Around my Junior year of High School, I became close friends with three guys, Mike M., Mike S. and Matt. They were a year behind me. I don’t recall what started it. I think we may all have been in one of the same classes. In Honors classes in our school, it wasn’t uncommon to have 2 grades of kids mixed together and we were all smart kids.

I’m guessing sarcasm had to be involved because we all have it in spades. I must have reacted to something one of them said and then we were friends. What we all had in common were family dysfunction. Not that any family comes without dysfunction but we were in a private, Catholic High School so we came from backgrounds where impressions were important and families in that school tended to be heavy on facades. We were part of a larger group of students whose families were all trying to show a similar narrative and what made us different from most students is that we didn’t play along with our parents. We all questioned authority and we all understood the hypocrisy of our situations. Definitely a powerful thread which held us together.

Mike M. Would be the least dysfunctional but had a terrible family situation. His parents were quite lovely, especially his mother who would often sit at the kitchen table and chat with his friends. She used to advise me “ this too shall pass” which is a phrase I have kept with me all these years as a coping mechanism for difficult times. I remember, in the deepest ruts of pain, I just need to be patient and ride it out because it will lessen with time. She was not wrong. Unfortunately, she died of cancer very young. It was incredibly tragic. He had the down to earth mom and was the one who had to lose significantly. He also had a deeply troubled younger brother. He seemed to want to be part of a gang and was often violent. He would frequently instigate fights in the house, both verbally and physically. I was so uncomfortable around him because there was no telling how he was going to behave. We spent most of our time hanging out in Mike’s room to avoid him. Mike was unique, liked very different music from the mainstream and was a writer. He didn’t give a shit what anyone else thought of him. He owned his eccentricities and embraced what he liked, even when I would pick on some of his musical choices and call it “butter churning” music. No idea where I came up with that. Anyway, he was so authentically himself and rich in knowledge. Very cool person to be around.

Mike S., I never totally understood his issue with his parents other than he hated them. Although, I believe they were Jewish, or 1 parent was Jewish so going to a Catholic High School probably seemed a bit “off” to him. He used his father’s first name when addressing him and it wasn’t a method of endearment or a cultural thing. I had a different friend in Junior High whose family was Scottish and they referred to their parents as John and Doreen as though everyone did that. Mike referring to “Beryl” was not so benign. It was also such an unfortunate name that I think Mike liked to focus on it for a reason. He was just always angry at his parents, there was no respect in how they communicated with each other. It was super uncomfortable going into their house as I was raised to be very respectful to my friends’ parents and I did it there but they seemed confused by a polite child and I felt like I was pissing Mike off by being polite. We just never hung out at that house. His motivation each day was finding a reason to get out of the house, even if it just meant driving around with friends and not really going anywhere.

Then there was Matt. I was in love with him, quite unrequited, but he still went all in on being a best friend regardless. He knew but he didn’t rub my nose in it or think I had ulterior motives anytime I was nice to him. In fact, he’s the only man I have ever known who could just have this knowledge and move on, simply separate it and treat me like the friend I chose to be. He was amazing in that way. We had a very deep, soulful connection I haven’t really had with a male friend since then. His whole house was filled with apathy and anger. His father had a lot of issues – Vietnam vet just like my dad. Matt was the middle of 3 kids and seemed to be the one bearing the brunt of his father’s problems. Another one not referred to as “dad” but RK instead. Although, at home on his own, pretty sure he addressed him as dad, just not when talking about him to us. His parents went through a divorce during this time as well. Another one who wanted to be out of his house at all times.

We all hung out a lot, whether it was all 4 of us, just me and Mike M., or Mike S., me and Matt. There were different dynamics in different combos but the 4 of us could still blend as a group. For instance, Mike S. Was more likely to be the one to use drugs and Mike M., while Matt didn’t care either way. I thought drugs were bad and a cry for help so sometimes drugs were the topic and sometimes they weren’t at all. Yet, I could tell Mike M. All about what was going on with the other Mike and Matt even if he didn’t see that stuff so I consider him just as much a player. These really were very elevated, unique friendships that all completed each other.

We hung out together a lot. I saw U2, Rush and a few other concerts with Matt and Mike S – we had music very much in common. I remember trips to Callahan State Park where we’d just hang out. I think we would just drive around a lot and stop to smoke butts. Camel Lights were the big “to do” with us, collecting camel points to actually buy Joe Camel merchandise. We thought we were funny. Looking back, clearly duped by big tobacco just as they wanted to entice teens into smoking.

Weekend nights, there was occasionally some drinking. It was just me, Matt and Mike S. Mike M. Was actually the responsible one and also had a girlfriend so he didn’t get dragged into our debauchery. God, to be that confident and self assured so young, what a gift he had. I really envy that. Anyway, there was some drinking but not a ton. My parents behaved as though I was out drinking all the time. I wasn’t allowed to go to any Senior year graduation parties because they assumed I was far worse than I really was. I just wasn’t into drinking. Somebody gave me a beer once at a party with my 3 years older ex boyfriend and it was gross. I “passed” at those parties by pretending to be drunk when I wasn’t. I just didn’t drink in High School. I’d watch other people do it but then I’d be the driver. I was often so worried Mike S or Matt would OD on something I needed to be the “straight” one in order to look after them. That was my role.

