When you’re a freshman in college, you’re nervous and you’re excited, and you’re trying to be cool. You’re trying to figure out what “being cool” even means now that you’re in college. You are scared and you don’t know anybody.
This is how I felt on my first day of college. But this soon changed, and I was grateful. On move-in day, a boy sits next to me, strikes up a conversation about the bright yellow bandana I have chosen to wear to match my bright yellow top because I had clearly not discovered the secret to “coolness” quite yet. Our RA. asks us to share, one by one, an exciting thing that happened to us that summer. It’s an icebreaker, and we all know it’s awkward. We ended up cuddling in a twin bed for at least 5 hours a day for the next 8 months.
Two years later, I’ve dropped the yellow bandana in favor of a much cooler She & Him shirt. I’m getting there. It’s a film class, and as such, there are 18 boys and 4 girls. The girls sit together in a corner of the room, talking about things other than Pulp Fiction and The Godfather. I recognize one of them from a class we’d taken together the previous semester. We talk about how silly our professor had been, and realize we share the exact same sense of humor. We soon partner up for a short film project and make our movie about college students trying to make a short film project. We, the only group comprised completely of girls, win the film department T-shirt our professor had promised to the makers of the best movie. We are somehow simultaneously smug and indifferent, and no matter how many times we put the shirts on, it never gets less funny. She accompanies me on my family vacation later that year.
Fast forward to junior year, Halloween: I continue my streak of not totally understanding what’s appropriate to wear to a college Halloween party by dressing as Liz Lemon. Across the room, singing a song from Cabaret that I immediately join in on despite not having been invited, he stands. He is dressed as Liza Minnelli. We hardly introduce ourselves before taking pictures together, and we promise to watch Grey Gardens together the very next day. But we don’t. We see each other at parties, pass each other on campus, but, as all great love stories go, don’t fully reunite until months later. The fall of my senior year, we have too much wine before a party and order Broadway matinee tickets to The Glass Menagerie for next week. Three months later, he comes home with me to meet my family.
These cinematic meet-cutes, which seem too good to lead anywhere but break-up Hell quickly blossomed into full-fledged, text each other every day, know each other’s drink orders, can fight without being in a fight relationships. The most important years of my life (so far) have been spent loving these people. I’m lucky enough to say that, in them, I’ve come to the conclusion that soulmates might not be totally bogus. But not one of these relationships have featured a speck of romance.
My best friends are without a doubt, no questions asked, non-negotiably my soulmates. They understand me in ways I don’t grasp, support me in ways I don’t deserve, make me laugh in ways I never have before, and make me better in ways I could never express. For all intents and purposes, they do for me what any romantic partner should, and I try my hardest to reciprocate. We fit together like partners do. Our families recognize us as parts of a whole unit. We don’t really know how to function without each other, and we don’t want to find out what would happen if we had to. And because of this, I’ve decided I don’t need to spend my time looking for a romantic interest to come along and fill any kind of void in my life. I already have my hands (and heart) full with my platonic soulmates.
That’s not to say I’m not interested in romance, or that I’m against adding a romantic soulmate to the roster. I believe in love, and I believe that the most fulfilling relationships are those in which both parties consider each other to be their best friend. I just don’t think we need to spend so much time and effort worrying about finding a date who’s our PERFECT MATCH when so many of us already have that kind of intense intimacy in our friendships. On Sex and the City, Charlotte puts it like this: “Maybe we could be each other’s soulmates, and then we could let men be just these great nice guys to have fun with.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of finding The One, and it’s even easier to get caught up in the reality of our culture’s obsession with coupling up. But it’s important to remember that it is completely okay to focus on your friends as the great loves of your life if that’s what makes you happy. After all, a couple’s status as a couple isn’t what makes them happy; it’s the connection they share, the love between them, the fun they have no matter where they are and what they’re doing. And if you’re lucky enough to have that with your best friend, you can count yourself among the few of us who know we’ve already found the people we’re going to spend the rest of our lives with- not in a romantic way, but in every other way possible.