Two weeks ago, my best friend told me that I incited a rage so deep inside of her that she was going to throttle me against a tree outside of Blaisdell. Five minutes later, we leaned against her twin bed with our pinkies looped together. Our spectators shifted from abject horror to confusion. “I don’t understand your friendship,” someone was saying. “Do you actually get mad at each other?”
The answer is yes, we do. All of my closest friends and I fight. And you should too. Instead of destabilizing best-friendships, fighting can often strengthen them.
My friends and I bicker like sisters. Why are you always late to Frank dinner? Stop looking at your phone so much. Be present. Go fill up my water bottle. No, you go fill up my water bottle. Let’s watch Euphoria at 9. No, 8. No, 8:30. Can you buy me this yerba at the Coop? Why are you out of flex already? You’re crazy. Stop being mean to me. Your hat looks like a nipple.
But every undercut, snippet of passive-aggression, whine or outright insult precipitates a stronger bond, an authentic connection.
After “brush your hair” comes “aw, you look adorable!” After “get me a LaCroix” comes “I’m so proud of you for your French essay”. And after every “ugh, you incite a rage inside of me” comes a kiss on the forehead and a knowing look that no one can challenge.
We’ve definitely confused people, going from threats of strangulation to sitting on each other’s laps at the Coop. But bickering like siblings reinforces our sisterhood, an authentic connection that no tiff can ever truly destabilize. Bickering is the glue to our foundation, the slip on clay before putting an art piece in the kiln, the tear that’s been taped so many times you’re shocked it hasn’t fallen apart.
Bickering obstructs a power dynamic from forming: one friend that calls the shots, the other that stews in resentment. The friend that speaks up, the friend that stays quiet. The confident one, the shy one. The calm one, the frantic one. Bickering helps us to constantly renegotiate the boundaries of our friendship, helps us swim safely in uncharted territory, helps us wrestle with patriarchal power dynamics handed to us about what two girls being friends are supposed to look like and quickly discard them.
And in a world that tells us that girls are too shrill, too whiny, too dramatic, too messy, our bickering is a confrontation. Between the two of us, we feel safe enough to fight, to demand the other scoot over on the bed, to call each other out when someone is gloating. Our friendship is a refusal to hide under niceties, to lovingly request the smallest inconveniences in a docile manner.
Conflict is regenerative. Just as quickly as we fall apart, my friends and I come back together.
If you see your friendships veering into bickering territory, don’t freak out. This is your strength. Think about the first time you texted each other, with a ton of heart emojis and over-apologies. Now, when you text “wake up, I’m hungry,” it doesn’t mean you’ve lost respect for your friend. It means that your intimacy has been nurtured in a way where you are allowed to drop the mask of how a so-called nice girl is supposed to act, if only for a little while.
Barbara, when you get out of quarantine, the first thing I’ll do is hug you and cry about how much I’ve missed you. And then I’ll yell at you for doing Econ during our Zoom movie night.
Eliza Powers PO ’25 is from New Orleans, Louisiana. She loves reality TV, Phoebe Bridgers, and searching for the perfect avocado toast recipe.