Five years ago when I was a senior in high school I started occasionally hanging out with a group of guys who went to the other high school in my town, a boys Catholic prep school. A girl I was friends with had started dating one of those boys and I slowly got invited to hang outs and parties. It felt so cool and new – the first three years of high school had been spent at pep band rehearsal and speech and debate practice; this was fresh and exciting. I admired these guys so much – they had cooler taste in music than I did, they seemed smarter than I was, they made funny witty jokes all the time. I desperately wanted their approval, I wanted them to think I was cool and funny and smart just like them. When I hung out with them I laughed extra hard and bit my tongue constantly, hesitant to say anything as I doubted whether my comments and jokes would be as good as theirs. I felt so lucky just to be there and wanted to make sure I wasn’t too loud.
When I was getting ready to leave the first college I went to, I spent a semester desperately craving approval from yet another group of guys. They listed to Neutral Milk Hotel on a record player in a tiny dorm room and drank way too much PBR (like, way too much). I laughed so much on those Friday and Saturday nights as they carefully analyzed everyone’s Meyers Briggs type and debated absolute minutia. I spent hours on weekday afternoons listening to the bands that they had mentioned, trying to be cool and knowledgeable enough to be seen as a reputable Modest Mouse fan. We were all struggling through a particularly bad semester of Linear Algebra, and when they asked me for help on a problem set late on a Thursday night, my heart and ego soared. I
wanted needed them to think I was cool and chill and smart.
Those boys are not the ones who helped me get over my travel anxiety the summer before college. They are not the ones who sent me text messages the mornings of big exams. They did not congratulate me when I got into the college of my dreams, nor offer reassurance when I had to go somewhere else. They are not the ones who threw me a going away party when I transferred; they are not the ones who wrote me letters and text messages when I had moved away. My female friends did that.
These aren’t the only times I found myself admiring a group of guys like this. I can recognize this pattern in the friendships I had in 6th grade, 8th grade, the group of spring transfers I was close with at my second college. Meanwhile I was not putting effort into the girls who were surrounding me with real friendship; approval and acceptance that I did not have to earn with a chill girl attitude poorly masking desperation seemed to mean less.
(This little Tumblr post spoke to me).
I am almost a year out of college living in my parents house. I have lost touch with all of those boys. I am finally investing my energy in friendships with women, women who respond to my Snapchats and letters. Girls who call me on the phone and talk me down from my hypochondria. Girls who I don’t have to feel embarrassed around when I talk about watching The Bachelor and Fresh Off the Boat. Girls with whom I can be loud and silly and not worry about sounding stupid. It seems crude to view platonic friendships in terms of return on investment, but I finally feel out of the red.