So I just finished watching Now & Then, a 90’s film that captures the sweetness of friendship as well as the pains of growing up. Movies like this tend to make me a bit weepy just because they bring out such a strong sense of nostalgia. Now & Then, in particular, reminds me of my own best friends. We watched this at a sleepover one night when we were teenagers, giggling over s’mores about which of us was Chrissy, Teeny, Roberta and Sam.
The memory still flickers faintly in my head. Here’s what I know: we were so damn young.
Like the girls in the movie, we were so in love with each other and the notion that friendship was this immutable thing, impervious to life’s inevitable unfolding.
But, eventually, we discovered that friendship is not always as saccharine as our favorite movies led us to believe.
Now & Then‘s command over my heart exists, in part, because it takes place in the summer. Most of my own fun memories with my girls happened in the summer as well — at camp, in church, or just hanging out in each other’s rooms while watching funny movies.
Barby, the oldest among the three of us, has always been the logical one, the one I call our Voice of Reason. When you tell her something, she’ll ponder on it thoughtfully then give you a well-formed opinion in response. She is very smart and very insightful. I am sure that Mama June (of Here Comes Honey Booboo infamy) would describe her as ‘wisdomous’. (She and I actually marathoned the show one time while eating a bag of chicharon. Eep.) She’s got the best heart I know; the kind of person you’d want in your corner when the worst happens. And while I may have just painted her out to seem uptight and serious, know that she has one of the brightest and most creative minds I know. I’d liken her humor to be a cross between Daria and Sheldon Cooper. She is also terrific fun. Case in point: she was very game, one summer, to act as a warring orc during one of our private Lord of the Rings skits. We actually have hidden footage of her pretending to be Neo from the Matrix as well.
Carina, on the other hand, is our bright star. Known on the internet (since she was 13!) for being a brilliant writer, artist, and designer, she is — no doubt — the epitome of cool. Despite that, she has no problem slumming with dorks like us. (Mostly because she is one herself.) Carina is my personal wellspring of pop culture knowledge. She’s also incredibly funny. I admire her for not being afraid to say it like it is and, more than that, she has always been brave enough to stay true to who she is. While her resting bitch face may intimidate others, she’s one of the sweetest and most generous people I know. She is staunchly loyal to the people she loves. If you cross any of us, you’d better get ready to deal with her immortal wrath. One of my favorite things about Carina is that she has an arsenal of ugly faces ready for when we get our selfie game on.
I could go on and on about these women but the point is: we came together when we were 14 and have loved each other ever since.
(Carina – me – Barby)
Up until we hit our 20’s, I had always viewed our friendship from the lens of a grand idealist. (I’m the happiest among us so that may not be too surprising, haha!) I knew ‘forever’ was a vague and silly concept, a promise thrown around by boys who barely understood the value of commitment. But I also thought, secretly, that we — Carina, Barby, and I — could make it happen. That though we would eventually outgrow our matching pink department store-bought jackets, we would never outgrow each other.
I know now that we did — and are — outgrowing each other in ways that are honest, sad, and good.
Barby now lives in Chicago. She moved away three (four?) years ago and we’ve had to rely mostly on technology to keep the connection alive. While Carina and I both still live in Manila, time together has been a geographical challenge ever since I relocated to the (far) south. It is clear to me now that our interests, joys, and social spheres are changing. We are adjusting to newfound sensibilities, philosophies, and values; we are being impacted by experiences that do not involve each other any longer. We had always been so different and I think, with everything that has happened so far, we’ve become even more different.
Some friendships are dynamic enough to survive change. Because of our shared past and the more-than-a-decade friendship we have between us, there is a deep and constant tenderness that binds us together. We are not strangers to each other, though we are changing all the time. And any time we find each other in a room together, I think we will always know, instinctively, that we belong.
(LOL, the last time we were in a room — my room — together. If I’m not mistaken, the year was 2014.)
We had found each other at such a crucial time in our lives, when we were all a little desperate for people who would get us, and I have always been grateful for that. In my youth, I had never quite come across people that I felt as at home with as them. To quote Lena Dunham:
“I think about my best friendship as, like, a great romance of my young life.”
That sums it up perfectly.
More than any boy, Carina and Barby are the people I first gave my heart to when I was 14-years-old because, unlike any boy had ever done, they never hesitated — in fact, they rejoiced — in giving me the space to be me, fully. That remains my standard of true love to this day: to know and be known for all that you were, are and will be.
It is only in Carina and Barby that you can find my roots, the girl I used to be. I could never evolve into my worst self back then (though I, admittedly, was pretty annoying) because I was highly self-aware of the fact that I had anchored myself to two compassionate, spectacular people. As far as friendship was concerned, I had outdone myself. I had lucked out.
Any measure by which someone might deem me a good friend today exists, in part, because these two showed me just what that means.
There are two separate scenes I love the most in Now & Then:
- When Roberta pretends to fake her death in the lake and Chrissy pushes the other girls aside to give her CPR. When Roberta opens her eyes to smugly show that she had been pretending all along, Chrissy punches her in the face then storms off. Later on, Roberta apologizes and Chrissy, both angry and frightened, says: “I love you, Roberta. You’re my best friend.”
- When Sam and Teeny lay in the unsold treehouse late at night, playing Truth or Truth. They eventually start talking about family and Sam tearfully confesses that her dad left, that her parents are getting a divorce. Teeny puts her arm around Sam, they embrace, then she pulls off her beaded necklace (“But you love that!” Sam cries out in protest) and breaks it in half. At the end of the scene, they leave the treehouse sporting matching friendship bracelets.
And I realize now that I like these scenes because I lived them. Not exactly — but, in some way, at the core, I did.
I’m writing this today because:
1.) Carina and I are meeting up for lunch. It’s been a while and I am always grateful for any time we can spend together. That girl is a joy to be around.
2.) It’s Barby’s birthday! IT’S BARBY’S 28TH BIRTHDAY! Back when we were teenagers, 28 seemed so old and unfathomable. But now we know better. Now we know that 28 is old, but not that old, and that any age is a chance to learn, grow, and become, while still remaining a kid at heart.
There is no one on the planet that I miss more than Barby. I love you, dance buddy. Hope you have and are having the most fantastic time in Germany.
Also, here’s a throwback of the collage you sent me on my last birthday. Check your e-mail, love. Everything else that matters is there.