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Columns

A Declaration Of Love

Thank you for being a friend

By Jennifer A. Gathright

My friends are my soulmates. They are my raison d’etre. They are my One Great Love. Maybe this declaration is just something a single twenty year-old says to make her bae-less existence feel better. But, right now, I believe that this statement of adoration is a beautiful truth. I am completely and totally head-over-heels in love with all of my friends.

I often tell my best friends about unsatisfying relationships–I’ll gripe about the boy who never called or vent about the people who make me feel invalidated or unwanted. But all of this time spent dwelling on objectively unfulfilling interactions could be put to better use. And so, all of a sudden, I want to say it, all over the Internet and in every breakfast lunch and dinner conversation and during every dance party on the banks of the Charles and after every Kuumba rehearsal, across the Yard and through my sister’s apartment window and over Skype and FaceTime and the GroupMe that constantly connects us across the country and world: Thank you for caring about me.

In the documentary “20 Feet from Stardom,” singer Lisa Fischer talks about romantic relationships: “When you get into a relationship, you know, there’s an energy. It’s like when you see a married couple walking into a room. You see them apart, but you still feel that string that binds them. I never really had that. So I always felt like I belonged to everyone, you know, a part of my heart, a part of who I am belongs to everybody.” One day, I hope that a single string will bind me to that someone else. But, I don’t just want one string. For now, I want to meditate on the beauty of a web (and no, I’m not talking about polygamy). While I may not have one string connecting me to my better half across the room, I walk around every day connected by many strings to many true loves–my friends. This lattice of friendship is the foundation of acceptance from which I take risks with my heart, and it is the place where I land when my single invisible strings inevitably break.

I think that part of us has been socialized to believe that the Cory and Shawn kind of love is somehow less consuming or complex than the Cory and Topanga kind of love. And this attitude comes across in the public discourse around social life at college. People feel the constant need to revive the conversation about college hook-up culture, and while that conversation is important and I’m willing to participate in it, I also want to simultaneously have a discussion about something just as significant: college friendship culture.

There is such an art to being a good friend, and my friends express this art in many forms: their perfectly crafted and well-timed supportive texts, their mastery of my bad moods, their aptitude for making me feel validated. These acts are profound.

Perhaps part of the cure to this mess of college dating is elevating the importance of platonic love. When I remind myself of my loving friendships, the blows of all that other romantic stuff become much easier to handle. And, I also believe that working on becoming a good friend can’t help but affect the way we treat the people we involve ourselves with romantically. Maybe elevating the importance of good friendships would allow us to ditch the classic  “who cares less” game for a second and have the courage to be honest. And, whether that honesty comes out as “I’m so into this” or “I’m just not feelin’ it,” at least it will come from a place of compassion.

However, friendship is much more than just an insurance policy against heartbreak or a training platform for how to treat people well. It is a bold entity on its own. My friendships are worth a constant stream of novels and songs and poems.

Hannah Horvath of “Girls” may have been right when she wrote, “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.” Due to my lack of successful experience in the romance department, I will refrain from any definitive comment, but I do want to acknowledge that Lena Dunham, through Hannah, is getting at an important point. College relationships aren’t doomed or extinct, and millennials haven’t lost the ability to love. We convey our loving capacity through our friendships every day.

For a second, I’m going to extend this already sappy piece in an even more idealistic direction. Every single person on this campus deserves to feel supported by friends, so why don’t we walk around and make everyone we see feel a little more loved? Let’s stop doing that thing where we avoid eye contact with the kid we only sort of know from section. Look at her in the eye and say hello, and then imagine for a second all of the amazing risks you would take if you felt like the entire Harvard community had your back.

Jennifer A. Gathright ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator in Lowell House. Her column appears on alternate Tuesdays.

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