Maya Jonas-Silver '14.
Maya Jonas-Silver '14.

The Evolution of Friendship

The Crimson’s former Managing Editor, Rebecca D. Robbins, complained to me about the typical structure of endpapers. “They’re all sad but beautiful,” she said.
By Maya Jonas-Silver

The Crimson’s former Managing Editor, Rebecca D. Robbins, complained to me about the typical structure of endpapers. “They’re all sad but beautiful,” she said.

And I thought about avoiding that monotony, but I didn’t have any funny stories, and I didn’t have unique life circumstances. I had a series of bland sentences, and the only one with promise was about friendship. But the thing about my friendships is that they are beautiful, but I don’t think they’re sad.

So, Rebecca, I’m trying to write about friendship.

I’m trying to express the love I have for my best friend from preschool—we’re more like sisters than friends by this point, I think. I’m trying to write about the overwhelming gratitude I have for a friend who I didn’t prioritize over a boy when I should have, but who put me before everything when he didn’t. I’m trying to write about the warmth with which a lovely young woman, someone I had only met a month before, welcomed me into her arms and her life because I was upset and alone. I’m trying to write about Friday night, when I sat around a table, my cheeks sore from laughing, and it struck me: a ‘Modern Love’-style endpaper—something about romance and heartbreak with a solid theme and a loose moral and a sad but beautiful ending—that’s about love, and love is what art is made for but friendship is its tragically overlooked counterpart.

Romance is easy to write about. Romance is about “the moment when you knew” and “how did he propose” and “what was it like” and friendship is about waking nights that fly by because talking is more compelling than sleeping. Friendship is about 5 a.m. drives to remote diners that make for boring stories but great cornerstones. Friendship is about looking down at your phone on a bad day and seeing that your roommate texted to make sure you’re okay. None of those things make for top-40 hits or timeless sonnets.

Allow me to be the human evolutionary biology major that I am for just a second.

I’ve spent the last four years understanding humanity in the context of evolution—understanding a lover’s feelings because partnering with her man increases her reproductive potential. Romantic love is essential, but it’s biological, not transcendent. It’s the relationships where I don’t see evolution—the way that we are willing to give to people with whom we share no genetic material and no reproductive potential—those are the relationships that strike me as sacred.

But we have a tendency to put relationships with our friends after our relationships with our lovers or after our work or after our ambitions. And really, that’s a disservice to friendship. Because friends are more stable than romances and ambitions, and when a test goes badly you can’t apologize and make up but friends will almost always take you back, and if you get fired from your job who are you going to run home to if not to your friends?

I made the mistake, in high school, of allowing my boyfriend to become the most important thing in my life. I let him become more important than my friends, and chose him over them more often than I want to remember. When we broke up, of course, I ran immediately to the friends who I had earlier failed to prioritize, and my friends consoled me and comforted me without a word.

But here’s the one problem with putting all your trust in friendships: I’m going to graduate in four months, and my friends are going to scatter. And unlike a boyfriend, no matter how much I love my friends, no matter how perfect our relationships are, no one changes the course of their life to stay with their friends.

When I was five, my best friend Sarah and I told the kids on the school bus to kindergarten that we were going to get married. They made fun of us (homophobicly, in retrospect, but bafflingly in the moment), and we didn’t understand why if we loved each other, if we wanted to spend time with each other and no one else, why that was different from the love between our parents.

Now, of course, Sarah goes to college in Vermont and is looking at moving across the country upon her graduation, and we have no plans to get married. On second thought, maybe that is kind of sad.