Back in her schooldays, Hazel Davis longed to be mates with popular girl Hannah. It didn’t happen. Not until they were all grown up.
Hannah and I first crossed paths when we were around 11. She had moved into the area with her parents and two sisters. Her mother brought her along to the local Girl Guide group and, for some reason, immediately saw me as someone her darling daughter should pal up with.
Hannah, on the other hand, had other ideas. She immediately (and correctly) identified me as someone who was unpopular and not a good person to align herself with and from that moment on wisely resisted all attempts on her mother’s part to chum us up.
Hannah quickly found her place at the school. We were both in the top sets academically but as she fell in with the smart, pretty and popular girls, I forged my own path as a freak.
Hannah’s friends were the girls who were popular, pretty AND clever. I was only one of those things, so I got to share their classes but not their confidence. I would watch in envy as they ran off giggling. Hannah was vocal and confident. If she cracked a joke, everyone would laugh. If she was sitting somewhere, it seemed everyone wanted to sit with her. I, on the other hand, had the opposite effect. If I sat somewhere, people would move. I daren’t crack a joke or it would be taken the wrong way or laughed at for all the wrong reasons.
“Hannah is warm, funny, bawdy and clever and I can’t believe it took us so long to discover that we’re kindred spirits.”
I was bullied mercilessly and it only got worse the older we got and the more ill at ease with myself I became. There were one or two really bad perpetrators (which, to be fair, Hannah wasn’t) but, generally speaking, if someone was being bullied, it was me. So in games lessons, I would be the butt of the class rebuff or in science lessons I would be the one having chemicals flicked at me.
For much of her time at school Hannah was dating a boy a couple of years older than us. He was impossibly handsome and incredibly cool. While I listened, rapt, from a distance, she would regale the class with stories of his gifts to her and their exploits.
As soon as I left school I began studiously reinventing myself. And then I had a brief and passionate fling with the boy Hannah had gone out with (he didn’t really remember me from school so had no idea of the social crime he was committing).
When I went to university it fizzled out, but during our time together I found out more about the Hannah I had only known from afar, mostly because he was still madly in love with her – sorry if that’s news, Hannah.
After graduating I moved up north, pretty much reinvented myself and properly left my schooldays behind. Then good old Facebook brought Hannah and me together.
In my early days on social media I’d spent weeks perusing the profiles of all the ‘popular’ people from school. Some of them, oblivious to (or conveniently forgetting) our relationship, had ‘added’ me along with everyone else they knew from their class. I ignored a lot of them. But when Hannah sent me a friend request I couldn’t resist and we exchanged a few ‘Ooh, we both went out with the same bloke’ messages.
I quickly realised how hilarious she was. So we started afresh, each finding the other to be a humorous and engaging playmate. We started messaging regularly and exchanging jokes. She’s married with a small child and we began swapping stories of our domestic life and realised we had much more in common – including our ex – than we would have ever thought. (Also, turns out that, based on pics alone, we’d totes have a go on each other’s partners now. Circle of life and all that.)
Hannah is warm, funny, bawdy and clever and I can’t believe it took us so long to discover that we’re kindred spirits. All this is great but most importantly of all, she’s retained her popularity with everyone we went to school with so I get the regular lowdown on what they’re all up to without having to see them, speak to them or revisit any of my miserable youth. All I need to do is send her a message saying, “Whatever happened to…” and she’s on it like Miss Marple with gin.
We’ve literally spent hours at opposite ends of the country jointly poring over Facebook profiles, gossiping and speculating. Hannah shares my love of inventing narratives for strangers and she’s wickedly funny so it’s like Mean Girls but without anyone actually being mean (well, ahem, kind of).
I’m pretty confident these days but I still vaguely wonder whether Hannah would pretend not to know me if she was out with all her old schoolfriends. Luckily I don’t live nearby so I will never find out.
So, OK, Hannah’s mum. You were right. We didn’t manage to be friends while we were actually living anywhere near each other but we’re making up for lost time now.
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Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".