The Importance of Good Girl Friends

This post is especially for girls in science, although the overall message is applicable to girls (and guys) in any field.

At Harvard, I studied math, statistics, and eventually computer science, all subjects with badly skewed gender ratios and a preponderance of ego. With the exception of my roommates, the majority of my closest friends were male – guys I’d met debugging race conditions, solving birthday problems, proving NP-completeness. This phenomenon was further compounded by my primary choice of extracurricular, The Salient, Harvard’s ever-beleaguered conservative newspaper, where the total female membership rose to two my senior year (the other being our publisher’s girlfriend).

Over winter break, I went to visit a girlfriend of mine who was spending the semester in Paris. She was living in a tiny apartment in the third arrondissement with views over Le Marais. We spent our mornings taking walks in the Tuileries, our evenings half-assing pilates exercises. We ate breakfast at midnight. We made fun of our exes. The fact that I could count my girlfriends on one hand had never really bothered me – I was brash and frank in a way that bordered on unladylike, and had plenty of male friends and string of long-term relationships – but for the first time, I wished that I had more of them. Read the rest of this entry »


The End of Courtship, the Rise of Friendship

What does the ideal date look like? According to this New York Times article, it begins with a phone call from a stranger (initiated by the guy). A time is agreed upon (ideally a week or two in advance). The man shows up with roses, and he treats the woman to polite conversation at an expensive French bistro followed by dessert and a movie.

The article equates romance with financial expenditure. It views informality as a sign of indifference. It plays up the importance of gender roles and tradition. If that is courtship, then good riddance.

I suggest that we fill the void, not with the author’s much-maligned hookup culture, but with meaningful friendships. Viewed through the lens of meeting new people and establishing new relationships, a tardy “want to meet up for a drink or whatever” in the early hours of Friday morning, doesn’t seem so incriminating. A “hey, come join me and my bros at the froyo social.” doesn’t seem so dismissive. Spending time with someone in a casual setting (hiking, drinking, volunteering), allows you to learn about their values and how they allocate their time. Meeting their friends allows you to learn about the company they keep, which is one of the best predictors of their own personalities. Read the rest of this entry »


Just Friends

A friend of mine, newly in a relationship, posed this question: how do you maintain friendships with members of the opposite sex when you’ve left the realm of singledom?

A lot of times, the short answer I hear is, “You can’t.” Romantic relationships are tough enough as it is; there’s no shortage of potential stumbling blocks even before you add in the cute gym partner. Toning down the friendships that your significant other might see as a threat seems only considerate.

But I disagree with the view that relationships should be ascetic. Having a boyfriend might mean no more food fights at the Delphic and no more sleepovers with the convenient grad student, but it doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and plead the fifth. Turning into a wallflower is the least constructive thing you can do because it makes both of you less interesting. Read the rest of this entry »