The Write City Magazine
June 19, 2016
Excerpt from We Hope You Like This Song – winner of the 2013 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for Traditional Non-fiction
by Bree Housley
Laverne and Shirley. Carrie and Miranda. Hillary, Whitney, and CC Bloom. Goose and Maverick? You bet your ass. Whether they’re sipping martinis or flying mother-freaking jets, these pop culture pairs have effectively proven to the American public that soul mates are not just for the marrying kind. These characters demonstrate the caliber of friendship that every non-murdering human being yearns to find. As much as I adore these fictitious duos, I’m here to tell you it can happen in real life. The Cagney to my Lacey wasn’t a made-up character from TV or film. Her name was Shelly Warner, and we’re proof that BFFs really do exist.
Shelly and I met in the pocket-size town of Walcott, Iowa, before we understood the importance of showers, clean teeth, and, well, personal hygiene in general. (Ironically, this tiny town is also the “World’s Largest Truckstop.” Need a T-shirt featuring a wolf or a woodland creature? Ring me.)
I cherish the day “the new girl” fluttered into Miss Siegel’s homeroom class. It was in the fourth grade, that special time in life when the only thing that truly matters is friends— and maybe math. When Shelly’s friendly blue eyes locked with my timid brown eyes, an odd version of love at first sight occurred. She was the popular blonde and was super cool. I was the mangy brunette and was super lame. She had a dazzling ponytail and perfectly tight rolled jeans. I had a dazzling mullet and badly hemmed culottes. (It wasn’t the average business-up-front, party-in-the-back mullet, either. Nope, thanks to the bang perm kickin’ it up front, this mullet partied all the time.) I’ll never know what possessed a lovely social butterfly like Shelly to befriend a skittish moth like me. She had the world at her fingertips—everyone loved her. My fingertips were usually covered in Doritos cheese dust—no one really even knew I existed. I’m just glad she picked me as her favorite.
We spent our elementary school years doing kid stuff, like playing Barbies and freebasing Fun Dip. Her popularity grew by the day. She was already “going with” a boy by the end of fourth grade. I just had a secret crush. (And a massive boner for Chad Allen of Our House fame.)
Junior high was a different animal. We were exposed to a new species of girl. This species wore name-brand fashions. (Hello, Jordache. Pleasure to meet you, LA Gear.) There was suddenly pressure to be cool and say things like “bitchin!” Once again, Shelly’s friend count multiplied like wet gremlins. Once again, she situated me on a pedestal above every one of them.
Our friendship carried on that way throughout high school. Her clump of friends grew bigger and bigger. My clump remained a clump. I didn’t need a lot of friends; I had her. She had the energy of a wildebeest on Red Bull. Her laugh was loud enough to wake a town of bears in December. And only those of canine descent rivaled her loyalty. No one had a friendship as bulletproof as ours. (Evidence: Remember those pathetic couples that had senior class pictures taken together? See photo.) Shelly brought me out of my shell by placing me at the center of her world.
We coached each other through boyfriends and breakups. We dried each other’s tears of rejection. We made each other laugh in ways no one else understood. We worked together as Subway sandwich artists. We played together in the school marching band. And finally, against the advice of many, we chose to be roommates when we went off to college at Iowa State. You know the rule: Never room with your best friend in college, or you will end up bloodied and alone. Well, not only were we both still alive at the end of college, we were devastated when it was time to split up for the first time in eleven years.
I got an internship in Fort Lauderdale, which turned into grad school in Miami and then a job in Chicago. She got a teaching job in Iowa Falls, where she met her future husband, Brad. Being so far away from each other was difficult, but phone calls were like Elmer’s glue for our friendship: delicious and necessary. We called each other to share good things, bad things, funny things, and “hey, remember that?” things. It always seemed as if no time had passed.
But then one day, I got a different kind of phone call regarding Shelly—the kind that should exist only in nightmares.
I had stood next to her on her wedding day in September of 2004, but just less than half a year later, in January of 2005, I was standing by her again at her hospital bed as she died. A common pregnancy condition called preeclampsia was the villain. Just as instantly as we were brought together, we were tragically torn apart by her sudden death. The same day I said goodbye to Shelly, I said hello to her newborn baby, Hailey.
So yeah, my best friend is dead. But that’s not exactly what this story is about. You’ve already seen that story—it’s called Beaches. This book is about the beautiful chaos my friendship with Shelly inspired, both while she was alive and while she was not.
Bree Housley (wehopeyoulikethissong.com) is a freelance advertising copywriter and author based in Chicago. Her first memoir, WE HOPE YOU LIKE THIS SONG, was voted “Book of the Year” in the Non-fiction/Traditionally published category by the Chicago Writers Association in 2013.
She’s a writer, a reader, and a pop culture junkie. She’s basically you as a teenager. Except she has a husband and a daughter. And drinks whiskey.
When she’s not using her words to sell products like Cap’n Crunch and mustache wax, she’s working on her second book.
She is not a cheese.
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