Friendship, Fishtails, and Flirting
by Stella Gaffrey-Eley
When you grow up on the gulf coast of Florida, you find that everything realigns you with the water. This could be the scruffy towels you only use for beach days or the insidious amount of sand in the crevices of your car seats. This could also mean the way the salt air imprints a sort of stickiness on your skin, or the almost baptismal feeling of jumping in the water for the first time after what seemed like the longest winter (a low of 50 degrees) of your life. There is a sense of normalcy when your friends ask why you always have a pair of flip flops and a bathing suit in in your trunk, or how you always ride with no A/C and the windows down just so you can smell the water around you. However, unlike most kids, I hated the beach. Maybe I wanted to stand in solidarity with my cousin’s apprehension of the waves or maybe it was the itchiness of the sand. Either way, I found myself sitting on the bed of my father’s rusty green truck, admiring my siblings’ joyful spirits from a distance.
Yet in the midst of my aversion, the movie Aquamarine counteracted any of my distasteful feelings towards the beach. Essentially, Aquamarine was every young girl’s dream of a summer at the beach. The movie centers around two best friends helping a mermaid prove to her father that true love exists. Filter in a cute lifeguard, a popular girl clique, and an end of summer bash and you get the perfect summer movie. Not to be dramatic, but it is safe to say this movie truly shaped the person I am today. The movie not only taught me some of the most quintessential flirting techniques (smile and look away), but also the meaning of true sacrificial, platonic love. The two best friends, Hailey and Claire, define what its means to conquer your teenage years, navigating crushes, societal beauty standards, and the inevitability of long-distance friendships.
My neighbor and I spent countless nights watching that movie, assigning the roles of Hailey and Claire to ourselves, hoping we would stumble upon a mermaid to grant our wishes. We convinced that our first love would be just like Raymond: Tall, handsome, and the perfect balance of flirty and sweet. Aquamarine encapsulated everything it meant to be growing up with your best friend at the beach. The movie happened to infiltrate further into our lives when my parents decided to move to a new town. Much like Hailey and Claire, our friendship that was once filled with silly sleepovers and knocking on each other’s doors, was now becoming a bittersweet “see you later.” The predestination of time insidiously crept upon us, taking captive of “best friends forever.” For the first time, home discarded its noble title of place, replacing it with the movie Aquamarine.