Romantic dramadies seems to be the new go-to niche for Netflix. Between The Last Summer, The Perfect Date, and To All the Boys I Loved Before, my feed is covered in cheesy high school love stories that are sadly my vice.
All these stories start off about the same: the odd woman/man out finds themselves suddenly cast into this new world, one where they start to become aware of their glaringly obvious good looks and other people begin to take note, too. Then someone cute catches their attention and boom — off to the races they go.
But first, they leave behind their friends. You know, the ones that were always there for them ever since they were little (usually depicted in flash-back montages). The main character forgoes their friendship for true love — well, at least until their love interest turns out to be dating them for money, lied to them, or they lose all their cool new popular friends.
They come running back to their long-time BFF, and eventually, they forgive all with open arms.
But the real world isn’t so kind. And teens aren’t that self-aware.
I am firmly in my late-20s at 27 years old, and I’ll admit that I have no childhood girlfriends I watch the bachelor every week with. I have no college girlfriends I go dancing with downtown, and I can count the number of close female friends I have on one hand — and still have fingers left over.
I read an article by June Beaux recently that unexpectedly hit home. It’s called “Seeking BFFs for the End of the World.” What really resonated with me was her take on her quest to find a boyfriend. Beaux recalls the prime years of making lasting friendships being wasted in narrowly focusing on finding a man.
I spent the time from when I was 14 to 26 pursuing love. I had the notion ingrained in my mind that a boyfriend meant I was complete. Maybe it was all the rom coms.
Lizzie McGuire and That’s So Raven were my go-to shows growing up. Both had a dynamic duo of two female BFFs. Miranda’s blase attitude towards the typical high school hierarchy balanced out Lizzie’s social anxiety. Chelsea’s flighty yet blissful outlook on life brought Raven’s over-the-top antics back down to the real world. But never did the episodes of these shows really hone in on the friendships of these ladies. Each episode was either about silly drama or — you guessed it — boys. So maybe that’s where I got it from, the notion that a boyfriend in high school was the ultimate badge of honor.
Sure, my younger self thought friendships were cool. But I saw them as something that was just there. There was nothing that needed to be cultivated; they were nothing I put too much thought into.
When a friend and I would get into a fight, I didn’t worry too much. I don’t ever remember being upset about any of the numerous female connections I had that eventually fizzled out, although I do remember one time when my crew of friends all turned their backs on me at once. Maybe it’s because there were multiple girls that it left an impression.
On the other hand, the heartbroken, tear-filled crying sessions in my car that took place after a breakup, those I remember as if they were yesterday. I remember every ending, every word left lingering in the air. I was even broken up with after I caught my boyfriend flirting with another girl. He called me crazy, we broke up, and they started dating a few days later. That one stung. What’s worse, I ended up giving him another chance later in college.
I recall the exact feeling of every beginning, too. The butterflies I got in my stomach when a note was passed to me; the moments spent watching the wind ripple across the lake near my house. The soft, exhilarating touch of a first kiss. I relished those moments; I lived for them.
The monotonous and mundane cling to my memory too. Afternoons spent lugging my boyfriend’s guitar and amp around to night clubs because he didn’t have a car. The late nights stayed up talking about how shitty of a step-father one boyfriend had. All Valentine’s Day cards I searched for on Pinterest and crafted together. The mornings I woke up a bit earlier to make us pancakes.
I look back and can’t help but cringe thinking about how much time I put into men that didn’t deserve it. How much of my prime teen years and early-20s I spent painstakingly trying to make relationships work.
All the while, I let my friendships come and go. I put absolutely zero effort into maintaining my relationships with people that were choosing and willing to be in my life; instead, I put my energy into convincing someone else to stay.
To all those friends I took for granted along the way, I wish you were still around. I wish I’d chosen to go stag with you guys to prom. I wish I didn’t leave you at the mall to go make out with my boyfriend while his parents were gone. I wish I would’ve told you I made the decision to move across the country in-person instead of a lame text. I wish I admired your quirky characteristics the way they should’ve been.
I wish I had called. I wish I had kept in touch.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
That friendships are a beautiful form of human connection. There is a biological urge to find a romantic partner, but there is no urge to be friends with someone.
To form a platonic relationship with a person means that they are seeing all you have to offer and choosing you. No magical future of babies and marriage promised, just pure, raw connection. Friendship is wanting to put in the effort, care, and sacrifice for someone when, biologically, we could do without it.
I look back now and remember fondly all the women that came into my life when I was too absorbed in finding a boyfriend to appreciate. All the times they made sure I got home safely. The night a friend stayed up for hours waiting for me to come back to our dorm. The steadfast support I was given when a friend let me stay with her while I was unemployed. The love I felt from them that equated to what I imagine it would be like to have a sister.
I am grateful for the couple of women that made it through the battlefield, the ones that pursued me and wouldn’t let me go. They’re the real heroes of this story. And I’ll be sure to let them know how much they mean to me consistently.
But for the rest that I missed out on because I didn’t know how good I had it, I hope you found someone else. I hope you found someone who appreciates the friendship you’re willing to give.
Because in the end, life isn’t a rom-com. When you mess up big enough, for long enough, people aren’t waiting with open arms.
And this world’s a crazy place — we need friends to make it through.