When I was in high school, I had this friend Maria (who I often called Mimi, or Meems). Maria is Korean (“Maria from Korea”), and is one of the few Korean females I know whose name isn’t an old-timey American name (shout-out to my friends Eunice, Esther and Hazel!).
Meems and I were friends from the start, which is unusual for me (and for her also, as I would later learn). I have a vivid (and sometimes wild) imagination, but it’s almost always kept tightly under wraps, not on purpose, but because it takes a special kinship to share and enjoy that kind of thing, which is a shame, because it’s really so much fun.
Effortlessly, Maria and I would riff on situations, creating entire characters, experiences and scenes out of thin air. She’d observe the same details in people and circumstances that I did, and without even exchanging words, we would laugh about it until our faces hurt. With Maria, I felt like I was my truest self. Unfiltered, totally open, and always understood.
We had a special name for ourselves, which we felt perfectly explained our marginalized yet massive existence. We were “LoserKids,” and our weirdness, brokenness, and resourcefulness made us exceptional.
Maria grew up in the Bronx (and was forever telling me how great it was, but would hit me when I called it “the block”), and I grew up across Southern Orange County (sometimes living with my grandmother, homeless for a little while, but eventually settling into a Mexican project across the street from where rich people kept their horses).
Maria’s family was very hard on her. I never got the details, because she’s Korean, and I knew not to ask. My own family was a mess. I never knew my dad, and the men my mom brought around were abusers, drug addicts, or misogynists. Maria and I were intimately familiar with brokenness from a young age, and though we never acknowledged it outright, I believe that’s one of the causes for our immediate and unquestioning friendship. Amidst all the darkness in our lives, we offered lightness to each other. I feel like Maria and I laughed so much together because until we met, we really hadn’t laughed at all.
What strikes me as interesting nowadays, is how totally at home I felt with her, and how much our friendship taught me about belonging. Neither of us had the advantages that many kids do (a stable family, reliable meals, etc.), and I think subconsciously, other kids understood that, and it scared them, so they shunned us, and all our lives, Maria and I were outcasts. But throughout that time of disconnection and loneliness, each of us learned how to bury ourselves inside our imaginations, and protect ourselves with a thick layer of curiosity that kept each of us too busy reading and learning to notice how miserable we actually were. And when our paths finally crossed, words didn’t have to be exchanged. I accepted her, and she accepted me, and it was like all of our hidden greatness was given permission to reveal itself.
Maria is the only LoserKid I would meet in high school, but in the 12 years that have passed since then, I’ve met several others, and here’s something I’ve noticed: LoserKids get stuff done. LoserKids are innovative, and hilarious, and sensitive, and above all things, they’re brave. They’re used to being the weirdos, so they’re not afraid to stand up and speak against injustice. Their disadvantages growing up turned into their super powers as adults. LoserKids set the bar high, and they achieve, and when they’re done, they celebrate, and laugh, and prepare to do it all over again. LoserKids know how to work. Hard.
So here’s to my friend Meems, who I haven’t seen or heard from since high school. I miss you, and I hope our paths cross again someday. Your friendship not only kept me afloat during some of the more difficult years of my life, but taught me that there’s a tribe for everyone, and not to shun my “otherness” in favor of pretending I’m something that I’m not. LoserKids are for life.❤