In fact, when you hear someone say someone spilled beer on them to explain why they smell of booze, that actually was true with me. There was one Saturday night we were at Mike S’ house, no idea where his family was. We were in the backyard and I distinctly recall there being a fish pond being built. The guys were definitely getting drunk and one of them literally dumped a whole beer on my shirt. I had borrowed my mom’s car and was terrified of what would happen when I got home. No surprise, my parents were in bed when I got home but I heard my mother’s voice calling me up to their room. She assumed I had been drinking and made me go up to her side of the bed so she could smell me. I told her the honest truth, the guys had been drinking but I hadn’t. One of them spilled on me and that was all that happened. She didn’t believe me and I got in trouble. Do you know how many kids are actually out there doing asshole things behind their parent’s backs? A lot. I was not one of them but I certainly got treated like one.

I didn’t start drinking until college where I apparently felt the need to make up for lost time and get to behave the way my parents had already proscribed me. I was drinking, smoking and doing pot ….and hooking up with guys. Total 180 from High School. I slept with one guy in High School and made it clear that there wasn’t going to be anyone else. I loved him. When we broke up, it wasn’t like I gave myself a sex license. Sex was for someone I loved. I didn’t love any of the boys I dated after that and I resented some of them because I think they felt I was a sure thing having had an older, steady boyfriend . Funny, my parents thought the same thing….that I was just going to have sex with everyone. People really underestimate me a lot. It’s annoying.

Despite all the college partying, I hated being there. During the first semester, I made my parents come get me every other weekend so I could hang out at home with the guys. on the weekends I stayed at school, they often came up and visited. We always drank then. It actually came on really hard and fast for me. I started out drinking them. Matt started getting concerned. There was one time I went home for Homecoming Weekend and spent the day with them. I got so wasted I knew I couldn’t let my parents be the ones to drive me back to school that night. So I went home real quick, grabbed my bag and told them the guys were driving me back up instead. They knew I had been drinking and were right that time.

It had escalated so quickly that Matt had a real talking to with me that night he drove me back to school. He said something about me “having no resolve” which is a phrase that has stuck with me over the years. I promised him that night I would quit drinking and believe it or not, I actually started going to AA meetings for a bit. Matt even come to some with me. I remember then saying I was an alcoholic and even telling my parents. I took it pretty seriously for awhile. And then I didn’t. I somehow decided I wasn’t an alcoholic. I had just been an over protected teenager over indulging in a behavior I hadn’t been partaking of in high school like so many others. I decided I was a typical cliche college kid getting a taste of freedom for the first time and I never looked back.

My friendships with the guys eventually faded as they all went to college. There was no internet then, no cell phones. We used to talk on the phone a ton but once we were all in different places for school, we pretty went our separate ways. I’ve always been pretty sad about that. These friendships truly were some of the most important relationships I have ever had – men I could truly be myself around, men who respected me, protected me. I would never again encounter anything so pure, trustworthy and uncomplicated with male friendships.

I caught up with Matt a number of years later when he was being hospitalized in Boston. He had moved to NY and then CA post college and gotten heavily into the drug and alcohol scene; nearly died. So he came home to rehab and recover and we chatted periodically through that time. Then he disappeared back to CA again for awhile and we lost touch for a bit until he got married. We were on the Instagram together with his wife for awhile where I got to see him have 3 daughters while experiencing a healthy, happy life. They dropped from Instagram again and now we aren’t in touch anymore.

‘Mike S. I have never reconnected with. Although, I do believe he followed Matt to CA for a time, which is something they had always been talking about. They wanted to be in the film industry and they actually moved out there just like they had planned. Matt did get into the industry but no idea whatever happened to Mike S. I was able to reconnect with Mike M. Via social media within the past couple of years and am really happy about that. He has pursued writing full time and is living the life he had always planned. He’s a wonderful friend I am grateful to have back in the circle. It’s actually pretty impressive that all 3 of them pursued exactly the dreams they had in High School. I’m the only one who seemed to be dangling without purpose and didn’t land anywhere remotely near anything I had been aiming for. Maybe that’s what Matt meant he said I had no resolve. I guess he could clearly see the future and he wasn’t wrong.

Fascinating the wisdom and resolve of 3 boys in High School. All of them, my best and dearest friends. Yet none of that rubbed off on me. I continued floundering and struggling, not able to catch up to my own identity until in my 40s, after careers, adventure and love have passed quite far over me. The drinking wasn’t the issue. That died down as soon as college was over and I got a job. I drank socially and had my moments of being tipsy but never wasted. I considered my short trips to AA a very dramatic overreaction and something I am actually embarrassed about now. I took myself way to seriously. It never ended up being a problem until a couple years after gastric bypass surgery. Even then, I was still just a social drinker. The difference was I got drunk really fast off of very little and it was easy to not have a stopping point when I didn’t have a chance to reason with myself.