I believe if you don’t have anything nice to say, find someone who you’d like to be friends with and whisper it to them in the corner.
In the June 2006 issue of the journal Personal Relationships, there was a study published by Professor Jennifer Bosson that took a scientific stab at confirming what I’ve always known: It’s great if you both love dollhouse miniatures, President Clinton, or Agatha Christie, but to really bond with a new friend it’s best to find something (or, preferably, someone) that you both relish hating.
My first day of college, as I unpacked my boxes and kissed my parent’s goodbye, my roommate Cassie went door to door handing out snack sized snickers bars and asking people to refrain from using scented soaps, shampoos, or perfumes in the communal bathroom.. With each passing knock, my mortification grew more profound. Needless to say, no one stopped by our room to introduce themselves.
That night, we had a dorm meeting. Sitting in front of me were two girls and a guy from my hall. They were already chatting easily, and I felt sick with envy. One of the girls pulled out some scented hand lotion, and the guy, his voice dewy with sarcasm, whispered,
“Better be careful, Cassie might have some sort of attack.” I saw my in. I leaned forward and whispered,
“Cassie’s my roommate.” Glancing over my shoulder to make sure she was out of earshot, I told them, “She called me this summer. The first thing she asked me was if I was a lesbian. She told me that she was straight, but couldn’t help but attract women, so she wanted me to be forewarned! Then she asked me if we could share my computer, because she didn’t want to buy one.” They laughed, and the guy asked me,
“Did she tell you not to put up Halloween decorations?”
“Well, apparently she’s a Wicca, and it offends her deeply. She knows it’s still August, but she’s already worried about it. Some of us got that speech with the perfume speech, some didn’t. No pattern that we can see.” I laughed, and moved up to sit with them. After the meeting, they invited me to come with them to the campus center for coffee. Their names were Mary, Peter, and Jess, and eight years later, they are still three of my best friends.
If they had been talking about a band, or a book, or even a person that they liked, even if I’d agreed, I would never have had the nerve to jump into the conversation. “Oh, I really dig that too,” is just plain insipid. But I knew the moment they started panning Cassie that we shared something important: A sense of the ridiculous, a sense that some social sins are too funny to be ignored. I in no way advocate cruelty. In the year I lived with Cassie, I never mocked her to her face, and I would never have dreamed of sharing with her how universally unpopular she was. Cassie, though strange and difficult, had every right to go about her day feeling as good about herself as was possible. We all do. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share our negative feelings with others. Bosson describes the act as, “especially delicious.” I have to agree with her. I believe that complaining about others is what truly cements a friendship. This I believe.
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