TAYLOR: Friends’ benefits

Tell It Slant

I thought I was over jealousy. I thought I had transcended romance. I had just finished cavalierly proclaiming my immunity to Hallmark’s factory-farmed emotions when I saw the tweet.

“Who sent me these Valentine truffles??? Show yourself you, sweetheart!”

I raged. I was, in a word, reduced. In 10 seconds I slipped from soaring rhetorician to craven stereotype, furiously overturning my backpack for some compensatory chocolate. Having none, I resorted to violence: I replied to my friend’s tweet with a link to my last column.

Never, dear readers, underestimate the sweet solace of a vicious pen!

Yet I am not proud of my behavior last night. My Twitter feed is for good, readers — for pictures of cats and maybe a few poop jokes — not for petty twitwars. And certainly not for hypocrisy.

Before, I had claimed invincibility in the face of uncanned romance — I had bragged of my own Valentine’s-defying spiritual perfection, yet there I was, silently fuming because weather.com already had changed its background to some stupid-looking heart-shaped balloons.

Don’t they know that balloons, like those warm, fuzzy, postcoital feelings we all so nearsightedly extol, eventually diminish?

Didn’t they read my last column?

Alas, it appears not. Or perhaps proscription isn’t the answer. Perhaps the patient is not ready for so strong a medicine. So let me try again: Instead of writing about what should be, let me share with you what can be — what, happily, is.

Let’s talk about friendship.

When’s the last time you saw a movie about an adult friendship? Perhaps there are a few comedies. By and large, though, friendship is not fulfilling in Hollywood; rather, it’s a means to an end. In romantic comedy, the best friend exists only for exposition and comedic relief. His or her relationship with our hero(ine) doesn’t matter — because as we all know, to be single in cinema is to be dissatisfied, no matter the caliber of one’s friends or the quality of one’s other successes. Hence Britney’s “Lucky.” Hence Meg Ryan.

Yet during my time at Yale, friendship has been the one certainty in my life. I have known my best friend since we met at Bulldog Days, and from that rainy Monday night until our last text exchange an hour ago, I don’t think I’ve gone more than a week or two without hearing from him. There hasn’t been a crisis I’ve confronted without him, and I think — I hope — he can say the same about me.

Romantic comedy law says we have to get married. Romantic comedy law — having recently lost its battle with Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon — insists, with obnoxious vigor, that since he and I can bear — nay, enjoy! — each other’s company, since we know each other’s minds and hearts as well as two friends can and since we are both more or less heterosexual, we must be soulmates.

Romantic comedy law does not understand friendship. Nor, I would argue, does Valentine’s Day.

Friendship is patient. Friendship is kind. Friendship, more than candy-coated, shrink-wrapped, Whitman’s Sampler love does not envy, does not boast and is not proud. Friendship doesn’t plot, and it doesn’t play games. Friendship doesn’t need cards, or chocolates, or lubricant.

That’s not to say that romantic love isn’t enduring. Ultimately, one hopes it will be. But most of us, I’d argue, will love — in the romantic sense — more than once in our lives. There are stepping stones on the way to The Right One.

A good friend, on the other hand, is forever.

Nearly every day, if only silently, we bemoan — or exalt — our relationship status. Desperate as we almost always are for romance (or at least sex), shouldn’t we have at least one day where we don’t take for granted the miracle of our close friendships — the people who, like family, don’t need something pink and powdered to know that we love them?

I think it’s friendship, and not romance, that needs a holiday.

“I love you.” We have so much trouble with those three fraught words. When do we say them? How do we know what they mean, or what they should mean, and whether we even mean them?

It’s the most terrifying phrase in the world — regardless of who says it, or to whom it is directed. I won’t lie: Sometimes I’ve wished I could take it back. Rare is the feeling of knowing it — but today, I do. More than ever, I do. And since Feb. 14 is the day to say it, I’ll summon the courage.

My friends deserve it.

Michelle Taylor is a senior in Davenport College. Her column runs on Fridays. Contact her at michelle.taylor@yale.edu .

Comments