Study Guide

The Usual Rules Friendship

By Joyce Maynard


Wendy had been best friends with Amelia since first grade. In third grade, they'd tied their desks together, until the teacher made them cut the string. They had invented a language nobody else understood. Later they made up all kinds of other things, too. (1.106)

Wendy and Amelia are total BFFs. They've known each other for most of their lives and don't have to pretend around each other—they just get each other completely and totally accept each other.

Even Amelia, as talkative a person as she was, must have known there was nothing to say. The two of them lay on the floor, holding each other, until very gradually the crying slowed to where it was only long, sad sighs. Then, finally, quiet. Even after that, they just lay there awhile.

Maybe we should have some Haagen-Dazs, Amelia suggested. It seemed as good an idea as anything else. (3.230-231)

Even when the unthinkable happens, Amelia knows just what Wendy needs. She is there to comfort her whenever she's overwhelmed by her grief and knows just what to suggest to help her feel better.

You probably have tons of other people you'd want to talk to before me, Carolyn said. If not out here, in New York anyway. And, of course, there's always your father. But just so you know, if the situation ever comes up where you need a woman to talk to, I'd do my best. (20.128)

Carolyn knows she's never going to replace Wendy's mom, but she still offers up her friendship and womanly advice. And Wendy is grateful for it; as much as she loves Garrett, she can't talk to him about everything.

Sometimes it's important to have someone like that around, Wendy said. Even if you might disagree with what they tell you […]

What a person really needs is more of a sidekick, he said. Someone who can tell you you're full of it, but in a nice way. When you've got a brother like that, you're never totally alone. There's always someone on your team. (24.45-46)

Wendy understands what Todd is going through and why he'll comb the entire country to find his brother. After all, Kevin is the only person in his life who's always been there for him—and that's something that is precious and worth hunting down.

She wrote down her phone numbers—both of them, Davis and New York. If you end up in my town someday, you could give me a call, she said. I've got a pretty flexible schedule. (24.55)

Although she's just met this kid and probably shouldn't trust him right off the bat, Wendy feels a connection to Todd. She tells him to call or look her up anytime; she wants to be another person he can rely on since he doesn't have many.

If you're going to be alone, you could have dinner with my father and his girlfriend and me, she said. My dad's girlfriend's son is coming for a visit the day before, but on Christmas Day, it's just going to be us. (28.101)

Alan has helped Wendy a lot with her grief by allowing her to loiter around his bookstore and lending her books—so she tries to help him in turn when she can. When she learns that he and Tim will be alone on Christmas, she invites them to join her family. It's the least she can do.

Anyway, you've got me. Wendy hadn't intended on saying something like that but looking at Carolyn standing there in her too-tight cutoffs and T-shirt, scrubbing the grill, she felt an unexpected wave of affection. There wasn't one single thing about Carolyn that reminded Wendy of her mother. Four months ago they hadn't even met. Now it was Christmas morning and here they were. (29.13)

Even though she's only known Carolyn for a couple months, Wendy's grown pretty close to her. She feels horrible for Carolyn after Nate and Sharon leave, and she wants to show her that there are people who do appreciate and love her, just the way she is.

When she heard about Wendy going back to school, Violet sounded sad.

I'll still see you and Walter Charles, Wendy told her over the phone. Just not on school days.

Now I'll probably turn into one of those people that sits around their apartment all day watching soap operas and Maury, she said. (30.54-55)

Violet is having a hard enough time with this single motherhood thing, but it's going to get even worse when Wendy goes back to school. But even so, Wendy assures her she'll still be her friend—she just can't hang out all day during the week anymore.

In the morning, it was Carolyn who dropped her off. I could get attached to those two, but I'd better not, she said.

What do you mean? Wendy asked.

You can do your best, Carolyn said. But a person can't always fix everything. (30.70-72)

Carolyn really likes Violet and Walter Charles, but she knows it would be a mistake to get too close to them and worry about how they end up. She can already see that Violet is struggling—and that she might not always make the best choices for herself or her baby.

You lived there a long time, Wendy said. As long as she'd known Kate.

It was never a choice so much, she said. More of a habit. Your mom was there, and you guys. Which was basically my family. Only it wasn't completely, which is what I came to see. I was borrowing your mother's life. (32.149-150)

Kate has been Janet's best friend for so long that she doesn't know what to do without her—but she does know that New York City will never be the same for her again. So she decides to leave and start anew; maybe getting away from all the grief will help her heal.