Growing up as an only child, I’d always wished for a brother. If I had one, I wouldn’t feel so guilty about being born female. My mother wouldn’t have received so much grief from my late grandparents, co-workers, and neighbors for giving birth to a daughter.
Having a sister never crossed my mind because I’d been told that what’s worse than having one daughter, was multiple daughters. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise that in college, I first became friends, then roommates, and eventually sisters of the heart with Coco.
Our friendship started off slowly and tentatively. I’d met Coco through an elective class that she was taking with three of her elementary school female best-friends. I don’t remember how I started talking to her, because let’s be real, trying to join in on a group conversation between best-friends, is intimidating for many of us.
Somehow a conversation started, and she told me she needed a roommate because as much as she loved her friends, she hated living with them. I was on board because Coco had a great lottery number for picking dorms and she promised we’d be in a room that was right next to the kitchen and across from the bathroom and one door down from the elevator.
When we first started living together, I wasn’t quite sure that Coco truly liked me. Some of the phrases she said to me most often back when we were roommates in college were:
“Kelly, you need to grow up.”
“Kelly, your thinking is very immature.”
“Kelly, you’re so naive!”
“Kelly, when you raise your voice against your parents, no matter how right you are, you’re wrong.”
Coco was only 21 years old then to my 19, but decades more mature. These were the words nobody had ever said to me before. Yet, I don’t recall being offended. Likely because, even back then, deep down, I knew her words to be true.
Coco was the first of my friends to point out that I was obsessed with food. Many times, she would say to me, “Kelly, we are still eating lunch. Why are you talking about what to eat for dinner and breakfast tomorrow?”
She’d often quoted lines to me from “Pinky and the Brain,” with me being Pinky and her being the Brain because I’d be pestering her with questions regarding food daily.
With all of Coco’s lecturing, I was stunned when she asked me to be one of her three bridesmaids at her wedding in 2007. I’d never thought she would ask me because she had many childhood female friends that she was close to. However, Coco told me that she saw me as her little sister. That I had a good heart but very misguided. One day I’ll grow up and she’s looking forward to that.
Almost 13 years later, over a double-date zoom call in April 2020, Coco, in front of her husband and mine, said “Kelly, I’m really happy that you grew up and matured. There are things that I come to you for advice now.” I was so touched I started tearing up.
I knew Coco meant it because she always said exactly what was on her mind, even if a white lie would have been easier. For Coco, I think nothing may be of more importance to her than her sincerity, and integrity. I really look up to her for that.
When she went no contact with one of her closest childhood friends, she said, “You put me down to make yourself feel better. I’m not going to take that from you anymore.” Or when she stopped talking to another good friend, she said, “I can’t be friends with you because you take advantage of me.”
Coco never minces words or praises people to be polite. She’s direct, to the point, and loves to be efficient. That may be another reason why she likes me, I have a two-syllable name. Really. Her husband has a two-syllable name and so do her children. 😁
What you see is what you got with Coco. Her expressions are very much like the poster that hung over her bed in our shared dorm room. With one glance, I could tell exactly how she’s feeling at a particular moment in time. Coco has told me one of the reasons she remained friends with me and tolerated my many flaws because after being roommates, it was easy for her to read me too.
Being straightforward with each other was the foundation of our friendship that led to us being roommates – to becoming sisters of the heart. Coco’s straightforwardness was mostly about giving me the much-needed reality checks. It was never a personal attack.
She’d never once told me or implied that I was stupid (my late father told me I was stupid constantly because he was a child prodigy and I typically scored 90/100 on tests, and most importantly I couldn’t get into any of the Ivy League Schools), short (which my parents and all my relatives heaped major insults on), or fat (my nickname among my relatives was 麻将牌, “mahjong tile,” in my early teens because I was short and squat).
That’s how I know Coco loves me, despite her stern demeanor and lecturing tone. Also, whenever I’m sad, if I ask nicely, Coco would do her Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Pearl Attack impression to cheer me up. I love how she’d always be laughing and giggling as she did it. 🥰
For 21 years and counting, we’ve always been close. I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument because from the very beginning of our friendship Coco always told me that, “We women have it hard enough already, let’s be kind to one another. Let’s help each other out as best as we can.”
I didn’t truly understand the significance of her words until recent years. Now that I do, I promise that I will try my best.
I will also modify Coco’s words slightly to, “We all have our own struggles, let’s be kind to one another. Let’s help each other out as best as we can.”
Dear readers, is there someone in your life that you trust to always tell you the truth, even if it may be hard to hear?
P.S. Coco is an alias I used to protect my friend’s privacy. 😃