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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Life sometimes needs a shot of those 'oh-so-bad-girl' days

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By Keiko Ohnuma
Advertiser Staff Writer

I took them for granted my whole life, but lately I miss having a girlfriend.

I don't mean one of "the girls," the gang that meets once a week or month to catch up. I mean a girlfriend.

A bad one. A partner in crime.

It seems that at a certain age, women get invested in being good. They get husbands and children and jobs — things they can't afford to lose. They have to be home at a certain hour. Me too.

So the girlfriend belongs to a time before we were married or even thinking about it. She was like a practice marriage that went straight to the part where there's no sex.

We had our pet names, our familiar quarrels, our thrice-daily phone calls about nothing. But the bottom line with girlfriends is that you don't have to stay together. You can split up.

A real best girlfriend is someone you've split up with at least once, after a bad fight. You said terrible things about her, and thought even worse. After three weeks, you kind of missed her.

There is no substitute for the bad girlfriend. She has to have the same level of daring, a tolerance for the ridiculous, and know instantly what is totally funny.

She has to let you be the baby sometimes.

Unlike your boyfriend or husband or mother, the girlfriend can be coaxed into any role, from enforcer to enabler. And you can switch with every new adventure, so one gets the deliciously passive part of being dragged along (wife), leaving the other one stuck being Dad.

I usually got stuck being Dad.

When Jennifer and I car-camped across the Islands, it was me who had to hunt her down in every store, or insist she could in no way bring another suitcase. She would chatter away with absolutely anyone, leading us into surreal scenarios like Christmas in downtown Pahoa, dining with the homeless heroin addicts.

We would pilfer papayas from the fields and chase down every rumor of a secret beach. When our rental car was stolen from a beach that was not quite secret enough, she whimpered by the side of the road while I called the cops.

Jennifer and I had a fight, and we never made up. I still kind of miss her.

It seems I am always looking for a gal pal like the first one, when I was 9 years old.

Ana was a tomboy, and I was her associate. She taught me to be bad, which in those days consisted of crashing our bikes into things, making fun of our moms' accents and playing "I will if you will" with the neighborhood boys.

You wouldn't think this kind of synergy would survive the lipstick years, but in my 20s, the girlfriend was a cocktail waitress who had a way with a compact mirror. We would meet after work to conduct anthropological field work in countless bars, until we'd end up giggling in the one-way booth at a strip joint — or getting thrown out of a diner for rolling one.

I called her with my hangover miseries, and she always let me be the baby.

It's kind of sad — though I have no regrets — that my life admits of no place now for an evil twin. She belonged to a time when no one else really mattered. The world begged of adventure, and everything more serious could wait.

Those days are gone.

Reach Keiko Ohnuma at kohnuma@honoluluadvertiser.com.