and now for some comic relief.
i actually wrote this a long time ago. and it’ll most definitely be a chapter in my book, but in an interest of sharing a funnier post with y’all (after many a more stoic, pensive, and thoughtful post), i have decided to post it now. if only for the fact that pepperdine has been on my mind a lot these days and that today marks the 27th day of birth of one of my besties, who just happened to snag her mister over the course of her days as a wave (the pepperdine mascot). also, i’ve totally already shared this with my guy (he liked it!) so if you were at all concerned about that, your fears can be quelled.
i give you: friendlationships (also, please note the use of sentence case. i know, you’re welcome):
I had big plans for college. And by “big plans” I mean, I was certain that in addition to earning a bachelor’s degree, I would also earn the heart of a bachelor himself.
I chose to spend my formative years in Malibu, California (I know, it was rough) at Pepperdine University. I chose, rather my parents chose (thanks guys!), to donate those thousands of dollars in tuition to this institution for a multitude of reasons. The location (no brainer), the competitive academic catalog, the quaint size (remember my graduating class was 86, being a big fish in a little pond was my M.O.), the acclaimed study abroad program and of course, its religious-affiliation. Pepperdine is affiliated with the Church of Christ denomination of the Christian faith. Basically what that means is that in addition to a full liberal arts education, you are also required to fulfill a religion credit requirement as well as attend weekly convocation. But as a graduate of a Christian-based high school and an overall lover of Jesus, these added religious aspects only attracted me to Pepperdine all the more. And in turn, I only hoped that it would also attract equally minded individuals – “individuals” being attractive, intelligent and God-fearing men who were looking for their equally as stunning, smart and Jesus-loving counterpart.
Well Pepperdine must have taken a note out of the Field of Dreams playbook because they built it and we all came. One step on campus warranted a feast for the eyes. Yes, the views of the Pacific were nothing to sneeze at (but that’s a given, I mean, hi, it’s Malibu), but “the views” I’m talking about are the students themselves. Pepperdine was full of really really pretty people (myself included, obviously. Just kidding, my Drew Barrymore-doppelganger looks didn’t hold a candle to most of these broads). Like really pretty –I’m talking, wait, how is it possible for there to be this many pretty people living in one place? Isn’t there a limit on the level of beauty for one zip code? And better still; a good majority of these genetically blessed babes had the brains to back up their beauty as well as an adherence to the Christian faith. I had found the Holy Grail –dozens of eligible bachelors of which to unleash my sarcastic wit and charm. What little dating activity I had had in high school would certainly be trumped in college given the myriad of men in my new environment. So with a hopeful heart I went into my freshman year, whole-heartedly believing that when I emerged four years later (er, three years for me, I’m the smarty pants (or not so smarty pants, i mean, who voluntarily gives up a year of avoiding adulthood? i do, that’s who) who graduated early), in addition to a diploma, I would also be rocking a little left-handed bling.
It is important to note that Pepperdine, traditionally, admits twice as many girls as they do men. I don’t think it’s a sexist thing, but more so, I just think more females apply in general and also we don’t have a football team, so if you’re a macho man looking for some testosterone-fueled sports action, you’ll have to look further east –to USC maybe?
Yes, at Pepperdine University, there was a playful saying that by spring of their senior year, most gals will have earned themselves a ring –“a ring by spring” if you will. And so with that “promise” in mind, I took the next four (like I said, three) years to throw myself flirt and woo any eligible bachelor whose credentials might warrant husband material.
But dating in college, or I should say, dating at Pepperdine, is strange. Rather, it’s kind of non-existent. But that’s because Christians (and I can say this because I am one of them) don’t know how to date. It’s either 0 to engaged after one innocent invitation to fro yo or it’s “I like you and all but I’m not really ready to settle down, I’m trying to focus on me and my walk with the Lord, but we can totally still hang out all of the time and occasionally make out because that’s really fun, too. But after we do kiss or hold hands or do something that might imply that my feelings for you are more than just platonic, can you make sure that we never talk about it because I don’t want to have to remind you that were nothing more than “just friends” because I really don’t need the drama, k?”
If you haven’t guessed it, I was more often than not, one half of the latter description –or simply what I like to call “friendlationships.” The in-between stage of dating; the “we’re not labeling it because that would be too confining but it’s perfectly clear to the rest of the population that we are for all intents and purposes A COUPLE” courtships, the ones that as a gal, you tell yourself that you’re totally okay with being a part of, when in reality, it pains you to admit that he still won’t refer to you as his “girl.” Because having him in any capacity is better than not having him at all.
