Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Really Wanna Be Your Best Friend: My Rebel Girl

Rebel girl, rebel girl,
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world.


I was 16 years old and I lived in a boring suburb. It was boring, and my boyfriend was boring, and *I* was boring. But with no Internet and no drivers license, I didn't know where to find anything that wasn't just as boring as my own boring life.

Then Madge came to town.


Madge held her head high. She wore glitter on her eyes. She laughed louder than anyone I'd ever met. She could write, she could play guitar, she was sure of herself, and she said and wore whatever she wanted. She was brash but tender. Sarcastic yet sweet. She wasn't like anyone else.

Madge was exciting, and I loved her, instantly.

To my shy amazement, Madge loved me back. She immediately became the big sister and best friend I'd always dreamed of.

I still remember the first time she ever called me. I was sitting on my parents' living room floor, petting our dog. The phone rang -- we had house phones in 1996 -- and my mom answered it.

My mom came into the living room and, knowing just how huge this moment was, whispered, "It's ... Madge!" My heart leaped into my throat -- more than it ever had for some dopey boy.

Madge had called me on the phone! And it wouldn't be the last time, either.

I didn't have much to offer to Madge, except my wide-eyed and puppyish devotion. Neither of us had cars, but we went wherever we wanted. We took the bus to the Mount Oliver Bathhouse and pretended to be mermaids when we swam in the pool. We caught a Greyhound to New York City (and figured out, on the way,  how to simultaneously use each other as a pillow). That's where she sneaked me into a 21+ concert, and I was too afraid to talk to anyone the whole night for fear I'd sound underage.

Madge gave me books, and mix tapes, and stacks of poems she'd written. She took me thrift shopping, and helped me pick out a white vintage lace slip, which I liked to wear with my army jacket.

We lounged around her apartment, painting our nails and daydreaming while we cranked Bikini Kill, Liz Phair, and PJ Harvey on her record player.

We went to the beach, and we traveled to see Pearl Jam. She was  the only person I'd ever met who loved Eddie Vedder as much as I did -- and understood him like I did -- with all his aching, beautiful, corny sincerity. We talked about Eddie endlessly, as though he was someone we knew, because it felt like he was.

Madge went to live in London for a while, and I followed her there.

This is us in Amsterdam, where we went to see The Tragically Hip.

Madge cracked open new music, our city -- and the whole world -- and showed it to me.  

I copied her endlessly, but could never keep up with her latest thing. Madge was always starting a new business, working on a new art form, hosting Open Mic nights, fronting a band, or publishing a book.

Madge was constantly taking care of me, even paying my way so I could do cool things with her. But she also challenged me. She laughed at my awkwardness and poked fun at my shyness. And I felt more confident with her by my side.

I'll never forget the day she came to meet me while I was working on my high school newspaper. Madge, tall, sparkling, and long since graduated, strolled in to the school computer lab like she owned the place. My classmates stopped talking and stared at her with open mouths. And I gathered my things and left with her, feeling more proud than I'd ever felt in my life.

Madge was my rock star. She still is.

Looking back, I'm so glad our love never lost its luster, not even temporarily. Madge has always been around, even when she moved away, and even now, as she and her husband meander around the country. We still Facetime, and email, and I know that next time she comes to town, we'll catch coffee or a cat circus or just lay in bed, playing with each other's hair.

Madge, on my wedding day, teaching me how to curl my eye lashes.

Too busy singing

For all the times I cried in your arms,
for all the times you had to pretend to like my crummy boyfriends just because I thought I did,
for all the times you faithfully responded to my meltdowns, never once brushing me off or saying the wrong thing,

thank you.

I love you, Madge!

Happy birthday.


That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood
I got news for you -- she is!


  1. Jolene - that is the sweetest thing I've ever read. Yes our daughter-in-law is one helluva girl and we love her too.
    Wishing you and your husband a wonderful New Year from Bonnie Scotland - love Alan and Terry xx

  2. What a lovely love letter! So happy to know you both! oxxoxox! Happy Birthday, Sis-in-law!