My friendship love affair with the so-called “brazen hussies” of the world began in kindergarten. My teacher assigned me a seat next to a pocket-sized blonde who looked like Tinker Bell but had the mouth of a pirate. While my plan was to pretend I didn’t have a bladder that first week of school, she’d stand up in the middle of story time and announce to 23 5-year-olds that she had to pee.
Before our teacher gave her permission to go, she’s be halfway out the door with a bathroom pass attached to a string dragging on the floor behind her. If the boys required a verbal ass-kicking, she could slay them in three words and win back the toys they stole from us. One day, while coloring pictures in our phonics books, I looked over and noticed Tinker Bell had taken a purple crayon to all of our perfectly nice, beige two-dimensional phonics people. After that, I made it my mission to become her best friend.
Tink now lives in Massachusetts with her wife and three children, where she continues to defy stereotypes and pee whenever the hell she damn well pleases. The world needs Tink — and quiet introverts like me need bold, nervy and, yes, vocal women like Tink. You are the peanut butter to our chocolate. We’re both delicious enough on our own, but put us together and we become the most mind-blowing of combinations.
Tink eventually moved from our neighborhood and changed schools. Over the years, we grew apart. But other Tink-types would replace her and it didn’t take long for me to realize I mesh well with vocal women. While I refused to settle my gaze within 10 feet of my junior high school crush, my daring BFF was moseying up to hers every morning in the gymnasium and slipping him love letters. She couldn’t have cared less whether he felt the same way about her.
The important thing was that she felt the love and she was going to make him know she was the best thing to ever walk in Doc Martens. I didn’t understand how she could be so bold and she couldn’t fathom why I’d waste precious time pining in secret and penning poetry about this boy when I could find out, that very afternoon, where I stand and simply move on if my love was unrequited.
In the years that followed, other strong, but totally not silent types, would enter my universe and fill it with adventure and life lessons. People would always label me the “quiet one” and call my friends the “crazy ones” or the ones with “big mouths.” Most couldn’t understand why we chose each other at all. Each time I brought a new friend home and my mother heard that laugh — the uninhibited, throaty, gorgeous laugh all “wild” girls share — she would raise her eyebrows and tell me in private that they were going to get me in trouble. Their moms, on the other hand, loved me, which pissed off my friends to no end. “It’s because you’re quiet. She has no idea how you really are.”
I sometimes wonder what my brazen friends got out of our friendship deal. Loyalty, maybe, and trust. The knowledge that whatever they confided in me was never repeated. I gave them a white room where they could paint their thoughts in bold, squiggly streaks of crimson and, when I contributed my own, they appeared in straight lines of China blue. Neither style nor shade is better than the other and we both purged in ways that were comforting to us, without judgment and without competing for the brighter color.
And I love them — their madness, their ability to live on 11 and shout “fuck you!” and throw their arms around someone without wondering if there will be a consequence.
But I can’t help but feel they’ve given me so much more.
The co-worker-turned-friend who realized I admired her lax attitude toward casual sex and her amazing stories, but encouraged me to honor myself and not aim to be a person I’m not.
The friend who told me I’d be crazy not to wear that short red dress on my first date with my husband.
The friend who pointed me in the direction of therapy when she noticed I was running away from past issues. Being the “quiet one” isn’t the same thing as being the “emotionally bottled-up quiet one” and she was honest enough with me to not allow me to become a shadow of myself.
The bold sister-in-law who wouldn’t let me stoically suffer in silence in the hallway of a hospital when I was in labor — who told my doctor to get his F-ing act together.
Brazen, outgoing women, we love you, we need you, we honor you. Never change.