I Rewatched "Charlie's Angels" With My Middle School Best Friends 15 Years Later
We hadn't been in the same room in more than a decade, but we came together for the Angels.
It was November 2000, and I was in fifth grade. My new pastime was reading through my diary entries from fourth grade and annotating them with disavowals of my love for Dylan DiGerolamo. For Christmas, I wanted a Dixie Chicks CD. And unbeknownst to me, I was about to see the movie that would define my middle school years: Charlie's Angels.
It resonated with me largely because, much like the Angels themselves, from the ages of 10 to 13, I was part of a trio of girl friends: me, Connor Kelly-Eiding, and Melissa Cober. They were and are skinnier and older than I am, so it was extra-cool to me when they wore the three-way friendship necklaces I got them at Claire's. According to an entry from my diary in 2001, Melissa invited us to what I termed a "nocturnal parté" and "we positively had a spectacular blast, and I can't wait to do it again. We talked about all sorts of stuff (including boys)."
They finished eighth grade and went to two different high schools and I went to a third high school a year later. But frankly, even before they left, our trio was breaking up: Melissa started listening to A Fire Inside and got a spiky-haired boyfriend; I didn't have enough torment in my heart to appreciate AFI, and I was scandalized to learn she and her boyfriend had kissed on the mouth. Once Connor went to high school, she also got a boyfriend — one who played guitar and had a smattering of facial hairs. We drifted apart.
I dwelled on this, bitterly and often, probably because I was the youngest and the least cool and I'm always the one who loves more, anyway. I thought we would be friends forever — why else would I have given them those necklaces stating the same? But a necklace isn't a guarantee, and people grow up and get boyfriends, and I got over it.
The unchanging Angels, though — Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and Alex (Lucy Liu) — will forever spend an hour and a half kicking exactly the same amount of ass together: three girl best friends who are the second most important thing to one another after justice. They are smart, righteous, and shiny-haired. As a tween, I wanted to be just like them, or rather, just like Dylan, the rule breaker of the group. Actually, when the three of us had sleepovers and watched Charlie's Angels, we all wanted to be Dylan.
So, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the movie, I invited my old friends over to my apartment and we watched it. I had not talked to either of them in years. When Connor came to the door, she wasn't wearing her signature mismatched-socks look, but she did call me "man" and gave me a hug, so I guess some things never change. Melissa has glasses now. I had spent the previous several weeks in undulant panic over this evening, yet they both seemed relaxed.
"When is the last time we were all in the same room?" I asked my two best friends from middle school.
It was at the pier, Connor said. There's a photograph of that day, and "it must have been freshman or sophomore year of high school," she reasoned, because she's wearing a Green Day shirt. Probably, 2003 or 2004. Melissa is wearing a Homestar Runner shirt. It was, apparently, a "middle school reunion," and it seems to be the last time we were all in the same place.
Much of the first hour in my apartment was spent talking about our current lives. Melissa, through a series of post-college accidents, works in marketing. And Connor is an actor, which is what she always wanted to be. I told her I cyber-snooped on her while I was trying to find her phone number and found out she's in a troupe of artsy clowns, and she said she was in the middle of a production of "Hamlet, clown-style." At one point, Melissa took a giant bag of potato chips out of her purse. And after three hours of wine and discussing our adult digestive problems, we started the movie.
It had been a very long time since they had seen it. I had watched it somewhat recently and was relieved to discover that this girlhood-shaping movie wasn't pure sexist trash. By and large, it was pretty much exactly as awesome as I remembered it — as frivolous and exciting as a Bond movie, except the jokes were zanier, the girls were at the center, and as a now-delightful bonus, all the male characters in the movie were pretty incompetent. "It's true — I do love that all the men are fucking inept," Connor said when it was over. "No wonder we all turned out to be staunch feminists," Melissa said.
It was almost like I remembered it.
But the funny thing is, I was the only one in the group who really remembered it. "I definitely remember watching it a couple times," Melissa had written to me in a Facebook message, also correcting my use of "sleepover" to the term our moms used: "talk-over" (mom-joke alert!). Vindicatingly, in what I think was our second communication since my 16th birthday, Connor wrote, "We absolutely watched that movie a thousand times — that's the way I remember it too." But she later modified this to "multiple times." "Whenever I think of Charlie's Angels, I think of your house," she allowed. Melissa said she associates me with Grease, a musical I have no memory of watching with her.
And of course they didn't really remember it. Isn't that always the way, that something deeply meaningful to you is not the meaningful part to someone else? Melissa remembers discussing people's noses and the island nation we made up and then built using empty boxes and glitter. Connor remembers a first-grade play about recycling we wrote collectively: "Not like I really think about it that often, but I was definitely a rainbow fish from Hawaii," she said.
If I had known in high school that this memory I cherished was so one-sided, my feelings probably would have been hurt. But with more than a decade of distance, it makes sense: I loved the Angel trio because I was invested in our trio in a way that they never were. The necklaces, the telltale sign! I called my mom to ask what she remembered, and she said I watched Charlie's Angels with a different friend entirely, that there were pictures of me in a box somewhere standing in the finger-gun-Angel-pose with Connor and another girl who was not in the trio. To use a neologism, I lost my chill and didn't find it until 2015.
But it's OK! I have never been chill, thus the love for movies portraying inseparable friends. And my middle school friends grew up to be nice! We said obvious and cliché things to one another after the movie ended like "fucking rad" (Connor) and then "15 years" (me) and "we're so old" (Melissa). Then: "I love you guys," Melissa said. "We should legit have a slumber party sometime."
Before they left, we took pictures of ourselves standing in front of the Magic Johnson poster in my kitchen. My face looked bad in most of the photos and we laughed a lot. We look happy, I think.
The photo at the top of this post has been switched.