It was the TikTok heard 'round the internet. The meme that launched a thousand memes.
"I ain't never seen two pretty best friends. Always one of them got to be ugly."
Like many of you reading this blog, I've heard this soundbite more times than I can count; however, recently, I considered its message from a personal standpoint and I figured it out. I think I know why no one "ain't never seen two pretty best friends."
Throughout my time in college, there have been a few faces to stick with me. I know that sounds weird, but these faces are just people in my graduating class at Carolina that I've "seen around" all four years. One of these people is a girl named Alley.
I first remember seeing Alley in the fall of 2017 at a Young Democrats meeting in Gardner Hall. She had medium-length brown/black hair, a colorfully eccentric style, wore a nose ring, winged eye-liner, and, for the purposes of this blog –– looked generally cool.
I instinctively avoided her. She was pretty, fashionable, and smart... but I could only see competition.
These feelings were subconscious, of course. I wasn't actively avoiding a girl I didn't even know (that would be crazy), but my internal judgments kept me from introducing myself. If I had, I would have made a great friend a lot sooner.
Alley and I ran in similar circles, with friends in the Jewish community and political groups on campus, so I'd seen her around campus over the next few years. But during junior year, I saw her in an unexpected place: auditions for False Profits. False Profits is UNC-Chapel Hill's only stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy troupe, and I've been a member since sophomore year. When Alley auditioned, she instantly caught my eye.
She was witty and silly, not at all this "too-cool-for-school" hot girl that I wrote her off to be. I was impressed, so I voted for her to get a spot on the troupe. Ultimately, she made it but I still didn't fully give her a chance. There were lingering feelings that I couldn't quite explain.
Alley doing stand-up at the Broadway Comedy Club in NYC! So proud! <3
Over the next year and a half of doing comedy together, the barrier I built up in my head slowly crumbled. We had so much in common, from a weirdly identical childhood photoshoot to being raised by single moms and loving the color pink.
Just a week ago, as I sat on Alley's back porch with her enjoying a glass of wine and a warm, sunny, spring afternoon, I was hit with a #realization. What would the last four years have looked like if I had just gone up to Alley at that very first Young Democrats meeting and introduced myself??
Probably something like this:
"Hi, I'm Maia! You look super cool, I love your nose ring. What's your name?"
"Oh, hey! I'm Alley. Thanks, I like your SNL laptop sticker."
"Thank you so much! We should totally grab dinner on Franklin St. sometime?"
"Yeah, that would be great!"
Voila! Instant friends!
Okay, maybe that's just how our friendship starts in my head. But it might have gone down like that, right?!? My point is –– WHO KNOWS?!?!
Throughout college, I've learned a lot about friendship. I've dealt with difficult roommates, mean sorority girls, and fake friends, but each one taught me something different about myself.
I learned that I'm a good listener and someone people trust to come to for advice. I've learned that I struggle to set boundaries and tell the people I love "no." And I've learned that I isolate when I can't cope with my current situation. On the flip side, I've learned that it doesn't matter what your "friends" say about who they are –– their actions will show you. I've learned that true connection doesn't involve drugs or drinking –– those activities, while fun in moderation, often camouflage reality. And I've learned that those who care about you, don't care about anything else –– where you come from, how much money you have, the clothes you wear. None of it, but YOU, matters.
As women, we are constantly criticized, from our bodies and beauty to our intelligence and motivations. It never ends. We have all been trained to see the world through a constructed lens and a scarcity mindset: "There are limited resources," "Only the strongest survive," "May the best woman win," etc.
When I met Alley, I saw her through society's eyes, and while I'm sad that we only found each other now, I'm grateful to have found her at all. She shattered my perception of womanhood and female friendships. Knowing what I know now, I pity those who let a toxic culture formed to pit women against one another rule their lives. Society's grip holds a powerful grasp, but I hope someone reading this will examine their own outlook and challenge themselves to see through the smokescreen.
One of my favorite quotes on societal division is to "interrogate the differences until you see what we all share." I first heard this quote in a sociology course on race, class, and gender and it stuck with me. I believe it's applicable in this context too.
Instead of comparing myself to other women by saying, "She's skinnier than me," "She gets more guys than me," "She's smarter than me," I can choose to consider what we have in common or the things we all experience. For me and Alley, we both love celebrating underappreciated holidays (shoutout Valentine's Day and Halloween!), drinking wine, and performing comedy. With this mentality, fear and judgment are instantly replaced with compassion and understanding.
The latter are what inspire me to see the best in people and, ultimately, find fulfillment in my relationships. After all, a friend who looks for the worst in you isn't really a friend at all.