A Friendship Like This Could Have Saved Hannah Baker’s Life
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In seventh grade, Emily moved from Florida to California and struggled to find her place as the new kid in school.
“People would ignore me and when they didn’t ignore me, it was mostly to make fun of me,” she says.
After a few months, she fell in with a clique, complete with its own Regina George-style leader, whom we’ll call “Candace.” But before long, Emily found herself ostracized from this group when Candace spread a cruel rumor around school and blamed it on Emily. Candace told Emily that the group didn’t want to hang out with her anymore because they didn’t want to be friends with someone so gossipy.
Emily was conflicted. She knew these girls weren’t good for her, but she also didn’t want to lose their social support and risk getting bullied again. “I felt trapped in that group but I didn’t want to be alone,” she says.
“I felt trapped in that group but I didn’t want to be alone.”
In middle and high school, drama can get nasty. While female friendships can empower girls to become their best selves, those rife with blame and jealousy can damage girls’ self-esteem and leave them feeling isolated. In the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” the soured friendship between the main characters, Hannah and Jessica, plays a big role in Hannah’s decision to end her own life.
Fortunately for Emily, her real-life story has a happier ending. She became close with Rosie, another girl who was part of Candace’s clique—but who was much kinder than the mean queen bee.
As the two became friends, Rosie started standing up for Emily whenever she got picked on.
“There’s this one guy who thinks he’s better than everyone else,” Rosie says. “One day…he was saying mean things to Emily like, ‘No one wants you here’ and I was like, ‘Why are you being like that? Be quiet!’”
Eventually, both Rosie and Emily stopped hanging out with their toxic clique. When Candace switched schools at the end of the year, a weight lifted off their shoulders.
“There’s this one guy who thinks he’s better than everyone else. One day…he was saying mean things to Emily like, ‘No one wants you here’ and I was like, ‘Why are you being like that? Be quiet!’”
“It was almost better for her to leave, because the relationships we had weren’t healthy,” says Emily. “Everything brightened up this year!”
Now in eighth grade, Rosie and Emily have become closer than ever. “If I’m thinking something, she’ll already know what I’m thinking,” says Rosie. “Sometimes we say the same thing at the same time without planning it.”
Emily’s and Rosie’s friendship is built on complete acceptance?—?this much is clear when you hear the two girls talk about each other.
“I can be who I am around her,” Emily says about Rosie. “I hate the feeling of having to impress somebody. She’s one of the very few people in the world where when I’m around her, I never feel like I have to prove anything.”
“I’ve never been scared to tell her something because I know she’s not going to judge me,” says Rosie. “I used to be friends with the popular kids and they care mostly about how you look, what you wear, what kind of brands you have on. But Emily is not about that. She’s more about your personality and how you are.”
“I’ve never been scared to tell her something because I know she’s not going to judge me.”
While other girls?—?like “13 Reason’s” Hannah and Jessica?—?struggle to articulate their feelings, Emily and Rosie have learned to communicate how much they value each other.
Before the holidays, Rosie hand-wrote a long Christmas card for Emily, reflecting on their friendship in a heartfelt note sprinkled with inside jokes and “I love you’s.”
“It feels good to know that you can matter that much to somebody,” says Emily.
As for the bullies? With Rosie by her side, Emily has mended the wounds caused by hurtful words and grown stronger as a result.
“I definitely don’t forget how cruel [kids] had been but it’s a lot better now,” says Emily. “I’m glad I have the relationships that I do now but it’s [the bullying’s] not something that I can just forget.”
Rosie agrees. “A lot of people [at school] like her this year,” she says. “All they needed to do was have like, one conversation with her and they realize that she’s not how they think she is.”
“All they needed to do was have like, one conversation with her and they realize that she’s not how they think she is.”
When asked what life would be like without her best friend, Rosie looks down. For her, this isn’t a hypothetical question?—?Emily is transferring to an arts high school next year.
“That arts school is really hard to get into so I’m really happy for her,” Rosie says. “But at the same time I feel sad because I’m not going to see her as much. Even now, [on] days when she’s not in class, I feel lonely.”
But Rosie recognizes that switching schools is not the same as being gone forever. She plans to keep their friendship alive by hanging out on the weekends, sending letters and, of course, talking on the phone.
“We could talk for hours and hours and never run out of things to say,” says Emily. “I could be at her house all day and then I’d leave and be like, ‘OK, we’re gonna keep talking about this tomorrow!’”
Together, the pair has come a long way since the days of mean-girl drama. Now facing high school’s great unknowns, Emily and Rosie are ready for big changes, knowing they have each other’s unconditional support.
It’s hard to watch “13 Reasons Why” and not wonder how different the story would be if Hannah had had a friend like Rosie, or if Jessica took a moment before blaming her friend. Ultimately, Emily and Rosie prove that when girls support each other, they’re powerful beyond measure.
For more on Hannah and Jessica’s friendship-gone-wrong, don’t miss “13 Reasons Why,” now streaming on Netflix.
All images by dose.