Or at least that’s the lie I told myself to validate my less than admirable behavior. But like every relationship or excuse me, friendlationship that transpired over the course of my collegiate career, each one stood to teach me something. And those that didn’t teach me anything were still beneficial if only for the entertainment value –like the one that consisted of nothing more than a few late-night make-out sessions during the first month of school. Or the one that involved “studying” for econ class (aka hanging out at his sweet baseball scholarship funded condo on top of campus). Or even the one that I kind of fell into after a random invitation to a sorority formal gave way to flirty texts and copious amounts of arm-tickling while watching mindless television.
And then there was one, at least, that didn’t quite fit the category at all. Sure, objectively, it was a friendlationship –we had not discussed labels or even boundaries but it was definitely apparent to the rest of the Pepperdine population that we were more than just casual acquaintances. If I had to truly define what we were, I would say that we were, well to call upon a metaphor (funny, I never do that), a flower bud not given ample time to bloom. An almostlationship if you will. Which is just about as good as a friendlationship in the grand scheme of things, if you ask me, because in both situations, I was always the one fooling myself into thinking it was something more. He was an upperclassman and for those three weeks it really did feel as though I had met my soul mate. We talked on AOL Instant Messenger for hours, quoting movies, revealing our favorite breakfast cereals, doling out compliments as to which feature we each found most attractive on the other (he said it was a tie between my eyes and laugh, and I said his smile). It was innocent. But it was real. It was the first time in maybe a good long time that I felt extremely safe in my skin with a man (does that sound just about as odd as seems? It does, doesn’t it? Yikes). In other words, I never felt ashamed for being my true self in his presence; fearful that I wasn’t cool enough, funny enough, pretty enough, old enough to keep up with his standards. I settled for simply being “me.” And at no work of my own, the more I was “just me,” the more positively he seemed to respond. Which is why when things came to blows (not literally, it was actually quite cordial), its left-field place of origin made it sting all the more.
But if that almostlove (or at least almostlike) taught me anything (and it did), it’s that love is always worth the risk. And if you’re not willing to take that, well, I suppose you’re simply not ready for what love has to offer. That, and being with him (and then not being with him) made me realize that my plan to study in Heidelberg, Germany for my sophomore year was a really bad one. And though some may tell you otherwise, my time with him and the abrupt end to our courtship may have appeared as the reason for the sudden scholarly change of heart, but I assure you it was not. It may have been a catalyst though, and that’s okay. I’ll happily admit that I changed my course of action in part because of a boy. It was silly and irrational but in the end, it was my decision to make and I can’t say I wouldn’t make the same one again if given the chance to do it all over again.
That’s the funny thing about friendlationships, I think they get overlooked in the gratitude department. Their grey-ness doesn’t exactly warrant finite lessons but rather more abstract concepts about love and life and where the two intercede. But that by no means makes them any less a part of your journey to “I do.” Because sometimes in order to realize what you do want out of a mate, you have to decide on what you don’t want, too. Defining things in terms of negatives may seem counter-intuitive, but arriving at a conclusion, no matter the chosen route, is a conclusion nonetheless. And after each failed attempt at transforming a friendlationship into a real relationship, I was able to add on to that list of things I simply would not settle for. A list that seemed to grow exponentially in college, but has since been refined by exposure in the “real world” and outside of the Pepperdine bubble. And maybe that’s because Pepperdine was a unique environment in and of itself. But you know for that I’m eternally grateful.
Dear Every Pepperdine Boy who did not give me a ring by spring:
Thank you for accompanying me on date dashes, sorority formals, and to the caf for dinner.
Thank you for teaching me the definition of DTR (defining the relationship) and then promptly avoiding the issue entirely.
Thank you for heeding to my procrastination with three-hour-long conversations on AOL Instant Messenger.
Thank you for adding to my decision to not go to Germany for the year. It’s really cold there.
Thank you for really good make out stories –ah, we’ll keep those to myself.
Thank you for giving that ring to a few of my sorority sisters and roommates. I am a few dresses closer to giving Katherine Heigl a run for her money…
Thank you for making me realize that in addition to “J.Crew” and “Gap”, “girlfriend” is one label I really do want to wear. [edited to add: fyi, i really enjoy throwing that label around these days]
No, but in all seriousness, thank you for keeping me a single lady for a little while longer in order for me to truly come into my own. If you had been so lucky as to snatch me off the market back in our days as a Wave, I might not have been completely ready for forever with you. Heaven forbid something hadn’t worked out, but I simply had no business being a wife at 22. So really, thank you.
They say you go to college to find your groom. I went to college and found [most of] my future bridesmaids. And you know what? I can’t think of a fairer trade.