the girlfriend, aarp, friends, friendship,separation

Carolina Buzio

I Grew Apart From My Childhood Friends. And Sometimes, It Hurts

These were the people who loved me, permed hair and all.

Iris, Erica and I were besties in middle school. Afternoons were wiled away in each other’s bedrooms, dancing to our boom boxes and longingly staring up at the New Kids on the Block posters hanging on our walls. Not even the fact that I was obsessed with Danny while they were betrothed to Joey and Donnie, respectively, was enough to tear us apart. We chatted on our land lines all night long. We attended school dances and secretly prayed together that someone would pick us for a Snowball. We were BFFs.

Today, I’m Facebook friends with I and E (old nicknames die hard), but that’s about it. The two of them remain super tight, along with a number of other incredible ladies in our seventh-grade inner circle. They’ve stood up in each other’s weddings … attended the bat mitzvahs of one another’s kids … meet for Girls Night Out and, yes, saw the NKOTB comeback tour last year.

I’ve watched these fun times unfold from afar via Facebook, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it gives me a pang of envy. Which seems bizarre, considering I have my own phenomenal group of friends, largely accrued in college and the decade or so afterward (I tend to be awesome at making grownup friends). These women are my tribe: We’ve stood up in each other’s weddings; meet for drinks and dinner all the time; double date. We’re there for each other in times of joy and pain. I wouldn’t trade my BFFs for anything.

But there’s just something about seeing childhood friends still tight after 30-plus years that seems uniquely special. Maybe it’s because people typically change and evolve so much over the decades that being close with your kindergarten buddy seems like a testament to some unseen, unbreakable bond.

I started thinking about all of this when I read a recent survey, somewhat inexplicably commissioned by the U.K. company PizzaExpress, that found that four out of 10 Brits have completely lost touch with their childhood friends. I’ve never felt so British: I’m not really close with anyone from kindergarten through middle school. A small but real part of my ego worries that’s a testament to my likability; another, more confident, part chalks it up to changes in personality, life stage (I became a parent later than E and I) and geographic location (I moved away from our childhood suburb).

That said, I met my oldest and dearest friend in high school, and she has stayed by my side since age 16 — despite the fact that I was on the Flag Team sophomore year and used to wear the Co-ed Naked shirts without understanding what they meant — so it’s not like I don’t have any friends who knew me way back when.

The survey results inspired me to reach out to Iris and Erica, asking their permission to write about our friendship lapse. (They gave their blessing). Bonus: We’re meeting for dinner and drinks soon! I don’t have any illusions of rekindling our long-lost friendship with the same intensity it once had, nor do we need to. Sometimes an NKOTB-tinged trip down memory lane is all you need to remember the good times, and the people who loved you, geekiness, permed hair and all.