You’re Not Real Until Some Crazy Kid Loves You

Can you imagine Simon as a kid? His imaginary friends probably never wanted to play with him

– Paula Abdul

When I was a kid, I had a best friend named Jenna. Now, Jenna was a lot of things- it’s just that “real” didn’t happen to be one of them. Yep, girlfriend was about as imaginary as Brooke Mueller’s sobriety, but that didn’t stop me from loving the hell out of her anyway.

Growing up, we lived on the outskirts of town, and there weren’t a lot of other kids around to play with. Sure I had 4 older siblings, but they were way more into practicing the choreography to Kriss Kross and making out with their NKOTB posters than playing barbies with me. So I was sort of left to my own devices. Enter, Jenna.

Jenna was a slightly older, slightly cooler version of myself. She was 6, while I was 5, and had long, luxurious hair, rather than the stringy-ass front mullet I sported from grades 1 through 5. Her eye for fashion was enviable, and included such pieces as blossom Hats, slouchy socks, and overalls with one strap down. (I tried to copy this one. It usually resulted in said strap being dipped in the toilet).

By far the coolest thing about Jenna though, was that she was American.

As I child, I was obsessed with American culture. I blame this on the fact that we Canadian children of the early 90’s were inundated with American television. Almost every show on TV was set in a Santa-Monica high school or a  midwestern suburb. Rather than feeling alienated though, I longed to be an American. I saw Americans as worthy of the biggest brass ring I knew: being on tv.  I absorbed everything about the United States like it was my job- studied maps, learned the names of all 50 states, and begged my parents every year to take me there.

Jenna was effortlessly cool in a way that only Americans could be. She used terms like “freeway” instead of highway, and “soda” instead of pop.  She went to “kindergarten and first grade” instead of “grade primary” and “grade one”, and  had all of the coolest toys that you couldn’t get yet in Canada… She could enter contests that were only open to the residents of the 50 territorial states,  shopped at JC Penney and Macy’s and (get this) had Thanksgiving in NOVEMBER.

I can’t quite remember when it started, but at some point, I made the attempt to cross Jenna over from the fictional to the real world, and started name-dropping her like she was a real person:

“Oh, you have Teen Talk Barbie?? Well, I have a friend who has SUPER Talk Barbie. She says 100,000 things (ed note: all of which equally a feminist’s nightmare). You can only get her in the states”

“Did you know they call Chicago the windy city? Yep.. Jenna  lives there. She told me that”.

"Math is hard!!"

Jenna had taken on a whole new life of her own. It was like that quote from the Velveteen rabbit- where the rabbit asks the skin horse what it means to be “Real”, and the Skin Horse says:

“When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real”.  

Well, if by “love” the skin horse meant “projects her delusions upon“, then that sounds about right. I used my many layers of crazy to transform Jenna  into a walking, talking (and, arguably somewhat pretentious) real child. Eventually, however, my story began to wear thin. How did I know Jenna? And when was she coming to visit?? And wait- she lives in California?? I thought she lived in Illinois??

Uh-oh.  

I still remember the day when, after barraging me with a number of questions, a particularly horrendous girl said, in front of all of my classmates:

“There’s no such person as Jenna. That’s just her imaginary friend!!”

Blinded by hot tears, I ran from the playground.  The jig was up.  It was time for Jenna to retire.

For a while, I found other ways to ween myself off American culture… I had a penpal from Pennsylvania for a while, but I think I overwhelmed her with my constant questions and multiple small tokens of affection, and one day the letters just stopped coming. I made my parents take me Christmas shopping in Maine every year, and stocked up on Baby Ruth bars and clothing from The Limited Too. I even tried a few American regional accents on for size. But it was no use. At the end of the day, I was still as Canadian as a maple leaf made out of beavertails, snowshoes, and coloured money.

Eventually I learned to embrace my Canadian culture. Around 1999, the Canadian government would wisen to the fact that it’s country’s children were being brainwashed and Americanized through television,and pass a Policy  mandating specific levels of Canadian programming on tv. Then, when I was a teenager, Molson Canadian put out those “I am Canadian” ads, increasing patriotism and Canadian flag tattoos 10 fold nationwide (also potentially underage drinking. Not that I would know anything about that).

But despite all of this, to this day I think that Jenna lives on inside me. She’s there everytime I cross the border, and get a little surge of excitement from packages labelled in ounces rather than litres…. she consoles me when I realize that, despite all the progress we as Canadians have made- I  STILL can’t audition for cycle 16 of ANTM due to my nationality…. and she gives me a silent little high-five and an approving nod whenever I proceed to the checkout at an American outlet mall and pay the shockingly low suggested retail prices. I imagine she’s saying in her head “well done breezyk……. well done”.

Question of the Day: Did YOU have an imaginary friend growing up??  

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21 thoughts on “You’re Not Real Until Some Crazy Kid Loves You

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  1. At least you had creativity with your imaginary friend. My imaginary friend was Dorothy (and sometimes Toto) form Wizard of Oz. We used to have dance contests in front of my grandparents. I must have been great because I always won.

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    1. I think I mustve been masochistic, or self-loathing, because Jenna always beat me at EVERYTHING. having an imaginary friend I was superior to would have made for a way bigger confidence boost.. lol

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    1. It’s true… I think we children of the 90’s are a lost culture, really…
      Don’t you find it weird though how in Canada, even though everything else is metric- we still refer to booze in imperial ounces?? Maybe that shit’s just way too important to mess with…..

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  2. 1. You are hilarious
    3. As a kid I wanted to move to Canada because I thought Ronald Reagan was animatronic and scared the crap outta me. I also was afraid we were going to be bombed by all of the countries we regularly piss off.
    3. My delusion was Heidi. She lived in my grandmother’s trash can. Clearly you have a much more sophisticated imagination.

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    1. haha thank you!! And that is hilarious about Ronald Reagan. I’m not entirely convinced you weren’t right.
      Heidi sounds like she’d have some great stories to tell herself…. like first of all, does she know Oscar??

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  3. The fact that you had an imaginary friend just made you 10 extra cool points lol. I never had an imaginary friend, but when I was a 13 I fell in love with four grungy Canadian brothers known as The Moffatts. So I did have imaginary husbands. Four of them.

    Just like you wanted to go to the States, all I ever wanted was to come to Canada, meet them (possibly marry them) and be Canadian. The dream still lives on lol…

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    1. Karen I love this- and the Moffats clearly were worthy of your admiration based on their sheer talent alone… unfortunately as a group they didn’t have staying power, though.. Do you remember a few seasons ago when one of them was a contestant on Canadian Idol??

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      1. P.S. after some investigatory journalism I discovered that it was Dave Moffatt on Canadian Idol… and for your viewing pleasure, here he is singing “Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder. You’re welcome.

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      2. Breezy…I don’t think you realise how much you just made my day *tear*. I heard about Dave being on Canadian idol two seasons later. He used to be my favorite husband.

        Turns out he’s gay and living with his partner in Toronto. I still have the urge sometimes to look him up and tell him how much I used to love him and his brothers.

        Thank you for your investigatory journalism.

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  4. Great story!

    The only imaginary friend I had was a man named John Cracker who killed teenagers. I made him up to try to scare my older sister. He was really a Jason Voorhees rip off. At least you were original with yours.

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