“You’re so pretty!” you both scream at each other gleefully, eyes wide with either excitement or pure, unmitigated terror. The game begins. The courtship has commenced. If all goes to plan, you will have secured yourself a new face to smile at as you walk through campus and, perhaps more importantly, a new person to cheerily scream at the next time you go out. An age-old artistry that appears simple to the untrained eye — but to those who examine, partake in and fully experience the process of making new girlfriends, it is an intricate dance with moves so precise and complex that it may take years to even feign sufficiency. As a somewhat seasoned professional, here are a few insights I’ve taken away from my tenure as a social butterfly. This is how friendships begin at Yale.
The nature of the well-timed, calculated compliment may call into question one’s authenticity — does she actually mean what she’s saying, or is this just all par for the course? At the end of the day, anyone playing the game knows that the answer to that question is irrelevant. Authentic or not, the high-pitched compliment serves only as the first point of contact in the journey, a journey with purely cerebral origins.
For most savvy social butterflies, the foundations of the interaction are built before either party actually comes within speaking distance. The observational phase is perhaps the most important: You watch how she interacts with her other female friends, take note of her gestures and mannerisms while speaking so as to confidently mirror them while in conversation and you pick one feature or accessory to compliment in order to establish a preliminary bond. It is, at times, a bit disheartening that most of the interaction will hinge on superficial, borderline shallow aspects, but the formula is simple and time-tested:
Gas. Them. Up.
It’s obvious that people like to have their egos stroked, so it’s mostly about finding a way to comfortably hype them up while giving them the opportunity to reciprocate. Anyone who does not play the game back will prove to have been a failed endeavor. Such is the harsh truth of the process: you have to be a little cutthroat in order to be nice.
One of the most delicate aspects of the interaction is vocal and tonal regulation. Knowing when to be loud and high-pitched versus calm and cool calls on a player’s ability to read the situation, the room and the subject. Some girls, myself included, are more partial to a calm approach, yet we can appreciate and even mimic the high intensity of the former if we deem the potential friendship worth the energy.
Navigating social media, too, can be a minefield. Based on the assumption that your new friend has both Instagram and Snapchat, a decision has to be made on which one best suits the overall vibe of the interaction and what potential may have arisen from it. Instagram stands as the low-maintenance, noncommittal option. It doesn’t demand much involvement, but it offers a glimpse into the type of life that she has chosen to depict to the world, which can be extremely telling of your new friend if you know what to look for. Snapchat opens a few more doors. The little white ghost allows you to actually keep casual contact with your new friend. In addition, if said friend is one to post frequent stories, it is a more in-depth, more candid peek into her life. If a private story comes into the mix, there is a good chance of the friendship continuing on more casual, less calculated terms. Essentially, Instagram is for friendly acquaintances, Snapchat is for furthering the relationship.
The final stage is often the one subject to the most error. The exit. How does one naturally end a conversation that was started randomly between two strangers? Speaking from personal experience, it’s harder than it seems. The “okay, I’ll see you later” may seem a bit abrupt, but it is a fine choice. Looking around for 3.5 seconds, then declaring that you should find the people that you came with, is a step up. It shows both awareness and care, traits that are always worth displaying. However, the most elite option is perhaps running into another friend or having someone to pull you away into a new conversation. It shows sociability, a desired presence, and provides an easy, low-stakes transition. It is, undoubtedly, the pinnacle of all exit strategies.
I’m not sure how this system developed, who discovered it or where it originated. The one thing I do know is that it is a pattern — a system — that all girls recognize. No one taught me the rules of the game, or how exactly to play, or how it would evolve as I got older, but I learned them somehow, as all girls do. It exists as one of the frustratingly beautiful crafts that one can always improve in, yet could never dream of perfecting.
SIMI OLURIN is a first year in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .