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Daphne lived across the street in a white house with a porch. Her family was carefree and sweet, always inviting me over. My family was embarrassing, flaunting their Filipino traditions in front of my white friends. While my family celebrated the holidays with a Christmas tree, Daphne’s had a menorah. While my walls were a boring white, Daphne’s had painted palm trees and jungles. My parents served Filipino food, hers served stew and barbeque wings. Our houses were right across the street from each other, yet our environments were completely different.
Maybe that’s why I loved going to Daphne’s house. Maybe that’s why I didn’t mind calling her my best friend - despite our young age, she introduced me to the modern American world, something my family couldn’t. She taught me things like how to do the Electric Slide or have a proper sleepover. Maybe that was why our personalities clicked. After all, they say that opposites attract. Then again, maybe what kept attracting me to Daphne’s house was her wooden swing set and sandbox.
Every toy I’d ever heard of, Daphne had. I was so fascinated with her video games and Barbie dolls, it was like offering a starving puppy a bone. But I was only five. How was I to know that using friends for their toys was a bad thing? Daphne’s parents collected old clothes and fancy scarves, the kinds that were too large and too antique for anyone to wear, so we used them to play dress-up.
“Daphne, look! I’m a princess,” I beamed as I pulled on a flowing pink gown over my hand-me-down overalls. The dress was so loose that the neckline almost reached my belly button.
“Ha ha! Here, try this,” she said, rummaging through the clothes until she found a tiara. She propped it on my black hair. “There, now you’re a real princess.”
What did it really take for me to become a princess who got everything she wanted and didn’t have to think about how different her family was? Why couldn’t I permanently dress up as a gorgeous American girl? I scampered to the mirror to fix the sparkling crown, and my head just reached the bottom of the mirror. Then, I took another glance in the mirror and saw a girl with buck teeth and uncombed hair. Daphne walked over and I looked at our reflections. She was much taller and could see her entire torso. Daphne grabbed some Mardi Gras beads painted a hideous foil-blue, took an old brown vest with fringe under the chest pockets and threw it over her shirt.
“I’m a hippie!” she proclaimed. I laughed with her, but then stopped.
“Wait ... what’s a hippie?” I asked, hoping hippie wasn’t supposed to be in my six-year-old vocabulary.
“You don’t know what a hippie is?” Daphne uttered in disbelief. “Well, a hippy is a person, who, umm, did this a lot,” and Daphne held up her pointer and middle fingers. Alright, so that’s all I needed to know about a hippie. That Halloween, we both dressed up like hippies.
It seemed that every time I shoved my hand in the dress-up box, something new and bizarre popped out. I remember antique dresses, the men’s large pants, vests and colorful feather boas that looked as if they came straight out of a New York City club. But the things that caught my eye most were the scarves. I’d seen them before on old-time television shows my grandpa watched, and I loved how the silk slipped through my fingers. Sometimes I was tempted to steal one. Daphne wouldn’t notice since she had so many.
My mom’s wardrobe never consisted of the ornamental clothes that were common to Daphne’s dress-up box. She wore leggings and t-shirts around the house, while Daphne’s mom always wore long, flowing dresses. Daphne’s and my mom were completely different. My mom was and still is the best mother I could ever have, but there were things that she did (or didn’t do) that annoyed me, like that we rarely went to the beach; or my toys were always hand-me-downs; or that we never were allowed to eat junk food. Daphne’s mom would give us fruit ice pops,banana bread and sugar cookies. Whenever we went to the beach, she would make sure to pack these snacks in the cooler, along with turkey and roast beef subs. After the beach, we would walk along the boardwalk, jumping from one arcade game to another.
I loved the way Daphne’s mom treated me like I was her own daughter, buying me stuffed animals and Gummi Bears - things my parents never did. My mom had to spend money on things for my siblings, not “useless things that consume space in the house.” It’s depressing that the first time I ever splashed in the ocean was not with my family, but with my neighbor’s. I’d pretend that I was part of their family on those outings, although it was obvious I wasn’t. Who wouldn’t notice a tiny Filipino girl with a white Jewish family?
Daphne and I would play outside each summer until the earth devoured the sun’s rays. For those few hours each day, I pretended I was a princess with riches and jewels. I remember being ecstatic when her parents took us out to eat and whenever the doorbell rang, I would rush to the door hoping it was Daphne.
After a while I began to realize it didn’t matter that I was a midget compared to Daphne, that my traditions opposed hers, or that I wished for her long hair. We were like two different socks that weren’t a pair but still managed to match. But then, after a few years of complete bliss, I reached middle school.
And Daphne, a year younger, wasn’t with me. I’m not completely sure what happened. Maybe I started to depend on people my age for friends, or maybe I thought it was embarrassing to have a best friend who was younger and still considered hanging out “playing.” I joined a new group and began hanging out with them every weekend. Middle school was different, we had lockers and teachers who graded harder; we had a school with four times as many people than the elementary school. Now I declined Daphne’s invitations to the beach on weekends because that’s when I hung out with my new crew. Daphne stopped inviting me over, and in a year, things had made a 180-degree turn.
I no longer rushed to answer the door when it rang, and I spent less time playing out in the sun. We slowly stopped talking. And now - well, it’s not like we hate each other - we’re at a “I’ll-say-hi-to-you-if-I-have-to” point.
Every day after school, I see Daphne walking home alone from the bus stop. If I wanted to, I could go to her house and try to renew our memories. But I don’t want to face the fact that we’re two very different people now, and our personalities don’t click like they used to. I’d rather be left with the memory of when we were best friends, licking ice pops on the beach. I try to remember those lovely scarves wrapped around our heads, or the baggy dresses. I wonder if that dress-up box still sits in the corner of her family room, waiting for me to prance around in all those exotic things. I try to picture myself in elementary school standing in front of her living room mirror, watching, as we play dress-up. But I can’t. Because now that I have shed every one of those dress-up clothes and taken off that princess tiara, I see the real me and the real Daphne, and I don’t see us standing anywhere near each other in this grown-up world. No. This is us, undressed, and we’re not best friends. We’re in high school. We can’t play dress-up anymore.