I met Lucy in my first year of secondary school. We had an instant connection and became best friends immediately. I was a shy kid who had been bullied all throughout primary school and I had finally found a best friend that I could hang out with. I was thriving.
We only lived a short walk away from each other and it wasn’t long before we were at each other’s house all the time. She was struggling with her parents’ divorce and I, after having mainly been raised by my grandparents, had only just moved in with a parent full-time and things weren’t exactly fantastic either. Both of us were navigating teenage life and we found comfort in each other.
The Burn Book
This was 2005, so my life basically consisted of buying all the tabloids I could find, cut out pictures of unrealistically thin celebrities and hang them in my wardrobe as ‘motivation’, read the latest celebrity gossip, and then discuss the latest celebrity gossip. Paris Hilton ruled the world, or at least my spare time. Lucy and I became fascinated by the idea of the ‘IT girl’. We wanted that life and we believed that we were destined for it.
Now, earlier that school year we had been gifted with what to this day remains the best thing that has ever happened to cinema, and maybe to the human race as a whole: Mean Girls hit the screens. To say Lucy and I were obsessed with that movie would be an understatement. I remember days where I would watch that film, rewind it and start it again.
Eventually we decided that just watching Mean Girls wasn’t doing it for us anymore. We wanted to be them. And so we combined our creative skills and recreated The Burn Book. If I remember correctly it looked exactly the same as the original, but the contents were considerably less exciting. We were twelve, we basically only knew the people we had classes with and weren’t really in on any hot goss. In the end we dedicated half the book to fantasising about the boy we both had a crush on. We gave up after a while and I’m actually not sure where the book is now.
Towards the end of our second year Lucy and I had a bit of a falling out, which included her telling people that I stuffed one side of my bra with tissues to make up for the fact that one boob was smaller than the other. It was true, although she conveniently forgot to mention that she did the exact same thing. Looking back on this now I just think it’s hysterical how embarrassed we were about literally everything. She and the girl she was besties with during our hiatus (genuinely one of the most insufferable people I have ever had the misfortune of coming across, I swear that girl’s voice could strip paint off a wall) hacked my MSN and changed my nickname to ‘Fatty’. They didn’t win them any prizes for creativity, but of course teenage me was absolutely mortified.
One year later we made up and returned with a vengeance. The year was 2007 and we had entered a new – and possibly even more dangerous – era: that of the (in hindsight highly problematic but oh so dreamy) TV show Gossip Girl. We immediately regrouped and discussed the opportunities this show brought with it. This was like The Burn Book 2.0: Bigger, better, online and with witty writing. As I was never really a Myspace gal, our platform of choice was Belgian social media network Netlog, where I was already living my best life under the username Barbiewantstobeme. I know, I know.
Lucy and I ‘anonymously’ started a blog where we posted pictures of our classmates and wrote the most horrible things about them. Our belief that we were better than everyone else, that we were too big for that school and that city, had only grown stronger over time. We were ready to start living like the teenage sensations that we knew we were. According to us, we were the only two people who realised what life was really about (which was smoking behind the local library and buying cheap stilettos from New Look that neither of us could walk in, apparently). How exactly we thought we could just talk shit about every single classmate apart from ourselves and not be suspected is beyond me. Our blog was live for less than a full day before someone sent a message to our account that read: ‘You’re Lucy.’
For some inexplicable reason, people at school were still relatively nice to us. I still had friends even though I didn’t deserve it. I was mean to people who genuinely liked me and had never done anything wrong. It must have been clear that my heart wasn’t in it and that all of it stemmed from deep insecurity. I had realised that if people feared me, they wouldn’t bully me.
The end (or was it?)
Eventually I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really like who I was when I was with her anymore and I started distancing myself from Lucy a bit. I joined my school’s theatre group and I liked hanging out with the people I had classes with. I also met a boy who became my best friend. Rather than telling her that I was exhausted from all the drama and the constant attempts to be someone I was not, I wasn’t honest with her which probably made her feel abandoned. Our friendship fizzled out and we didn’t talk until a couple of years later when we were both in college.
Now both matured a little, we decided to give it another go. One thing you should know about my friendship with Lucy: Whenever we were together, the wildest things happened. One time we were having dinner outside of an Italian restaurant in Antwerp when out of nowhere a woman jumped on our table. I mean she actually ran and dived like it was a bouncy castle. One moment we were sitting there enjoying our food, the next moment our table was a couple of metres away and waiters were putting everything back like nothing had happened. We didn’t get an explanation. About thirty tables were staring at us and I did nothing to change that. I was absolutely crying with laughter and Lucy’s shocked face only made it worse.
‘Having fun slagging off my mother?’
The most dramatic story though, is this: We went to a restaurant and Lucy’s phone was face-down on the table. Her and her then-boyfriend had just gotten back from a city trip with his parents. She was telling me all about how her boyfriend’s mother had annoyed her. She told me everything her mother-in-law had said, made fun of the way she talked, quoted her, did her best impression of her… We laughed and laughed. Now, Lucy’s phone was old and had recently started doing some random things. Things like answering calls by itself.
Due to what can only have been a very cruel joke from the universe, her boyfriend had called her and the phone had picked up without us knowing. He had heard the whole thing. He sent her some (not entirely undeserved) angry texts so she jokingly said that we should stop by his house on the way back to apologise. When we got there she told me to wait in the car. When she got back in the car I witnessed a scene so dramatic that it could put Grey’s Anatomy to shame.
Apparently he had told her that he couldn’t be with someone who spoke about his mother that way and he had broken up with her. Mascara was running down her cheeks, she was howling and she started banging her head against the headrest. I was absolutely speechless. They made up less than two days later so it was all fine (at least for a little while), but I’ll never forget that moment.
We’ll always have New York
When her and the guy eventually did break up for good, she spent quite a few nights on my balcony, working through her grief. She said she needed to get away for a bit so she ended up joining me on the New York trip I had already booked for myself. Over there, we had a strip club experience that’s worthy of its own blog post, so that’s a story for another day.
Not too long after the New York trip we started drifting apart again. It all ended with me sending her a message to catch up, and her sending one back to tell me that that wasn’t a priority for her anymore. She said that, although she thought it was ‘nice’ every time we hung out together, she was already too busy to see her new boyfriend and close friends, so there was simply no time and energy left for me.
In a way I appreciated her honesty, but it definitely stung. I was especially shocked by how she described an (admittedly on-again, off-again) friendship of more than thirteen years during which we had shared some of our highest highs and lowest lows with each other and during which I had taken her to New York and spent days listening to her lamenting the end of her relationship (‘Oh you’re ordering Diet Coke? That reminds me of that one time he ordered Diet Coke…’) as ‘nice’. Like I was nothing more than an acquaintance she once had coffee with. I was hurt, but I guess we were never really meant to last.
Lucy and I have very different lives now and I truly hope she’s happy. I remember her as one of the funniest people I have ever met, a very impressive writer, and the person I spent the messiest years of my life with.
My past coming back to haunt me
A couple of years ago I received a message from an old classmate. She told me that upon Googling herself to see what potential employers would see, she had come across Lucy and I’s Netlog page about her. She politely asked me to delete it. I was so incredibly embarrassed and by some kind of miracle I was able to login to that account again and take it down. I apologised profusely and she was extremely nice about it. She said it best: ‘We’ve all done things we’re not exactly proud of.’