Growing Pains

An Alien To The Status Quo

A Tribute To Childhood Friendships

Four Years Old

It’s the first day of nursery school. People are milling all around. New faces, new place. Your uniform is crisp and you hold your tiny little bag close to you. Your mother told you not to lose it and you don’t want to anger your mother. No one seems to be paying attention to you. The adults have that pinched look on their faces that says you shouldn’t come close. They are trying to herd other children to different rooms.

You see a child who might be smaller than you. She sits down in the dust, dirtening her school uniform and she starts to cry for her mummy. You want to join her in the crying. Maybe if you throw yourself on the ground like this child, your mummy will come and take you back to your dolls and cartoons. You are on the verge of tears when you remember that your mummy told you that crying is for children and you are a big girl now so you stiffen your upper lip.

You look around again, trying to familiarise yourself with everything. You stop when you see someone smiling timidly at you. She walks to you. She says words to you. She’s your first friend. She tells you about her pet cat and how her daddy bought her doll. You tell her about your neighbour who always shouts. She laughs. You laugh. You hear the clanging of the bell. One of the pinched-faced adults comes to herd you to a room. She reaches out her hand and you take it, smiling.

You just made your first friend.

Seven Years Old

You are timid. Shy as a mouse, like your teacher says. You sit in the corner quietly. You try not to attract attention to yourself. Your only friend is in another class. So, every day you look at the peeling paint, counting down the hours until break time when you will get to see your friend. You try as much as possible to disappear into the desk because you don’t want the bully to find you.

The bully makes you do his homework. The bully takes away your break snacks and is always finding a way to make you cry. Your friend always shares her snacks with you so you don’t have to worry about that.

You don’t know yet that another wants to be your friend. One day, the bully makes you cry by stealing your special snack that your mummy made for you.  It was a chapati dipped in eggs and fried just right. You had wanted to share with your friend. You are crying. Your bully is laughing and mocking you. Before you know it, a teacher is hovering and your bully is quivering.

Through your tears, you see someone small but mighty standing next to the teacher. She reported your bully. She later tells you that she wanted to be your friend but you seemed shy and that she was tired of watching the bully get away with making you more shy. The bully is made to give you back your snack and is punished. You feel vindicated. She becomes your defender, a friend you didn’t think would be there.

Twelve Years Old

There’s something about him that makes your palms sweaty and your heartbeats sound like the backsimba drum in overdrive. He walks around the school compound like he owns the place. He’s so confident. When he smiles, you swear you hear angels singing.

You’re not the prettiest girl in school, you’ve been bullied for your teeth so you’re obsessed with being anti-girl everything. You hate pink and climb trees with the neighbourhood boys much to the chagrin of your mother. You’re still quiet, still shy but you have a solid group of friends and are fairly confident that they would traverse the earth with you, even though they might be girly.

But this boy consumes your mind. You find it hard to talk to him. When he tries to speak to you, you stammer and run away. You tell yourself that he’s just a guy. A person really. You tell yourself that he’s just like those neighbourhood boys. This self-encouragement works.

The next time he tries to talk to you, you talk back and use actual words. You talk about the book you’re reading. You talk about all the books he likes to read. You talk about how the library, dingy and dark as it is, is your favourite place in the school. You talk and talk and talk. He becomes your first male friend. You’re on cloud nine. You start to hang out often, talking about books and Samurai X and your favourite cartoons. You still feel the crush every time he smiles at you but you enjoy the friendship more. He is your crush and your best friend. He is your first male friend.


These are the friendships of your formative years. These are the friendships that grow with you. And as you grow older, life gets in the way. There’s so much to do, so much to experience. There’s work and stress and school and kids and money to be made and life to be lived, so you forget. You forget to text, forget to call, forget to keep in touch and suddenly it’s 5, 10, 15 years later and it becomes too hard to pick up a phone. But you don’t forget. Because these friendships are woven into your DNA. And in the twilight of our years, we will see that these are the friendships that made life worth living.

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