy and I know better.
Case in point: A few months ago, Stacy invited her parents to see the musical Wicked, the story of the friendship between Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. I decided to tag along, as I often do on her family outings. At intermission, I bought her mother a bottle of water. It cost $3.
For the rest of the evening, her parents would not stop talking about that water. How generous it was of me. What a warm, wonderful person I am. They never once mentioned the fact that Stacy had paid for the tickets and dinner.
When the final curtain came down, Stacy turned to me and sighed, 'Wicked is the story of our friendship.' And just like in the musical, the good witch isn't nearly as nice as people think she is, and the wicked witch isn't so nasty.
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